‘Wigstock’ was born to prove that drag queens can show themselves during the day, and not just at midnight shows at The Pyramid, across from Tompkins Square Park, where the festival was heard. Part of the fun was that the people in the audience were encouraged to wear a wig, in solidarity with the performers. I wasn’t there the very first year, but I was there when the event still felt like a family thing. Now, of course, drag via ‘Ru Paul’s Drag Race,’ is as mainstream as one gets, and drag nowadays is so commercial and finessed. During those time, drag was more about personality, and uniqueness – each queen had something intelligent and witty to say.
That, of course, is what ‘Wig’ tries to say. This documentary is as big as one can get – it is on HBO. and produced by a whole slew of people (Neil Patrick Harris and his husband among the eight listed) and has interviews with the OGs, like Lady Bunny and Linda Simpson. Sure, the message is repeatedly reminded, and shown (the archival footage from the 90s is special to watch) but the film is a bit all over the place. Did we really need all the footage of the new last Woodstock that seems so commercial and corporate? I guess they needed to prove their original point. But still, there are a lot of things that can be taken away from the film, and the children should be able to learn a thing or two from the ‘old queens’ who paved the way for them, so they can shamelessly watch ‘Drag Race’ now in the comfort of their couches.
I 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.
During the 90s Boy band craze, I used to work a block away from Times Square in New York City. And everyday, I used to see thousands of girls lined up outside the MTV Studios waiting for these guys to show up for the afternoon show Total Request Live (TRL) and I remember it would be such a pain to get to the subways because of all the throngs of people blocking the street. But don’t get me wrong, I was a fan of both NSync and Backtreet Boys. I listened to their albums, and collected their CDs. I knew enough about the bands to know they were both formed by Lou Perlman, but aside from that knew nothing about him. and here we are, almost twenty five-ish or so later, and Perlman has now passed (in jail) and the boy band members? Some of them have been interviewed for ‘The Boy Band Con,’ a documentary produced by Lance Bass, one of the member of one of those bands, NSync.
The documentary is part ‘Behind The Music,’ and part dissection of Perlman and how he achieved what he did, both in positive and negative terms. Aaron Kunkler, the director, presents the facts in a mostly straightforward manner. It tries to dig deep on how Perlman was able to embezzle money by interviewing some of his investors. At the same time, interviews with boy band members shed light on the bands’ rise and fall. While the documentary is insightful, it lacks focus. I admit to being more interested in the ‘boy band’ part, but the finance part should have appealed to me just as well. It seems drier here, and felt not as sexy as, say, Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi schemes when basically they did the exact same thing. Part of Perlman’s ‘sins’ is his alleged sexual predatory of soem of the young men in the bands. Aaron Carter vehemently denies that here (his aggressive apologist stand seems alarming) but besides that is only briefly mentioned here. Even if the information in the documentary is varied, it felt to me like that there’s not much new.
We have two competing documentaries on the failed Fyre Music Festival from 2017, and I have seen them both. So which one did I like better. I will give it to Hulu’s ‘Fyre Fraud’ by a small margin. It’s also a little lighter, and has a broader thing to say than Netflix’s ‘Fyre,’ which I thought was a little drier. I also saw ‘Fyre Fraud’ first and perhaos the Netflix one suffered because of that?
‘Fyre Fraud’ has an edge by having Billy McFarland interviewed – their competitors say that Hulu paid $250,000 for that, and if that’s is true, that would be disgusting. ‘Fyre,’ on the other hand has its own demons – it was produced by the media people who worked on the festival, and of course, it made the media company look good and less culapble for what happened. But for me, who cares? These rich people got scammed – boo hoo – and the social influencers got scammed boo hoo again. It’s not the end of the world for them, but how about the Bahamanian workers who shelled out money and never got repaid back. Why can’t Netflix or Hulu shell out some money for these people? In the end, I didn’t really have a lot of sympathy for some of these white entitled privileged people who got scammed.
Years ago there were competing films about Studio 54 and you think that would have been enough for this topic but here we are forty years later and we are still talking about the famed iconic club. This time, Matt Tyrnauer has directed a documentary that is so vivid that it will probably the definitive documentation of not only that club, but of that carefree era – someone described it as the hedonistic era between the birth control pill and AIDS. I don’t know how Tyrnauer compiled all his material, but he has a knack for choosing footage that best showcase how it was during that time. Plus, what adds value here is the presence of Ian Schrager, the ‘silent partner’ during those times. Steve Rubbell was obviously the more gregarious face of the club, and he thrived int he presence of all the major celebrities of the time (We see a young Michael Jackson being interviewed praising him to high heavens) I loved seeing all the pictures and videos of Liza, and Bianca Jagger, and Andy Warhol, and all the icons of the time. And the fashion – still very relevant, if you ask my opinion. I really can’t say that I learned a lot from this movie – except maybe that President Obama pardoned Ian Schrager before leaving office in January 2017 – but that is only because I have been fascinated by this topic for a while. I was born a little too late for its heyday, but I remember going to the space for a private party there in the late 80s and I could swear you could still feel the energy of the club. Rubell succumbed to AIDS in 1989, but there are most other names and faces who perished after that era. In some small way, this film keeps them alive.
A trans gendered Filipina was murdered by an uniformed American serviceman, and that is the back bone of P J Raval’s documentary ‘Call Her Ganda,’ (Call Her Beautiful) Filipinos have this love-hate relationship with the LGBT community – gays dominate society and their popular culture, yet the religious upbringing of most countrymen shuns them. They tolerate them but have a ‘not in my backyard’ policy towards them. In 2014, Jennifer Laude was murdered at a motel by a uniformed American, and it sparked a case that interested the people. At the center of it is the country’s ‘Visiting Forces Agreement,’ which protects American personnel accused of crimes, wherein they still fall under the jurisdiction of the American military. The documentary goes into the case specifically, up to its conclusion – wherein Joseph Pemberton, the American accused is found guilty of homicide (a reduced sentence) There was notion that he would be coddled by the American military, and that seems to be the case, as he got special treatment instead of going to the local jail.
It’s an interesting case, and obviously struck a chord with me as it happened in Olongapo City, which is where my family used to have a business. It also shows how Americans still try to bull doze their way into other countries by influence (Can you imagine if this happened in Singapore with their strict laws?) The documentary is a bit thin, and I wish had dug deeper into Jennifer’s life, as they had access to her family. But this was a very interesting watch.
I was at an event a couple of days ago and met this woman who told me that I should see Heather Lenz’s documentary ‘Kusama Infinity’ When I asked her why, she answered “because it’s a great movie.’ Okay, sure. The film focuses on the life and art of Yayoi Kusama. Told through interviews, the film mostly focuses on the art more than the woman, although we get a glimpse of who she is via her own words. Her art is quirky and oddly mesmerizing. As my friend says, these are the perfect backdrops for the selfie generation. Of course, they are much more than that, and we get to hear her inspirations, and her processes: a polka dot is not really just a dot. Still, the subject is a little sterile, perhaps: the biggest scandal here is that Andy Warhol once stole her ideas. Kusama suffered through mental issues, but that isn’t really a stretch for any artiste.