Mrs. Tide (Television Thoughts:Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, Netflix)

5efebe354f34a6ad07efd254d77ebdb1d8a56bf6It’s the New Year and people are joining health clubs and cleaning up their houses.  And of course, what better for Netflix to roll out their new series, ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.’  Kondo sparked interest a couple of years ago when she released a book wherein she tells people to get rid of things in their lives that do not ‘spark joy’ in them. And of course, that made me roll my eyes. I wouldn’t have anything in my life that doesn’t spark joy, I thought. Obviously, I have way too much clothes (don’t even pretend you don’t) but more or less, they give me happiness.

I have only seen the first episode, and the show is much more engaging than I thought it would be. It’s your typical HGTV style show, of transforming space from clutter to clean, with a bit of psychological cleansing involved – think Queer Eye where there’s crying and hugging. Kondo’s style is really simple, and seems to be effective. The new-agey part still makes me roll my eyes a bit – in the beginning she makes everyone say a prayer of thanks for their house. As for the ‘spark joy’ part, she has a thing wherein you kiss your clothes and say thank you to it if you want to discard it, but I ask: what if you never wore the clothes and it never served a purpose for you – do you still thank it, and if so, for what? But I am just being cynical, though, really if you have clutter (and I raise my hand) maybe it’s best to start tackling it instead of watching this show.

Bringing Up Baby (Film Thoughts: Private Life)

19143b091e0ee402a0be655c21aabf226dc611ddTamara Jenkins’ ‘Private Life’ centers on a couple, Rachel and Richard, played by Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti, who has been trying to have a child and has been trying to explore all their options for it. But for me, the film is more than that – it is a character study of a certain type of New Yorkers – artistic city folks who are trying to find meanings in their lives, probably trying to search for happiness just like everyone else in the world. The movie is more an observation of manners, and int hat case it was interesting to watch also because of the authentic performances from both lead actors (Hahn is a force of nature)

But beyond that, the subject matter here bored me to tears. Maybe I just don’t have that ‘parent gene’ that would make me obsess o wanting to have a child. I may belong to that school of people who would just give up after exhausting a couple of tries. I saw myself saying ‘Enough Already’ after seeing these characters go through disappointments after disappointments. I got tired of them after a while that I stopped caring about the characters. But obviously that is a more personal reaction to the film, which is not an indication of its quality. Or maybe it’s a testament of it – it is so real that I reacted this way. But all in all, I respected this movie and what it is trying to say. In the end, it just doesn’t speak to me.

Teacher Ma’m (Film Thoughts: the Kindergarten Teacher)

large_kindergarten-imageI had heard about ‘The Kindergarten Teacher’ when it premiered in Sundance earlier this year, and have been on the lookout for it. Apparently, Netflix bought the film so yes, even better. I wished this had wider theater distribution, though, because it really is a special film. Yes, I know, it being on Netflix will probably give it more eyes than a regular indie distribution, but still…

Maggie Gyllenhaal gives a great performance here. She plays Lisa Spinelli, a forty-something year old kindergarten teacher who discovers that one of her students has a knack for composing poems. This stirs up something inside her – she is taking a poetry class and doesn’t seem to be tracking. When she starts presenting the kid’s poems as her own, she gains attention from the class, including the professor (Gael Garcia Bernal, also wonderful in a small role)  However, Lisa is not really interested in claiming the poems as her own, she other ideas, and writer/director Sara Colangelo takes the movie to places you never thought it would go. it doesn’t necessarily go darker, but definitely deeper.

This is one of those great small films that gives you a character that may be different, or quirky, but believable, even relatable, definitely interesting. You may even love the character, and will definitely be fond of the film.

Sierra Brings The Creeps (Movie Thoughts: Sierra Burgess Is A Loser, Netflix)

large_sierra-burgess-posterI was excited to check out Netflix’s ‘Sierra Burgess Is A Loser’ because I am liking this new slate of Netflix rom-coms, and also, it has Noah Centineo who is really very easy on the eyes. But I found the film to be a misfire. First off, the film’s premise has a Cyrano meets Catfish plot, and it made me uncomfortable a lot of times. (As my friend said while watching it, ‘this film just stressed me out’)  Also, the film has a very unlikable lead character, and Shannon Purser, who stars as the title character, just isn’t appealing or charming enough. It is so bad that you find yourself rooting for her antagonists. A lot of the plot is just plain creepy, and if Sierra was my child, I would have slapped her four ways if she behaved like that. And i felt the character of Sierra got away with a lot of things without any kind of remorse for what she did. Even the cutie Centeneo (underused) couldn’t save the film. Try to see other things on your Netflix ‘My List’ before playing this one.

Love Letters Straight From The Heart (Movie Thoughts: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before)

to-all-the-boys-ive-loved-before.119306I read YA novels because I love its purity, and also it’s hopefulness. When we are young, we still do not have the cynicism and jadedness we have as adults, and I like that even for 120 minutes, I could get lost in that world, with that feeling. Obviously, I know what real life is now, where I value pizza more than love. So of course, I loved Susan Johnson’s ‘To All the Boys I Loved Before,’ a movie based on a YA novel I loved reading years ago. I even remember the gimmicky premise – Lara Jean (Lana Condor) writes letters to boys she has feelings for, sort of like journal entries. She then hides them with obviously no intentions of sending them. But mysteriously, they get out, and well, there you go. Lara Jean then goes to a ‘fake dating’ scenario with Peter (Noah Centineo, a breakout star here) in order for him to get an ex jealous, and for her to gloss over her crush for her sister’s ex. Then we all know where this goes – they slowly fall for each other.

The great thing about the film is it just plugs these tropes perfectly, and because of the charming cast – Condor and Centineo are great together – you not only go along, you even root for both to fall faster. This film reminds me of the John Hughes teen flicks of my youth (wisely referenced here) and since Gen Y kids deserve the same kinds of stories. An added bonus – great to see an Asian lead (this film is dropping the same week as ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ even) though perhaps it is slightly jarring to see John Corbett as her dad. This is cute and romantic, and I can[t wait to see it again. Thanks, Netflix.

The Setting Is.. (Movie Thoughts: Set It Up, Netflix)

siupI have been reading all these articles saying that ‘Set It Up,’ the new Netflix movie, is so good that it could provide a new boom for rom-coms. The romantic comedy genre has been taking a beating of late, replaced by all those Apatow-type of romantic films. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a big romantic comedy softie, and if this movie will be responsible for a new wave of films, then I will gladly hop on the boat.

‘Set It Up,’ directed by Claire Scanlon, is pretty good. For someone like me craving for romance in movies, it satisfies. It’s story is not without bumps – you don’t really believe everything that’s going on – but you kind of go along, and the ride is nice and pleasant. This is mainly because of a great performance by Zoey Deutch. At first, I was wracking my brain of an actress who she reminds me of, but then found out that she is the daughter of Lea Thompson, so bingo! In any event, Deutch is a lot of things all at once: funny, vulnerable, manic – whatever the role and situation calls for. She is the next big thing and I won’t be mad if she becomes the new face of the new wave of rom-com. Glen Powell has a little more subtle presence – you wish he was more something, but maybe this is only because Deutch is such a major presence everyone is dwarfed. They have okay chemistry but this is all pretty chaste – nothing too Apatow in here. Taye Diggs and Lucy Liu, as their bosses, are more or less caricatures, but they are good enough actors that they humanize these cardboards. I don’t know if ‘Set It Up’ would make my favorite romantic movies of all time, but it will probably be one of my favorites this year.

Strange Dear, but True Dear (Film Thoughts: Alex Strangelove, Netflix)

MV5BMjQ4MjIxOTYyNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTc3MDg0NTM@._V1_UY1200_CR90,0,630,1200_AL_When I first saw the trailer of ‘Alex Strangelove,’ I thought it was very similar to ‘Love Simon.’ in that it is about a high school student grasping with their sexual orientation. But Berlanti’s film is about dealing with being gay after the fact that one has accepted himself. “Alex Strangelove’ is the film right before you get to that place – it’s about the questioning and eventual acquiescence to that same fact. I think the two film are worlds apart, and ‘Alex Strangelove’ is just as good, just as entertaining, just as touching.

Alex (Daniel Doheny) thinks he is straight, and as a matter of fact has a girlfriend (Madeline Weinstein) but he questions this when he meets Elliot (Antonio Marziale) a guy who is unapologetically gay. Maybe this points to the fact that he is unable to have sex with his girlfriend (we learn later on that the suspicion has already started) and when he does, things go in a disastrous manner. Written and directed by  Craig Johnson, this film is a lot of fun in that silly, goofball way – I am sure it will attract its teen/tween target market set. But snobs like me will find a lot to like about it, and for old farts like me, it gives me a window to how kids nowadays think: sexual orientation is still a big deal, but the outcome nary matters to them anymore – it’s just the ‘getting there’ that provides stress. Doheny is perfect here with his wonderful neurotic confusion – you feel and empathize, and cringe with him when he makes his misguided choices. I thought the film was much raunchier than I thought it would be. It’s certainly racier than the squeaky clean ‘Love Simon.’ I totally enjoyed this, and highly recommend it. And as Pride Month comes upon us, I applaud Netflix for its dedication. I know this will reach a big audience, and it’s just great to be a kid these days with all these films to have access to. There’s a lot of hate nowadays, but love still comes out on top, it seems.