Love, Bomer, and Compassion (Film Thoughts: The Boys In the Band, Netflix)

I was born a year before the original play of ‘The Boys In The Band’ was staged, but as a young gay man, everyone I met was referencing it, and its 1970 film to me. Someone told me you will understand yourself better after seeing the film. But when I finally saw it, I was nit really impressed. I think I was too young to fully understand it – a lot of the references went over my head. In my mind, it was a film that defined a certain generation of gay men, and it was one before mine.

Cut to now. It has been decades since I saw the original film, and there was a new revival on Broadway, this time with an all-gay cast. I thought the production was stellar, and here I am now, a middle aged gay man, and the play finally blossomed right in front of my eyes. I saw myself in some, even a couple, of characters. I finally got it, realizing its context in modern gay history.

And now most of that production has been adapted for a Netflix under the helm of the Broadway director, Joe Mantello. And in this medium, the play even blossoms more. For me, the cast brings most of it to life. I had never been a major fan of Jim Parsons (I think all his characters act the same) but he was able to give his Michael here a lot of depth. In the original play, Matt Bomer’s Donald is probably thought to be more neurotic, but in today’s world, he comes off as very ordinary and plain, and even bland. Bomer isn’t the most exciting actor, and the character comes off more like paper. Zachary Quinto’s Harold is great, and the actor is more than game for the role. And Robin de Jesus’s showy role is just as colorful on screen Everyone gets a moment, and even Charlie Carver registers his handsomeness ten times more in 1080 pixels.

But above all, this is. perfect way to view gay life then. Stonewall hasn’t happened yet, and the world is starting to get more comfortable with homosexuality, though most of these characters still have a lot of guilt and shame. The world is better now in a lot of ways, but curiously, some of their issues still exist.

Sing Out, Louise! (Series Thoughts: Sing On, Netflix)

There is this karaoke contraption called the ‘Magic Mike’ that is very popular in Asia. It’s a microphone you connect to your television set, and there you can take your pick of songs wherein the contraption plays the instrumental tracks for you to sing to. At the end of each song, the machine calculates a score based on your performance. This score is based on how well you sang it, by that it measures if you were on time hitting the notes, and how much you were correct in spacing said notes. It’s kind of deceptive, you just need to follow the bouncing ball, so to speak, and you can ace the songs.

I bet you that’s where the creators got the premise for ‘Sing On,’ a singing competition series from Netflix. Apparently, they already have Spanish and German versions of the show, and now have launched the US version with Titus Burgess as host. He is a fun host, slightly campy without getting too threatening for the hetero crowd.

And the show is a fun one, short and breezy at thirty minutes, more or less, per episode. They have gotten some interesting contestants who are for the most part game for the concept. It’s harmless, and perfect for times when you can’t decide what to watch, and want something where you don’t have to think much.

Ain’T She Cute? (Film Thoughts: Cuties)

‘Cuties,’ on Netflix has sparked controversy because of a poster that was used for marketing it. In said poster, four pre-teen girls are scantily clad, and because of this, ‘sexualized.’ There is an outcry among Trump supporters because of it, and calls to boycott Netflix. Phew. Much ado. Oversexualization of girls is the point of the film, and yes, the poster may have been misguided, but is it any different from anything you see in TikTok?

That’s a shame because that can push people away from seeing this film, the debut feature from Maimona Doucouré, and it is a fine coming of age film about a young woman finding herself in the midst of all the ‘noise’ in the age of social media. The one thing I really love about the film is its specificity: it’s about living in the poor section fo Paris, where Senegalese immigrants come an d live. You can see the diversity of nationalities in the school scenes, and more or less, the kids live and play together, and the dilemmas facing could have been anywhere in the world. Fathjia Yopusoff is Amy, the young girl lured into a group of young girls and their dance troupe, and I don’t want to say anything else because it will diminish the shock of what Amy goes through. Parts – well a lot of it – of the film will make you cringe, but it will make you think about everything you ever did when you were young in order to ‘belong’ to something.

The D in Duchess (Series Thoughts: The Duchessm Netflix)

Netflix kept on recommending ‘The Duchess’ to me – via email, via the home screen when I log on – that it tired me out and I just pressed play without knowing ANYTHING from it. Well, to my surprise, it is (kinda) British so I fell in love with right away.

It’s about a mom (played by Katherine Ryan) who is raising her school-age child, and she is saucy. She curses, she fights with other moms in her school, but she does it all in shiny sequiny designer clothes. So what’s not to love?

And in the first episode, she gets the realization that she wants another child, because her first one turns out so well. She tries the local sperm bank, but is disillusioned by the teenage boys depositing sperm. So could it be her kinda boyfriend Evan? Nah, she doesn’t want to mess up what they have by adding fatherhood to its plate, so she speaks to her daughter’s father, a lapsed boy band member, because he did such a good job with their first child. This is a fun and witty show – sometimes crass but they say it with a British accent so its classier! I can feel the six episodes fly already.

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.