Kiss Again (Movie Thoughts: The Kissing Booth 2)

large_kissing-booth-2I’ve been burned too many times now with these Netflix teen films that I was ready to write off ‘The Kissing Booth 2’ right away. Besides, I cannot remember a lick about the first movie, only that I kind of liked it? And anyway, the sequel, directed by Vince Marcelo, clocks in at two hours and twelve minutes. I mean, who does it think it is, Titanic? About a couple of minutes into in, I was already sold. Joey King is really great, and she can make you believe in anything here, and she enjoys a breezy chemistry with Joel Courtney that you can kind of forgive the silly plot, and the sillier circumstances that their characters get into. And I did not need a lot of convincing in the story, even if some of it is far fetched. They even give the gays a throw-around minor storyline (every representation helps!)  Before I knew it, I was swooning, I was crying and laughing along with the characters. I am sorry I doubted you, kissing booth, I eagerly await the third installment.

Amor Always (Movie Thoughts: Mucho Mucho Amor)

MUCHO-MUCHO-AMOR-Poster-788x1024Walter Mercado passed away recently, and I have a lot of Facebook friends who noted and grieved his passing, mentioning how fabulous he was. I honestly wasn’t too familiar with him, though I kind of remember him from my New York years. The Netflix documentary, ‘Mucho Mucho Amor,’ through a lot of archival footage shows what a grand and majestic presence he was on Latin television, as he gives the daily horoscopes clad with capes ornately designed with glitter and Swaroski crystals (Gianni Versace made him one) I have to admit doing the gay gasp seeing some of these costumes, and also wonder how Latinos just embraced him, considering how a lot of men embraced the Macho culture. I guess Walter Mercado was non-binary before anyone knew what that was – he looked kind of like a woman, and not really like a man. It is safe and sexless, though, so in a way it felt ‘safe,’ kind of like the eccentric uncle from that side of your family.

The documentary doesn’t really try to dig deeper, Directors Cristina Constantioni and Kareem Tabsch are obviously enamored by him, so they present him in grand fashion. He sits on his pedestal, and wears his capes as he sits for interview with them. He is given the narrative, as he narrates his life, and the times when he ruled the televisions screen and seen by millions every day. Sure, thats’ nice and all, and essential for viewers like me who did not really know him that well, but I think some depth would have been nice as well. We hear from people around how devastated he was when he was betrayed by his manager Bill Bakula, but he puts a mostly brave face when he discussed it, with his guards up.

Still, you cannot help but be swept by his positive messages. For sure, Walter Mercado is a product of his times, but we all could use some of his magic right now.

Stop The Beat (Movie Thoughts: Feel The Beat, Netflix)

Feel_the_Beat_(film)_posterIs Netflix really ushering a new age of teen movies? Or is it just the same old crap?  Hav e to say that nowadays it feels like there’s more trash than gold there, and you can put ‘Feel The Beat’ in the meh department. Elissa Down’s film is formula through and through, and I just couldn’t get into it – it took me two days to watch this when something like this should be a nice easy viewing. I think it may also have to do with Sofia Caron, who stars in the film. I guess she has done a slew of Disney films as a teen, but i really did not know. She is one of the most wooden actresses I have ever seen. There is not a lot of characterization here, and I felt nothing for her character. The kid dancers were cute, and Wolfgang Novogratz’s crooked smile got me, but honestly, there is nothing here for me to write about.

Trans Lives Matters (Film Thoughts: Disclosure)

large_disclosure-movie-posterNetflix’s new documentary ‘Disclosure’ has never been timely and should be required viewing during Pride Month. If there was ever an eye-opening documentary, this would be it. The film, directed by Sam feder, looks at trans representation in films throughout history, from the silent films of D W Griffiths to the current landscape. it shows us how badly represented trans people have been in history. It’s so weird, because I have seen most of the films featured in the film, and it feels like I am looking at those films with new eyes, and I kick myself for not looking at it that way before, ads I am a member of the LGBTQ community myself. It is made up of interviews with trans people, and how these films have shaped how they see themselves in society – how trans people have been portrayed for comedic purposes most of the time, and how their representation have been mostly negative – prostitutes or murderers, giving society a most narrow view. It covers a lot of things, though sometimes too much that. it doesn’t give a viewer time to think and absorb their points. But darn it if it isn’t essential viewing for everyone.

Yes To Never (Television Thoughts: Never Have I Ever Season One)

nhivSo yeah, I finally finished a Netflix show by really bingeing it. ‘Never Have I Ever’ goes by so quickly and easily it’s so easy to devour it. Call me hooked, but I got sucked into Devi’s life and loves. There were a lot of things that happened on the second half of the series, and I thought most of it was pretty good. I like the fact that we saw the depth of the character – we see how the death of her father really affected her psyche, and we even get sub storylines from her friends that are pretty satisfying. And just when we thought we were all rooting for her to end up with Paxton, there’s Ben. I am usually good at gauging how things go, but I have to admit, I was kind of surprised by that, and I kick myself for not really entertaining the idea earlier. I have to say, though, that I like the Devi/Ben pairing, only because the Paxton character is such a wuss. I hear that the show is a success, and I look forward to Season 2 !

Devi’s Ever After (Television Thoughts: Never Have I Ever, Netflix)

MV5BNTk1OWE3MmItNDhlYi00NGM4LTkwMWUtM2NkZWJiNjQyNGIxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTMxODk2OTU@._V1_I honestly cannot think of a Netflix series that I have binged watched. Of course, I have not seen any of their Greatest Hits – ‘The Crown’ had been languishing in ‘My List’ for a long time now – but I have this thing about Netflix. I put so much stuff on ‘My List’ and I look at the service as my last resort – I tell myself it will always be there, and I never get to there.

But I started watching ‘Never Have I Ever’ and I can’t get enough of it I am even trying to ‘preserve’ it by not trying to watch it all at once. I am now finished halfway – five out of ten episodes – and it’s an unlikely source of happiness for me. Who knew?

I have always liked YA stuff because there is so much hope there, and, for the most part, the desires and longings are innocent, and I like innocent. Here we have. protagonist, and she is cast perfectly in Maitreyi Ramakrishnan. She is Devi, and Indian American teenager who suddenly loses her father in her Spring orchestra concert,. She is your typical Type A overachiever, in the most adorable way. and she has set her sights on Paxton, the school hunk. And in all the halls and corridors, they do find each other, from her agressiveness (can we have sex, she asks him) and then, of course, he finds her ‘soul.’  Halfway through, there are obstacles, and you know what, even if they don’t end up where she wants him to be, I do get a feeling she will be alright.

This is produced by Mindy Kaling, and I appreciate the diversity in her characters. Devi’s friends are both of color: one is Chinese, the other black, and one of them is gay. Even the main squeezes show diversity. I mean, even the white-looking hunk is half-Asian. It truly represents the world we live in today.

And it’s pitch perfect – funny and sad, and real.

The Wood in Hollywood (Television Thoughts: Hollywood, Netflix)

141224Okay so I am late in seeing Netflix’s ‘Hollywood.’ It seems like everyone has said their piece about the show. And I have to admit when i first started watching it, I loved it. I mean cute guys, hot sex, Patti LuPone. I mean, everything about it seemed gay gay gay. Now that I think more about it, I wonder if the show appealed to people outside the gay community. But by episode four, I was starting to tune out. It seems so strained, and so shallow. I mean, I get what it is trying to say – the what if of it all – but I just did not buy it. It wasn’t written well, and from what I read about Rock Hudson, I don’t think he would have ended up with a black man. Also, i did not like the mix of fictional and ‘real’ characters. I mean, why name Rock and not Scottie Bowers? Truly, the show left a not-so-sweet taste in my mouth, and the more I gargle with Listerine the better.

The Half-of-It Dearie Blues (Movie Thoughts: The Half Of It)

the-half-of-it-posterWhen I read the synopsis of Netflix’s ‘The Half of It,’ I uttered to myself, “ugh, another insipid variation of Cyranno de Bergerac,’ and I have to admit I went into the film with that bias. I find that these teen Netflix projects can be hit or miss. But I should have known that Alice Wu, the director would give us something unique. The film stars Leah Lewis as Ellen Chou (does Netflix only cast Asian actresses with Western names?) an intelligent teenager living in a small town in Middle America. She is so smart that her gig economy side job is to make term papers for her classmates. Enter Paul (Daniel Diemer) who hires Ellen to write letters for him, as he is enamoured with Aster (Alexxis Lemire)  Upon the course of this, Ellen gets a realization, that she is falling for Aster herself. Things get convoluted quite quickly – Paul starts to fall for Ellen, as Ellen gets deeper with Alexis, and is Alexis really responding back to Ellen? This is the kind of film you probably have to rewatch to get the small details you may have missed the first time around, but I thought Lewis and Diemer had fantastic chemistry and was kind of rooting for that. Aster is religious so I thought it would have been kind of impossible for her to respond to Ellen, but all this headiness i exhilarating. Not that this is the kind of movie that ties everything in the end properly, but the ending is satisfying and, above all things, realistic. If, like me, you had doubts going into this film, get over it and enjoy.

Even Told The Golden Daffodils (Film Thoughts: A Secret Love, Netflix)

baPTM2MrYoju3P5NKLMgKdOt8sDRyan Murphy, again, produced the new documentary ‘A Secret Love’ on Netflix and just like the earlier ‘Circus of Books,’ it is wonderful and a testament to power of gay love, and well, any kind of love. The film, directed by Chris Bolan was supposed to debut at SXSW Film festival in Texas, but that shuttered after the pandemic. It is about a couple, Pat and Terry, who meet in the 40s, and, at the start of the film, had been together for almost 66 years.  They tell their love story, with Pat being on of the first female baseball players in the All American Teams, which was the basis for the Penny Marshall Movie ‘A League Of Their Own.’ For decades, they have made their home in the Chicago area, and now have to face obstacles from aging – Pat has been experiencing tremors, and their home has started to be an unsafe place for both of them. Terry is resistant at first, unable to let go of the life they have shared together there. This seems like a simple story, and it is, as we see their struggle as they grow old together – and finally able to marry. The last fifteen minutes of the film is heartbreaking, as we see them finally move to an assisted facility, and then get married. ‘Love is love’ is not just a saying, this film is the embodiment of it. Don’t proceed to watch without tissues.

Circus Acts (Film Thoughts: Circus of Books)

12c27d9dbbf230b37a49df22ff197eeeRachel Mason directed the Netflix documentary ‘Circus of Books,’ about the popular porn bookstore in Los Angeles. Tt turns out, she has a personal connection to the subject. Her parents, Barry and Karen Mason, were the proprietors of the one-time largest distributor of gay porn in the country. In this moving and engrossing documentary, she explores the beginning (and eventual ending) of the family business. Who would have thought that a nice Jewish couple were the owners? Barry answered Larry Flynt’s newspaper ad looking for secondary distributors for his Blueboy Magazine, and before they knew it, they were the owners of Book Circus in West Hollywood, taking over from its troubled business owners. And we see the business grow (eventually expanding to Silverlake and Sherman Oaks) But of course, the bookstore had other significance in the gay community – it was a place where gay people can interact with other gays, a haven where they can feel that they were not alone in the world. The back alley, dubbed Vaseline Alley, was a huge cruising spot as well. Porn was huge in the 80s and we see the couple move to production, eventually producing Matt Sterling productions fo Jeff Stryker films.

But there’s a deep personal story to the documentary as well. When their kids were growing up, they were very tight-lipped about the business, as they didn’t want to be a distraction for their kids growing up. Karen is pretty religious, and that dichotomy is explored here as well. They are a very sensitive couple, and some of the most touching scenes are when Barry would take about friends and colleagues that passed during the AIDS epidemic. And wouldn’t you know it, but they also have two queer children, and we see Karen go through hardship in accepting them, to being proud PFLAG members.

In a lot of ways, the book store is a perfect backdrop for how gay life has changed over the years, and with the internet moving content to online, there was no choice but to eventually close the store – we see the bittersweet ending at the end of the documentary. There is a silver lining, though – Chi Chi Laroue has rented the space and transformed it to ChiChi’s Circus, now a gallery/store space, still for queer content.