Call Me After The Kiss (Series Thoughts: We Are Who We Are, Right Here Right Now VIII, HBO)

It all ends with a kiss.

And we are instantly confused, or should we be? The last episode of the show gives us only Frasier and Cait, and that makes total sense because they are the show – we have been following their journey of who they are, and we get more questions than answers here, but in my opinion, we also get resolutions.

We see Cait’s family packing – Chicago first and then Okinawa? – and then we have Frasier and Cait going to Bologna to see Blood Orange. They take the train and end up somewhere in the middle of their journey, only to meet kids on their way to the concert. One of the kids is Luca, who we see connecting with Frasier with their mutual love of fashion. You can see in Cait’s eyes how she felt – am I gonna lose him to Luca? This gets exacerbated when they ‘lose’ each other once they got to the concert venue. But then Cait gets her own moment with the bartender. Somehow she ends up backstage meeting Blood Orange, and she gets ‘confronted’  when the bartender asks her ‘You are a trans guy, right?’ This scares her, and she runs away, running back to the train station to go home. Meanwhile, Frasier’s own moment comes when he kisses Luca, and he in turn has his own realization after that when Luca asks him to ‘one of the most beautiful places on earth,’ the arc at San Luca. He runs to the train station looking for Cait. He finds her inside the train and the two of them run back to San Luca. And then they kiss.

So does the show end with both of them ending up as a couple? There is ambiguity in that but I disagree. These are kids who have realizations on the same night, and they both ‘give up;’ what could have been to go back to each other. I think their kiss symbolizes the feeling of affection they have for each other – at that age, it was the only way they could express that overwhelming feeling for each other. We can look at this objectively because maybe we have already gone through our own journeys, but for these two, they are just feeling these feelings for the first time in their lives. There is confusion, but there’s also that euphoria that comes with all that.

I think this is still a bittersweet ending for me. When they get back to the base, they will probably part and who knows when they will see each other again. I started writing this because of parallels to ‘Call Me By Your Name’ and this excursion in Bologna reminds me of Elio and Oliver’s last trip to Bergamo before the train scene. There’s joy in the time they are together, but they both know they will leave each other the next morning.  

And there we are. I have read articles that during the lockdown, Luca Guadigno has made a bible for these characters for a second season. That will be great, but maybe not necessary. The great thing about this show is how it told these character’s story in snapshots. The last kiss is a perfect ending, and maybe it should be left that way.  

Call Me After The Wedding (Series Thoughts, We Are Who We Are S01 E04, HBO)

To be honest, I keep going back and forth on Episode Four, ‘Right Here Right Now IV.’ At first, I am thinking it’s a throw-away episode – not much happens, and the main episode does not really propel the main narrative forward. But then as I think about it more, there are very subtle things that you kind of miss, but very essential.

First of all, the relationship between Fraser and Cait. It’s gotten very strong, and they understand each other. In the middle of the whole celebration of the episode with the wedding and the house party, you can sense an underlying sense of melancholy between the two of them. Yes, they probably feel like outcasts in the midst of this crowd. But when they both look at each other, you know that they find strength in each other, and with each other. When Fraser tells her that he kissed another girl, she replies by saying ‘Don’t ever do that again,’ even though you know their relationship is not really like that.

I just wish I knew these characters more. I hardly know Craig and we are supposed to feel – what? – about him going to war and leaving a young bride behind. And didn’t the last episode end with the guys almost beating up Fraser? And the first scene is all of them sharing a bag of Ruffles potato chips. These little inconsistencies kind of bother me.

And for my requisite compare to CMBYN thought – honestly, I thought it was tough, but I found one – the puking scene. Elio pukes when he goes out his last night with Oliver, and both Fraser and Sam puke here as well. And there’s a goodbye the day after in both instances.

Call Her Caitlin, Maybe (Television Thoughts: We Are Who We Are, S01 E02, HBO)

I am continually enthralled with the second episode of “We Are Who We Are,’ which is really more like the first episode. In last week’s episode, we see life from the point of view of Fraser, who just arrived at the base. In this one, we see it from Caitlin’s eyes. There’s a difference, of course: she is at home at the base, and already knows the ins and out of the place and its people. Just like Fraser, though, she is still finding her real place in the world, just like all of us when we were at that age. Things are happening, things are changing: on that particular day, she even gets her period for the first time. It’s weird that I still gravitate towards Fraser, because even as we look at Caitlin’s day, I find myself looking for where Frasier fits in it.

And I can’t help but see similarities in ‘Call me By Your Name.’ As in the movie, we observe the characters her as they dance. Caitlin is dancing in the middle of the dance floor, just like Oliver does in the film, and we see how the people around her look at her. I wonder if this is just Luca Guadagnino repeating himself, or is it an homage?

And I love how teh characters express themselves here through fashion. We see how Fraser is into it (he mentions how a seamstress mirrors Raf Simons on the first episode) and in here, we see him sending a polo shirt and pants to Caitlin, after observing her flirt with women at the cafe. These little details certainly matter – they give us insight to both characters in a deep and meaningful way. 

I cannot wait to keep watching.

Love Equals Death (Film Thoughts: Welcome to Chechnya)

Welcome_to_Chechnya-908346409-largeUnder Putin’s regime right now, gay people are in danger in Russia. It’s unfathomable, but we see all the danger in David France’s documentary ‘Welcome to Chechnya,’ and it is a depressing, sobering, and disturbing watch. In the region of southern Russia’s Chechnya, gay people are haunted, tortured, and killed because of their sexual orientation. In the film, we see alarming footage of gay men whose cars are stopped, then are beaten to death by the police. A famous singer, Zelim Bakaev, visits his sister’s wedding, and suddenly disappears, and up until now, no one really knows what happened to him. We see a young girl call the crisis hotline because a young woman, Anya, has been found out by her uncle, and is blackmailing her for sex so he would not snitch to her father, who is a Government official – we see her later being smuggled out successfully. Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of the region, laughs off questions about these human rights abuses, saying ‘ We don’t have that kind of people here – we ship them to Canada.’  The film is riveting, and made me want to do something to help these people. The Trump administration is a travesty to gay rights, but we still enjoy a lot of freedom here not afforded in other places. In some ways I feel lucky, but the film. ultimately made me want to throw up.

He Ain’t Heavy… (Mini Series Thoughts: I Know This Much Is True, Episode 1, HBO)

iktmI knew that ‘I Know This Much Is True’ was going to be tough. I remember reading the book during a week-long vacation in Provincetown and what a miserable (and engrossing) read that was. Strangely, though, I do not remember much from the book, except that it was very dark and heavy. I had to get myself in a mod to finally watch the first episode of the mini-series, and I finally did. And boy, was this heavy. Mark Ruffalo plays twins here, and it is a dual role of a lifetime. There’s Thomas, a schizophrenic, who in the beginning of the show is seen at a library where he saws his hand. And there’s Dom, who bears the brunt of his whole family, from his mother’s cancer to his stepfather’s controlling ways. There’s a harrowing scene where Dominic is asked by the doctor as to whether he was giving permission to reattach Thomas’ severed hand. Of course, he wants to do it, but Thomas is screaming at him to please don’t. And as he says later he made a decision to not do it because ‘for once, Thomas once tp have control over something in his life.’  Ruffalo is a great actor, for sure, and maybe it’s just me, but I have to get used to Thomas as hysterical and loud, as Ruffalo is normally more nuanced. It will be really tough for me to continue watching this, as I ask myself, do I need to go through something this bleak in this time of pandemic? But if there is anything that’s luring me back, it will be Ruffalo’s acting.

Don’t Bother They’re Here (Television Thoughts: We’re Here, HBO)

We_re_Here_TV_Series-694763964-mmedDrag queens are fun and all, but I just find the mainstream incarnation of them to be pretty boring. I come from that age when the ones I like had different personalities, and their personalities came from their brains and not their eyelashes. I have not really seen any Ru Paul’s Drag Race anything, so I found myself wondering why I sat there sitting and watching the premiere episode of  HBO’s “We’re Here.”

I mean, it’s such a product. I cannot see anything original in this show. Three queens – Shangela, Eureka O Hara, and Bob The Drag Queen go from one conservative town to another to try to convert some of these closed-minded people to accept diversity. It’s a noble concept, but it is also a blatant ripoff of Queer Eye.  And I don’t know who I have less patience with – the queens or the bigots.

Mystery, with a side of Fries (Television Thoughts: McMillions, HBO)

MV5BZjQ0ZWQxOWQtMDA4Ny00ZTg2LWE1NGUtYjYwZWI4MzZkZTI0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTkxNjUyNQ@@._V1_Who would have thought s documentary about the McDonalds Monopoly game fraud would be so…exciting for me? At first, I didn’t really think I would be too interested in ‘McMillions,’ the HBO Documentary about the Monoploy game from McDonalds from the late 90s. I remember playing the game myself, matching the pieces with a paper game board I got from the Sunday magazine. But I was never a fanatic of the game, and for some reason I am not sa big McDonalds fan, too. I like their fries, and their breakfast sandwiches, but their burgers bore me. And where was I when all this was going on and being reported in the news? I have no recollection of this big story, or I wasn’t paying attention? I don’t know if that helped my enjoyment of the series, but I was definitely fascinated by the story. The six-part series is well done, and it is one of those binge-worthy show. I had other things on my plate, but I found myself going back to the show over and over to see how it all played out. The cast of characters are fascinating, starting with FBI Agent Doug Matthews, who seems like an instant film. character – over the top, larger than life. I don’t know if I would trust him myself, but for the show he is pure gold. And the rest of people involved were all interesting, and the narrative took you places you didn’t would, from the New York area mob families to Mormon parishioners. I was riveted, and there were mysteries upon mysteries: How did Jacobsin get the tickets? Who was the informant? In the end, I was craving a Big Mac.

I Believe The Future (Television Thoughts: Years and Years, BBC One/HBO)

yyI have been meaning to watch ‘Years and Years’ for a while now, even before it aired on HBO. Firstly because of Russell Tovey, and second because its creator, Rusell T Davies, also did ‘Queer As Folk’ years ago, so I thought this would have substantial queer content (it has) But then I read this article from The Guardian warning me that this is the worst time to start watching the series. When this global pandemic started, I had seen numerous people saying that what we are experiencing now was covered in this show, so I was more than curious to start watching.

So the verdict? Well, don’t follow The Guardian. The series is not scary in a horror kind of way, but it will suck you in and make you think about what is happening in the world. It is also an addictive soapy series, and once you start watching, you will be hooked. It is about the Lyons family, and while the series starts in 2019, it goes up to 2032 and we see what happens to the world along those years (and years)  Russell Tovey indeed is a charmer here, as the gay brother, and I admit I was drawn to his storyline the most. We see him at the beginning of the series married, but falls in love with an illegal alien from Eastern Europe, and we see them get together, be taken apart because of British Immigration laws, and then we see him try to get Viktor back tot he UK, with disastrous results (I dare you not to cry at their fate)

But Emma Thompson steals the series from everyone, playing Vivienne Rook, a politician quite unlike a figure we all can recognize: an oily snake salesman who promises everything but is only out for herself. The series lights up whenever she is on, and if there is a God she should win everything for the series.

Does it make the future scary? Perhaps it does, but you can see that while the world spins to a lot of change, it also spins to make everything go back, as is what is happening right now.  We just need to embrace and adapt.


Desire (Television Thoughts: Mrs. Fletcher, Season 1, HBO)

HBO+Mrs+Fletcher+Pop+Up+Preview+Party+SctpZR9mVVclI have been watching, and fascinated, by Mrs. Fletcher, the mini series on HBO. I saw and wrote about the first episode, and I have only been enticed by it, binge-watching the rest of the episodes. I was engrossed and enthralled by it, by the story of Eve Fletcher, who suddenly finds herself caught in an empty nest after her son goes to college. I noted in the first episode that Eve instantly caught my empathy, after her son treats her like shot before leaving for college. Brendan, the son, finds himself in a uncomfortable environment now that he is away for school – he used to be the popular guy, the king of his high school, but now he has to find his way around his new environment. I found these two parallel stories very interesting, as they are both thrust into their respective situations and need to find their ways.

I just wish it ended with a little bit more clarity. It is structured with an open-ended finale, and I thought the series would be open-ended as well, but there doesn’t seem to be any plans for a second season. It kind of makes you ask – did they learn a lesson from whatever they went through? Brendan, in the final episode, walks in on his mother in bed with a young man and a woman, and it is the young man he used to bully when he was still in school. It would have been nice to see some kind of resolution on this – the story was framed with questions that are left unanswered. Some story lines were haphazardly set up – the trans teacher and her budding romance with a student, Eve;s friend going through marital problems – and we do not gleam any insight from them. I just feel like we should have been given an episode, or three, more to wrap everything up.

Left To Her Devices (Television Thoughts: Mrs. Fletcher Episode 1)

MV5BZTVlMDViYzItMGVhMS00YmQyLTg4ZTAtYjA4ZDZlY2RlNmExXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMzY0MTE3NzU@._V1_I have not read Tom Perrota’s novel ‘Mrs. Fletcher,’ but I am told it is about porn. So that has made me interested in the new HBO limited series ‘Mrs. Fletcher.’  You kind of do nto get that from the first episode of the show, which just sets up Mrs. Fletcher’s scenario. Played by Kathryn Hahn, who is almost always sensational, this Mrs. Fletcher is a sad sack of a mother, whose son is off to college, and the son is a huge ass-wipe, who has no manners, treats his mother – all women, actually – as crap. When she tearfully leaves him in college, he responds by wanting her out as soon as she can, and she is left with a bottle of rose and her laptop. You feel for Mrs. Fletcher at once, her situation is dire, and you know she is bound for some kind of awakening (from the looks of it, sexual) While I look forward to that, it also seems like her son Brendan is due for some kind of comeuppance when he is left in college, no longer the big and popular guy in school. I am immediately hooked in the show now, and look forward when porn comes in. Well, the idea of it in relation the series, anyway. I don’t think the show is one.