Action Jackson (Film Thoughts: Shirley)

large_shirley-posterJosephine Deckler’s 2018 film ‘Madeleine Madeleine’ was critically lauded, but for me it was total dreck. Or maybe I just don’t ‘get’ her art? This is the reason why I have dragged my feet into seeing her new film ‘Shirley,’ even though, again, the film has gotten numerous raves. But I finally gave in, and you know what? I kind of get Decker’s work a little bit more. Do I like it? Not as much as others, but it is certainly better for me than ‘MM.’

Maybe because this has a formidable dream cast, led by Elizabeth Moss, who is fantastic as Shirley Jackson. Matching her scene for scene is Michael Stuhlbarg, who plays her husband Stnley Hyman. This eccentric couple, and that is putting it mildly, has started to host a young couple in their house, and the film veer towards something akin to Jackson’s gothic stories. It is sometimes baffling, and I gotta admit at times hard to take, but it is definitely interesting, And the authentic performances will certainly make you believe everything. The added extra for me is seeing Logan Lerman, who is one of my favorite actors, though he doesn’t really have much to do here. Visually the film is a treat, and Decker infuses it with a lot of style. All in all it’s more an interesting watch for me than one that emotionally touched me, but that’s probably more my taste than anything else. I admire it, though.

Nine Percent Chance (Series Thoughts: High Fiedlity S01, Hulu)

13f9a8be06d47093a38439c6e5132a09_500x735I finished the first season of ‘High Fidelity’ on Hulu, and I got so hooked on it. I practically watched the last couple of episodes non-stop because I wanted to see how it ends.

First off, I know this is Rob (Zoie Kravitz) and her story, but I also liked that the supporting characters were not short–changed. I loved Simon (David Holmes) and the fact that he also had his own episode, and of course, it was about what he thought was his one great love. I think it would have been better had he gone back to that toxic relationship, but sure, why don’t we make him responsible. And DaVine Joy Randolph as Cherise is priceless, and I wish we knew what happened to her at the end – has she started performing, really – but let’s hope that’s reason enough for a second season. As for Rob, I am mixed. She is a bit of a spoiled brat – pouting when she doesn’t get her way – but that makes her character more real to me. I mean, even if we are friends with someone, we can disagree with her actions, right? I was kind of rooting for Clyde, but then again I always root for the nice guy always. She treated him like crap and I liked that he stood his ground at her towards the end. And who knows, people can over come nine percent. chance, right? They do, all the time.

The Love Soundtrack (Television Thoughts: High Fidelity, Hulu)

hfI feel so old now, because I remember when Zoe Kravitz was born, and now here she is starring in her own show on Hulu, ‘High Fidelity.’ It is supposed to be based on Nick Hornsby’s novel, and for the life of me I cannot recall if I read the book, or if I saw the movie, or even the Broadway show. I know I should have an affinity for the material, because the main character is a music collector, and once upon a time before everything was available to streaming, I was one of those. I know all the cool kids nowadays collect and listen to vinyl, but I was a CD guy. And now I have no more desire to ‘collect,’ so I don ‘t know if I can still relate.

But I can certainly relate to Rob, Kravitz character on the show. Her love life is a mess, and see her enumerating all her heartbreaks in the first episode – telling us the stories of partners who she is still emoting for. It’s cute, and I know some people are not able to relate, but I can. I like the little touch of her still pining for the guy who broke her heart last, and seeing him just as she is on her way to a date, screwing up her psyche altogether. At about twenty minutes or so per episode, I think i will try to savour episodes instead of bingeing.

Perfect Mothers (Television Thoughts: Little Fires Everywhere, Finale, HULU)

Little-Fires-Everywhere-2478583I have finished ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ and I have some thoughts:

1 – The ending. I don’t know if I liked it, as the last episode felt a little rushed. The buildup was there, for sure, and the excitement was palpable for sure, but it may be too much at one time? I read that the book had a different ending regarding the fire – Izzy started the fire on print – and while I do like the metaphor in having the three other kids do it, my initial reaction was also: these kids are much too self-centered and selfish to do something like that. They would value their material things over that. I don’t think the realization would come all at once, and at the same time for all three of them. I have to admit that as a writing ploy, it is kind of brilliant. And really, Mia and Pearl was able to pack everything they own in hours ? I don’t know about that.

2 – Washington is really fantastic, and her role is much better than Witherspoon’s that’s why she is getting more attention. Witherspoon’s final scenes were on the shrill side, but her character was also not as well-written. While watching the episodes, I liked the fact that while you may agree or disagree with Elena or Mia, you understand both. In the final episodes, Elena felt like a different person altogether. The kids were all uniformly good, but Gavin Lewis (as Moody) was the best for me – he has the most expressive eyes. Gold Derby is predicting Emmy nominations for Witherspoon and Washington – the latter has a chance of winning.

 

There She Is (Television Thoughts: Phyllis, Mrs America S01 E01, Hulu)

mrs-america-movie-posterPhyllis Schalfly is one of the most despicable figures in the Republican party, and that’s a group chockful of deplorables. I wondered if I would like a show featuring and about her. But who can resist Cate Blanchett? Blanchett plays Schlafly as a deliciously evil as she can, and you gotta love her. Schafly is that kind of woman with a place reserved in hell – she doesn’t support other women and goes against her own interest. After her failed congressional run, she tries to go to a think thank meeting in Washington DC and there she is treated like dirt, but still she perseveres and joins the group, offering her services. By the end of the episode, we see her rallying against the ERA (Equal Rights Ammendment) owning ‘libbers.’ I know that she has a great dislike of gay people so I would be curious if the series will cover that part, and of course I will be watching the rest of the season.

Victor’s Unraveling (Television Thoughts: Love Victor S01 E 05 06 07 08 09 10, Hulu)

love-victor-movie-posterI was right. The latter five episodes of Hulu’s ‘Love Victor’ was much better. In a way, the first set is a set up, as after it, Victor has realized more and more that he is gay, and that he is attracted to Benjie. I think George Sears is adorable as Benjie, and I am even using his poster for this post. I think one of the best episodes is when Victor goes to New York City to meet Simon, and is welcomed by a diverse and loving gay family there. It tore me up, because it is true, When you are gay, your friends become your family, and sometimes not-blood family is more precious than the bloodlined ones. I appreciated Nick Robinson’s cameo as Simon, tying everything up together. When he gets back to Atlanta, the show all of a sudden became deeper, and the relationships he has with all these people got more textured. I loved the scene when he comes out to Felix, and want to believe it is a better world out there with young people that this sort of thing is no longer a big issue. And the scenes leading to the dance is heartbreaking – I can relate top what Victor was going through, keeping a secret that is slowly unraveling before his eyes. I hope there is a second season.

Webbed In (Television Thoughts: Little Fires Everwhere S01 E 02 03 04 05, Hulu)

lfe2I have to say I am up to episode five of Hulu’s ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ and I am so hooked. I am realizing that this is the second Hulu series this year that got me – Normal People earlier blew me away.

The story is quite interesting and it takes me to places I never thought it would, and more so, it keeps me guessing. Both the characters of Reese Witherspoon (Elena) and Kerry Washington (Mia) fascinate and frustrate me both at the same time – both are drawn quite real and there is not just one way of looking at them. I keep on saying that Witherspoon plays the same role, and here I do feel the same, but there is a lot more that she does. Washington is a brave actress, unafraid of challenging the audience for her characterization. The whole cast is good, and I am here awaiting when I can stream what happens next.

Love, Actually (Television Thoughts: Love, Victor S01 E 01 – E 05)

love-victor‘Love Simon’ really touched so I was elated to find that there was going to be a television show spinoff from it. From Hulu comes ‘Love, Victor,’ about a teenager, George Salazar, who moves to Georgia from Texas, the same world where Simon Spiers (Nick Robinson’s character in the film) inhibited. Victor’s journey isn’t as easy as Simon’s – he has more conservative parents and is quickly drawn to situations that will make him fit in his new school – dating a girl. I am about halfway through the series and I have some thoughts.

First, I know this was developed for Disney+ and was banished to Hulu, perhaps because they deemed the material too racy for Disney. Puh-leese – this is as safe as a series gets, and the first half shows it was clearly meant for the Disney audience, manly tween girls, Victor starts dating a girl, even as he questions his orientation. This is clearly meant to satisfy that audience. At times I felt like I was watching the wrong show – is this about a straight teenage couple? I hope the latter half improves on that front.

But i can’t knock the show – it is cute and charming and the cast is great. Michael Cimino as Victor is superb, able to show vulnerability even as he is awkward and self-deprecating. And George Sear as his male love interest is cute, and I gotta admit I was drawn into that cute scene where Benji starts singing ‘Call Me Maybe’ on stage because that’s become their theme, a wink to the secret the audience only knows. By the end of the fifth episode, the path isn’t clearer, and it just whets my appetite for what’s to come next.

Where There’s Spark (Television Thoughts: The Spark, Little Fires Everywhere S01 E01, Hulu)

little-fires-everywhereCeleste Ng’s ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ has been on my to-be-read list since it came out in 2017.  But of course, I have been so behind on my reading that there is, now, a Hulu series adaptation of it. As much as I want to read the book, the series will do for now. I had also been meaning to watch this, but there is so much content out there that I just saw the first episode. And it’s riveting. I don’t know how it differs from the book, but the first episode has me hooked and I can’t wait to start watching the series.

Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington both produce and star in this show, and they are cast perfectly. Witherspoon is Elena, all type A suburban perfection and Washington as Mia her artistic urban counterpart. Of course, the two characters together would bring sparks. (The first episode is titled ‘Sparks.’) Their families start to weld together – Elena’s four kids and Mia’s one daughter.

The series starts showing Elena’s house in flames. There’s a question on what started it, and some point to Izzy, Elena’s daughter. But I know things are most probably not what they seem in the story, and I am now just too eager to find out.

Love Is Normal (Television Thoughts: Normal People, Hulu)

poster-780What brings to people together? I don’t think there’s a formula for it. Hulu’s ‘Normal People’ is a love story between Connor and Marianne. Based on Sally Rooney’s book, there are times when, while watching it, that I would think to myself, there is nothing happening here story wise. But so much happens in every scene, and every glance, every kiss forwards the story that I can’t remember the last time I watched two characters on screen and felt like I know them inside and out, I binge-watched this in a weekend, and felt so intimately involved with the characters that I felt like they were life-long friends by the end. And we follow their love story through a lot – starting from high school till when Conner gets an MFA offer in New York City.

Conner and Marianne are perfectly cast in Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones. They start out as unlikely pairs in secondary school  – he is a football hero and she is an intellectual outcast. His friends make fun of her, she broods on her own. His mother works as a housekeeper in her house, and that’s when they begin a sort-of friendship that ultimately brings them together. And the clandestine relation ship is instantly sexual. You feel bad for her because she has to hide it, but he hides a lot – his one word answer on everything shows that he has his guards up all the time. Their relationship ends with him asking someone else at their final school dance. They meet up later at Trinity College in Dublin, and of course, there is rekindling,

What I love most about the show is the element of melancholy that permeates in every pore of these characters. They are damaged, for sure, but among all of us, who isn’t? And they do break up and get back together a number of times in the show which can make it exhaustive, but then again relationships are exhaustive, and for me, everything still made sense. there is an awful lot of sex scenes in the show (and flesh shown) but somehow it never felt gratuitous – through them we seen the inner bearings of both characters. I loved living in their world, and I remember sitting at the main square of trinity College in Dublin thinking how life might be for students there – this show gave me a nice glimpse.

And it ends wonderfully – it is not a happey-ever-after, nor a can-never-be-together, Just like real life and love, there are maybes, and even if the maybes turn to yes or nos,  there will always be somehows. With love, one never truly knows.