Can We Talk? (Film Thoughts: Late Night)

Late Night - PosterNisha Ganatra’s ‘Late Night’  is not the most original film in any year – it’s a retread of the ‘Devil Wears Prada’ formula – but it is a lot of fun and has charm to spare, and I instantly liked it. Written by Mindy Kaling, (I never warmed up to her until now) it showcases one of our great living legends – Emma Thompson – and she doesn’t have to do much to run away with the film.

Or at the very least, Thompson makes it look easy. Even though the character is really just a variation of Miranda Priestly, Thompson makes it sizzle, and she give it more depth than how it was written. She plays Kathryn Newbury, a late night talk show host whose program has gone stale. This is probably because her writing staff is comprised of all the same people – white males all straight except for a token gay. To change this, the show hires Molly (Kaling) and well, you can probably guess what happens next. But it doesn’t matter, because Thompson and Kaling spar off each other marvelously, and the quick pacing makes you ignore holes in the plot. It’s all formula, but it works because of that. and it’s a timely message, if a bit too heavy handed, especially towards the end. Still, it’s frothy summer fun, even if it is still cold in Los Angeles.

From Way Up Here, It’s Crystal Clear (Movie Thoughts: Aladdin)

AladdinThe 2019 live action ‘Aladdin’ was mostly fun. It had some thrilling moment, just enough romance, and generally, a good time. And I still wondered if that was enough. Honestly, I wasn’t thrilled about seeing this, but the screening times fit, and I had some spots in my AMC A List reservations, so sure why not. After the movie, I felt like I wanted more. I felt it needed some more – something inspired, something new. I mean, it already had something blue, and for the record, I thought Will Smith did a good job of making the role his, and not a copy of Robin Williams, even if, at times, he is reciting the exact same line. They added some things here – a generic song from Pasek & Paul that tried to mirror ‘Let It Go’ – and most of those things did not add much to the movie. The best bits about this were the ones from the original. So I ask myself, does this movie have a reason for existing? The original is still there, and will still be enjoyed by millions more, so I chuck this only to one thing – greed.

This Feeling Inside (Film Thoughts: Rocketman)

Rocketman-poster-2Elton John is a Rock Superstar, but my appreciation of him came later. My 70s music focused more on that other homosexual – Barry Manilow. But of course much later on, I started listening to Elton John’s music, and have a deep appreciation for his artistry. Then comes ‘Rocketman,’ his biopic. I had been looking forward to this, primarily because I was very disappointed with the Freddy Mercury one, and perhaps I may be in the minority on that one.

The good news – ‘Rocketman’ is better, even if it is sort of by the same Director, Dexter Fletcher. (He finished the last three week of shooting after Bryan Singer left)  It is certainly more creative, and the story more soulful, as opposed to BoRhap’s by-the-numbers storytelling. It is not a musical in the strictest definition, not even jukebox style. The songs don’t try to tell the story, although it sometimes does, but never feel shoehorned in the moment. The pace is fantastic, although I thought that at its length (a hairline north of two hours) it should have covered more.  And I wished there was more depth to the story, but I guess the film covers a very specific part of John’s early to mid life.

But all this quibble is drowned by Taron Egerton’s fantastic turn as Elton John. It is fully committed, and he gets to the core of the singer – he captures everything about the singer, even and up to his singing voice (Egerton sings all the vocals)  Very rarely does an actor capture a character’s soul, and Egerton nails that here. And I must also mention the great chemistry he has with Jamie Bell, who plays Bernie Taupin. Richard Madden does fine with his one-dimensional role, and much has been said about their sex scene – it’s chaste and inoffensive by any standard – you can take your Grandma to see this and she won’t even blink.

But above all, the movie is a lot of fun. I found myself remembering how much I appreciated the music. This may not be the most ideal Elton John bio pic for me, but it will more than suffice.

Not Since Annie Hall (Film Thoughts: Benjamin/The Tomorrow Man)

1451168Oh we all love neurotic characters on film, don’t we? I have recently saw two with neurosis between younger and older characters on film, and as I say, “not since Annie Hall…”

From UK comes ‘Benjamin,’ starring Colin Morgan as the title character. Benjamin is young and nervous. He is a filmmaker who enjoyed success on his first film and is suffering from a (self-inflicted) Sophomore Slump. he is int he middle of releasing his film when he falls in love with a French musician Noah (Phenix Brossard) and he feels his life crumbling – or perhaps finally he is finally in the cusp of, gulp, happiness? Written and Directed by Simon Atwell, this film has all the elements of what I love most: it has a love story, it is intelligently written, it is bittersweet, and it is set in my favorite city London. And it feels like ‘real’ London, with real Londoners. There is a scene here where after Benjamin meets Noah, he becomes a bumbling fool, and I can so relate to that, and I can so relate to Benjamin’s mixture of despair and hope when he feels love. There’s that nagging feeling in you that all this will turn to shit, but of course, there is that hope that this may actually be the one. I loved every minute of this film.

Tomorrow-Man-600x889I wish I could say that I enjoyed the neurosis in ‘The Tomorrow Man,’ Noble Jones’ film about senior citizens in love. There’s a lot of tenderness here that I love, and I adore the fact that there is a film that exists where love between two people ‘on the wrong side of sixty’ is explored. But the flaws of the characters, meant to make them more human, kind of scared me. John Lithgow’s Ed seems mostly creepy (he has a garage full of canned food and supplies that is meant to save him from impending doom) though I liked Blythe Danner’s hoarder character of Ronnie a little better, but maybe because for me Danner could do no wrong. I still left the theater in a  more positive note, carrying with me its central love story, and maybe wondering if love could still prevail in spite of all our own (hopefully milder) neurosis.

What Are You Looking At (Television Thoughts: POSE S02 E01)

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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.

The 70s Style (Film Thoughts: Halston)

large_halston-posterI have this great fascination with all things 70s, and of course Halston defined American 70s fashion, so I was so looking forward to seeing Frederic Tcheng’s documentary ‘Halston,’ which is about his life and legacy. And we get a sense of that, through interviews with family members and people he worked with. The big framework of the movie focuses on how he lost access to his own name, and at the time it was a concept unheard of. Nowadays, it’s a pretty common occurrence – see Donna Karan, Jo Malone, for example.  Plus, it was interesting that part of his ‘downfall’ was that he agreed to do a collection for JC Penney, which catered more for the masses, and nowadays every designer does capsule collections for H & M or Target. I wished they focused more on the fashion, for he was truly revolutionary int he way he ushered women away from tailored silhouettes to nice-free flowing dressed cut from the bias. I was at a screening the director said that what fascinated him was the business aspect of Halston’s legacy. I wish it focused more on how his style influenced the overall look of the 70s. (Thought there’s right mention of a great highlight – when Jackie Kennedy wore his pillbox hat during her husband’s inauguration, and I love the little trivia – of how she touched it and dented it and everyoen copied the dent)  I loved how they interviewed Liza Minnelli and she refused to comment on their partying shenanigans, saying she will not do that to her friend (She does the same when she was being interviewed by Michael Jackson)  I think there was a more conscious effort to cut a lot of the ‘personal’ stuff although Tcheng says there will be a ‘Director’s Cut’ wherein there’s more of Halston’s lover of fifteen years. But I still am glad this documentry exists. It may not be the most ideal one for me, but I hope it starts a conversation about this great man.

Odd Smells (Perfume Thoughts: Commodity Rain/Commodity Mimosa)

rainOh, this Commodity perfume line. It sure is interesting, but I can’t remember when I sampled two scents in a row that underwhelmed me.

And there is one, ‘Rain,’ that I truly detested. This is purportedly an aquatic fragrance, and they even describe it as ‘rain in a tropical forest.’ Well, the first blast for me was so unappealing – it was so sharp and pungent. The notes listing say bergamot and verbena but this is more cement. Actually, the Alaia fragrance had a similar description, but that was done beautifully. This is an awkward mess of a scent. Scrubber! The drydown is a bit better – the tropical flowers do come out, but they are of the synthetic kind. Still a pass.

375x500.50620On my other wrist is Commodity Mimosa. This is a floral citrus, and is supposed to be the mimosa flower. And sure, I do get that on the top notes. But as the scent developed, it turns soapy. I went to my friend and said, ‘doesn’t this smell like Dial soap to you,’ and she agreed. Well, at least the color is in the same family. While inoffensive, I think Mimosa is, again, weird.

This made me think about weird vs. quirky. For example, I associate a lot of Etat Libre d’Orange as weird scents, but weird in an amusing and fun kind of way. These two scents from Commodity are just plain odd. Like ‘head-scratching odd.