Keys Closed (Music Thoughts: Keys To My Heart, Anne Bisson)

I used to more adventurous in the music I listen to but it is a trait when you get older that you are not as ‘welcoming’ to things you do not understand. I am listening now to Anne Bisson’s new album ‘Keys to My Heart,’ and I am just nit getting it. Maybe it’s my mood, and definitely it’s me – it’s a jazzier album that most jazz vocals I listen to, and a lot more discordant than I can handle. There’s nothing wrong with that, for sure… it’s just giving me a headache.

I don’t understand, for example, why a simple beautiful song like ‘For me, formidable’ had to go through so much hoops in her hands. And she brings freneticism to the Roberta Flack song ‘Kissing me Softly’ that I just cannot connect with. The rest of the original material? Well, let me just take a Tylenol instead.

Trans, Tenderly (Film Thoughts: Lingua Franca)

I sometimes make fun of Netflix content. It’s so commercial nowadays, and it is very tough to find something meaningful to watch. If there is anything remotely good, it is so overhyped that I get indifferent right away – sometimes to my loss, for sure. So it is a treat for me when I discover something there that I truly can champion. And I found one, in Isabel Sandoval’s Lingua Franca.

The film has already made waves at last year’s Venice Film Festival, and was acquired by Ava DuVernay’s distribution company, and now Netflix is streaming it, assuring it will reach an audience willing to seek it out.

And one should. It is the story of Olivia (played by Sandoval herself) a trans woman working as a caregiver for an elder lady in Brooklyn. her world is small, and a little dank – she spends it mostly in a dead end manner, as she sends her earnings to her mother in the Philippines, and of what’s left for her she is saving to pay a man to marry her so she could get her green card. Complications arise when she falls for the lady’s grand son, and just like Madame Butterfly and Miss Saigon, you kind of know where this is going, You watch with dread as you wait for the inevitable, but the conflict is quiet, and mostly internal – you observe it as it is not brought to your face. My favorite moment in the film is one of its most tender – when Olivia dances with the grandson to an instrumental version of ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’ and the camera zooms into Olivia’s face – you see the hope and longing in there, but you also know she knows it’s not ever going to work. This is one of the most affecting films I have seen in a while, certainly this year.

Her World (Television Thoughts: Cilla, ITV)

When I saw the recent London production of ‘Funny Girl’ I was mesmerized by its star, Sheridan Smith. She has that unenviable role of taking over a role that is so iconic and identified with someone string and popular. But I do think that Smith made that role her own. I know that there are differing opinions about her Fanny Brice, but I thought she was funny i. that role, and sang the role differently – maybe by choice because there’s no one who could outsing young Barbra.

Cilla is an ITV miniseries from 2014, before Smith did Funny Girl. And here she plays Cilla Black, a British singer in the 60s, of the Petula Clark vein. I know next to nothing about Black, though I should have – she is my kind of singer. This miniseries tells her life, of how she was discovered by Brian Epstein, who also discovered and managed The Beatles. I like the fact that the series isn’t your typical musical biopic – it isn’t one of those success and dark sides one. It shows Black being managed by this guy who later became her husband. He could have had a musical career of his own, but instead made her priority. The only ‘scandal’ is Epstein overdosing on drugs, but with her BBC contract already ready for her signature. Smith is truly wonderful. you get a real sense of Cilla, and she even does her own singing here – wonderful renditions of those 60s songs like ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart,’ and ‘You’re My World.’ I was glued to my screen in all three episodes.

Picture Painting (Movie Thoughts: The Burnt Orange Heresy)

I remember wanting to see ‘The Burnt Orange Heresy’ after seeing the trailer, and this movie opened the last weekend before the lockdown, and I even contemplated about going that weekend – my safety-first attitude got the better of me, thankfully. Now that I have finally seen it, I am doubly glad. Could you imagine if I had gotten sick because of seeing this movie? It’s a mostly uninspired piece of mess.

There are a lot of things going for this. It has that European art movie feel that gets me all the time. It has an interesting cast – Elizabeth Debicki can hold the screen and get you interested, and Mick Jagger is a curious choice. Plus. Lake Como is beautifully featured and shot, But they all add up to a beautiful emptiness here.

The plot, based on a 1971 book, took too long to get going, and when it finally did, was not believable and too fast, There is a delicious air of satire in there somewhere commenting on art and art criticism, and I did get ‘it’ ultimately, but waiting for it felt like an eternity.

First Comes Love Then Comes Covid (Television Thoughts: Love In The Time of Corona, Freeform)

It had to happen. I am pretty sure we will be getting a whole lot of stories about corona virus, it’s just a matter of when. Freeform has come up with ‘Love In The Time of Corona,’ a four part mini-series about, well, all kinds of love in these pandemic times. It stars actors who are already quarantining together, and it is one of the first ones I have seen that look ‘normal,’ meaning unboxed by Zoom screen limitations.

It is pretty specific – about Angelenos and how they make love fit in the midst of the pandemic, and it is pretty specific too in terms of time – it covers that initial time when we first got locked down. There was still a huge sense of optimism then, there was hope we could still have some semblance of summer, for example. It centers around four stories. I have to say it started out weird, as I wasn’t sure if I was ready to watch these stories yet – everything is still happening outside as I write so i don’t know if watching this would be an ‘escape’ or an aggravation. I need not have worried – the stories are kind of universal, if a bit common. My favorite is about the ‘binary’ guy Oscar who finds out his roommate – a young girl – is in love with him, even though he is pursuing relationships with males. At first I didn’t know where the story was going to end up in as some parts were awkward, but it landed okay, if safe. Leslie Odom Jr plays a man who initially wanted to have another baby until the race cases brought up complications. The stories are all relatable, and pretty to take, and I have to admit I felt ferklempt towards the end. By no means are they deep, but they do touch.

Young Hearts Run Free (Movie Thoughts/Chemical Hearts/Endless)

About halfway Richard Tanne’s ‘Chemical Hearts,’ I thought to myself regarding LilI Reinhart’s character, Grace, “well, she is not the most likable character.’ and I guess upon realizing that was the moment I realized I was liking ‘Chemical Hearts.’ When watching these kinds of movies, we have more or less expectations about the stories and the characters, and this film challenged all of what I thought and expected. Grace is a broken young woman – her boyfriend died from an accident and she survived. And when she meets Henry (Austin Abrams) at her new school, she isn’t able to let go of what she went through.

Henry is a writer, and in the beginning he says that nothing has yet happened in his life that is worth writing about. By the end of the film, boy does he get an experience a couple of books worth. What I liked about the story here is that this is a different coming of age film. Grace does touch his life, but I don’t know if I can say she made his life better. If for anything, I think she scarred him, and i can just imagine how he will face future loves after what he went through. I think Reinhart is to be commended for taking a role that is not that is very complex and even unsympathetic. any other young actress could have taken a safer route. For some reason, the film resonated with me – it’s very real and not sugarcoated, and quite different from most teen movies nowadays.

Another teen, another accidental death happens in Scott Speer’s ‘Endless,’ starring Alexandra Shipp and Nicholas Hamilton. But this one seems to be a teenage rip off of ‘Ghost.’ And that sentence is all you need to know about the plot of the film. And the title is apt – the movie felt endless. If not for Nicholas Hamilton’s cute face, the film would have been a total waste of time. It almost is.

Shhhh… (Movie Thoughts: The Secret: Dare to Dream)

I tried to resist it. But you know what, I kind of low-key believe in visualizing what you want, so I succumbed and watched Andy Tennant’s ‘The Secret: Dare to Dream.’ I mean, what can you lose? The film, for what it is, is perfect weekday viewing after a tiring day and you just want to watch something you don’t have to comprehend much. And this has solid performances from Katie Holmes and Josh Lucas. Look, it’s not the most intricate story and I get serious eeks from the religious undertones, but for what it is, it’s ok.

Eighty Eight (Movie Thoughts: Lucky Grandma)

I expected a whole different film in ‘Lucky Grandma’ before seeing it, and I don’t know where I got the different idea from – its poster? its marketing? I thought i would be watching a quirky comedy, but Sasie Sealy’s film is something different – a thriller/action film with a very unlikely protagonist – a Chinese grandma who relied on old school fate only to be played by it. Tsai Chin, playing Grandma Wong, is a great actress, and she is everything you want the Granda Wong character to be, but I just did not enjoy this film. It felt very forced, and the story not believable that it trumped all the good effort by everyone trying to make the film good. It’s a slickly produced film, but for me it felt hollow – pretty to look at, and without enough distractions to mask its deficiencies.

Dark Pineapple (Perfume Thoughts: Mile High 38, Parle Moi de Parfum)

You probably thought that Mile High 38 from Parle Moi de Parfum was just another pineapple-centric scent. Ever since that other popular pineapple scent got famous, it has inspired a lot of copycats. But this house is not a ‘follower,’ and has unique ideas with familiar themes. You get a different kind of pineapple in Mile High 38.

It’s a dark pineapple. It’s not the Sunny Dole juice kind. It is brooding, melancholy, and it is right up my alley. Paired instantly with immortelle, it feels a little musky, like it has been sitting in a box for a while.

The patchouli then comes in which makes it a lot earthy. The oineapple is still there, still ripe and juicy, but the effect is not beachy and umbrellas, but more night drink at a bar. I like it a lot, as it is very unique, and it is a perfume that will make you think and ponder.

Back To School (Movie Thoughts: I Used To Go Here)

I rally liked a lot of Kris Rey’s ‘I Used To Go Here,’ because I am always nostalgic about my time in school, especially high school, and as a matter of fact, most of my closest friends these days are my high school friends.  In the film, Kate (Gillian Jacobs) goes back to her college to speak. She has jst written and published a book, but its initial sales have been disappointing, and her publisher has published a book tour. But at her campus, she is a star – she is the one who made it as a writer. She ends up at the bed and breakfast across from the house where she used to live, and lives her old college life, if only for a couple of days. It is bittersweet, and I remember having that feeling of uncertainty, when you still have that idealistic attitide in your heart but it is slowly being crushed by reality. Jacobs is great, awkward funny but you know there is a lot of intelligence (and feelings) behind those eyes. She finds kinship with the college students instead of the adults, who are portrayed here as somewhat creepy. There’s a sequence in here that is a turn off, though where she and some of the kids go on some kind of adventure, and it felt juvenile compared to the rest of the film. Without that, the film would have been much better.