Popular (Film Thoughts: Jawline/Merely Marvelous)

p16946634_v_v8_aaI roll my eyes at the idea of someone wanting to be a successful social influencer but here I am watching Liz Mandelup’s fine documentary ‘Jawline’ (now streaming on Hulu) which is about Austyn tester, a sixteen year old, who dreams of being the next new hot thing on the internet. My eyes were firmly on my head when the film started following him, but I swear by the end of the film I liked this kid so much, and confession time, I followed him on Instagram. Really, we go through his (small) journey here – from a tween doing live broadcasts on YouNow, to him being plucked by a Management agency, and then being invited to tour with other social influencers, to him being dropped by said management. He ends up being dejected and depressed – at sixteen years old, wouldn’t you be?. But I wanna tell Austyn, by Gosh you are still young there are still going to be a lot of opportunities to come your way. Mandelup does a good job of making you care for the him, and the film. Don’t pooh-pooh ‘Jawline,’ like I almost did, because like me, you probably will come out very much enlightened.

MV5BMWUxMDA2ODUtMTU1MC00ZmE2LWEzMDEtNTg2MjU5ODAwZjZjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMzgxNTU4MjU@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,666,1000_AL_I hark back on the days when one becomes famous because of their talent, and what better way to see that than in ‘Merely Marvelous: the Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon.’ People may have only gone deep with her through the F/X series ‘Fosse/Verdon,’ but this fine fine documentary digs even deeper. We get to know her life story and even better, her work through clips and interviews of people she worked with. It was fantastic to see all the footage from her most celebrated Broadway performances like her famous can can scene from ‘Can Can’ (which prompted a seven minute ovation on Opening Night) to ‘I’m A Brass Band’ from ‘Sweet Charity.  There is even a poignant one from her teaching her nephew Jack Cole’s tap dancing routine five months before she passed. This film is a celebration of Gwen Verdon and is a cause for celebration.

The Touch (Movie Thoughts: Untouchable)

0204d474-dcce-44f3-af25-d1cca05aba3bThere’s a lot of things in Ursula Macfarlane’s ‘Untouchable’ that you did not know, but I bet, essentially, you already knew them.  As I watch these women narrate their stories here on how they were sexually assaulted by Harvey Weinstein, I couldn’t help but think some of them could be unavoidable. But I shouldn’t judge, as Weinstein yielded so much power that anyone could be blinded by it – there is always going to be that ‘what if’ gnawing at the back of your head somewhere.

This documentary, now streaming on Hulu, felt familiar at times that it bored me. Macfarlane employed a journalistic touch with the reporting, and that is a wise dignified choice for a subject that in itself is already titillating. But its blandness make it a tough watch for me. The stories can be similar, and I at times had a hard time distinguishing one from the other, and perhaps that is also because Weinstein basically had the same modus operandi. But make no mistake, though, these stories are important and should be heard. I just wish they had a little more flash.

Grandma Sex (Movie Thoughts: Ask Dr Ruth)

large_ruth-posterI bet most people who lived in New York in the 80s has a Dr. Ruth story. She was everywhere – on the radio, on the television both day and night, and you went out the streets and I bet you saw here. I remember watching the Broadway musical ‘Crazy For You’ and she sat right in front of me. During intermission, everyone was going to her to have her sign their Playbills. She was in a lot of ways a super star.

This documentary shows the woman before and after that period. I did not know she was a Holocaust survivor – she was sent to a Swiss orphanage alogn with other children so they would be safe from the war, and the documentary shows how years later she finds out her father was killed at Auschwitz, and details of her mother’s death still unknown. She somehow ends up in Washington Heights and on a radio show in New York City becomes ‘Dr Ruth.’ (Westheimer)  Sure, she was a cultural phenomenon, but she also opened he doors for sexual communication. As a gay teenager I remember listening to her I have to admit I got some information on safe sex from her. I loved her warmth and openness, and trusted the information she gave. This film captures her personality vividly, and her legacy as well.

Shrill Elegance (Television Thoughts: Shrill, Pilot)

shrill-hulu-aidy-bryant-release-dateThere’s so much television content out there you really do not know what to watch and I have to be honest, most times I give up easily on these shows. I have only heard good things about the new Hulu original, ‘Shrill,’ and after watching the first episode, I wish I could say that I loved it, but honestly, I just like it a lot. These days that may not be good enough, but I am making a commitment to stick to it and watch more episodes.

First, this is perfect as my ‘last thing to watch before I go to sleep.’ It’s less than half an hour, and it is an amiable and easy watch. Aidy Bryant stars as Annie. She’s fuller figured (let’s not sugarcoat that) and she is dealign with a lot of things on the pilot episode. She’s trying to find her way at work (John Cameron Mitchell plays her boss – always a plus)  And midway through, she finds out she is pregnant, by a guy who really just uses her for sex. There has been a lot of chatter since the character gets an abortion, and it raises an issue – did you now that the morning after pill does not on women weighing more than 175 lbs? Yes, Annie has responsibility issues, but Bryant is charming and can get away with it – she reminds me of Roseanne Barr before she went all Trumpster. So yeah , there is a lto for me to go back to here, and I will

Fighting Fyre with Fyre (Film Thoughts: Fyre Fraud/Fyre)


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.

Dancing Through Time (Find Me in Paris, Hulu)

p15375687_b_v9_acHulu recommended this show to me. I think it’s because I watched some Freeform shows on their platform. The show focuses on ballet and time travel. A ballerina from the year 1905 (played by Jessica Lord) gets transported to present time (2018) unintentionally because of a blunder by her boyfriend.  I thought the pilot episode was kind of boring – I thought it needed more action, and the pace, especially for something that involves some fantasy.  And not that I am an expert on ballet, but I thought the dancing was lackluster. And Lord isn’t the greatest young actress out there, but there are some twinks in the cast that got my attention, so all in all, it’s not a bad viewing experience. I won’t give up on the show, though, because I kind of like the idea, especially the love story parts of it – there is a very romantic vibe here that is very promising. And the episodes could get better, though I am not really a big fan of the fantasy element of it.