Christening OLED with Disparue and Downton

October 14, 2018

So I now have my fourth television as an adult. I started out with a tiny black and white in my 20’s. I lived with better color televisions in two long-term relationships. Then bought my first big 19″ color TV in 2000. Then upgraded to a 40″ flat screen six years ago and now treated myself to an OLED 55″ this past week. I felt guilty about buying a new TV when the one I have works fine. But I have been reminded that watching film and television and blogging about said events is my #1 activity away from work. It relaxes me. It takes me to other worlds. So here I am. Once unpacked, connected, and plugged in, I am in awe of the richness and depth of these new televisions. Browns take on a whole new meaning. Streaming works great. I watched an episode of Acorn TV’s French mystery, Disparue (The Disappearance) which created new meaning for shadow and light. The Blu-rays look better than ever with the new media. Downtown Abbey which I’ve watched over and over again looked like a brand-new series. I could see the reflection of a character in a tea service. Yikes. I’m hooked. To give you an idea of how frugal my decision-making is, I took about two years to make this decision. Boy am I glad I finally did it.

Look for better adjectives in my reviews from now on. Or simply more gleeful writing.


Dancing Queen: Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2

October 12, 2018

Dancing Queen

I saw my first drag show 40 (shudder) years ago in Tampa, Florida, the summer I came out of the closet. After college, I moved to Atlanta, Georgia for six years. I remember Tiffany Arieagus from Tampa and Dawn Dupree from Atlanta. I worshiped their performances. Of course I also remember RuPaul getting his start, but Ru wasn’t what I would call a drag queen back then. He was doing gender fuck – Mohawk, eye make-up, jock strap, and thigh high boots.. kinda of punk sci-fi drag for lack of a better term. I watched a lot of drag shows back in the day. To be honest, they were the only gay clubs that served a bit of elegance. You could reserve a table, dress up, meet your friends, and feel like you were back in the earlier part of the 20th century. Over the years, I grew less interested in drag. It didn’t seem to move forward. So much of it feels like the same shtick I knew and loved back in the day. I know I’m in the minority given the popularity of Drag Race. And I love love love that RuPaul has gotten the recognition he has over the past ten years. I have loved seeing his career take off to the point where he is now a permanent and positive part of our cultural landscape.

So that brings me to Dancing Queen, a show about a young man who owns a dance studio outside of Dallas, Texas.  Justin Johnson whose alter ego is Drag Race contestant Alyssa Edwards deals with Dance Moms and obsessed (mostly) young girls hoping to quench their thirst for stardom. It’s not a bad show, it’s just too cookie-cutter for my taste. And the drag cutaways remind me of drag from my youth. Like I said, not much has changed. It preaches a good message. I could do without the religious references. But it’s all a part of their branding I’m sure. The positive messages are good for young kids. 3 out of 5 because the world needs more diversity.

Manhunt: Unabomber

October 10, 2018

Discovery’s Manhunt: Unabomber which is now streaming on Netflix pulled me in so much, I got scared in bed at night after watching an episode. Great acting from Sam Worthington, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Reaser, and Lynn Collins. Not your typical reenactment series we are used to seeing on these networks, Discovery pulled out all the stops to create a top rate mini-series faithful to the true story and terrifying to watch. Bravo to the cast and crew. Shiver. 4 out of 5 Manhunt: Unabomber.

Amazon Serves Up Classic Television

October 8, 2018

Amazon continues to feed our need for nostalgia adding to their already enormous pile of classic American television. In the past week, I’ve watched episodes of:

The Danny Thomas Show (1950’s) – dead spouses abound in television from the 1950’s through 1970’s (paging Shirley Partridge!) mainly because the networks didn’t want to deal with divorce. I caught up with Danny Thomas as his show morphed from Make Room for Daddy to The Danny Thomas Show. The original actress, Jean Hagen who portrayed Thomas’ wife quit over struggles with Thomas. They hired Marjorie Lord whose character ends up falling in love with Danny Williams and getting married – blending the two families.

Family Affair (1960’s) – another dead parent show, Family Affair finds perennial bachelor Bill Davis suddenly in charge of his nieces and nephew, aided by his live-in man-servant, Mr. French.

Gidget (1960’s) – before she took sail as Sister Bertrille, Sally Field started her TV career as a California love-sick teenager. Lots of fun this adaptation of the Sandra Dee Et al. films. Although Sally’s Gidget does date a “college boy” when she herself is only 15 1/2. What was her father thinking? As liberating as the 1960’s were, even on TV no parent would dare allow that to happen today.

NYPD Blue (1990’s) – I skipped over the 1970’s and 1980’s completely and watched a few key episodes of NYPD Blue after sampling one episode three months ago. This series tackles grit well, doesn’t make apologies for its politically incorrect character Sipowitz and shows other characters who are more evolved. Watched an episode on HIV and the straight community and another on a gay nightclub murder.

A Star is Born (2018)

October 7, 2018

Another generation, another A Star is Born. Most of you know I am a huge fan of the middle two remakes. Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand both did an insanely outstanding job inhabiting their characters. I gave each film a perfect score. So there’s that. Then there are the over-the-top accolade reviews for this new incarnation, making me very afraid I would end up hating it. Still I decided to go to the movies today – thanks to my friend Claudia who helped with a nudge. And so here we are.

First let me say I’ve never been pulled into a film so early as I was with Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born. The title sequence is perhaps the best I’ve seen in recent years, capturing perfectly what is to be. Matthew Libatique should win an Oscar for his delicious cinematography. Bradley Cooper gave major Kris Kristofferson realness as Jack. Cooper’s dual roles directing and acting blended perfectly. Lada Gaga blew me away. Her acting comes so naturally and what she can do with an eye movement and how that is captured by Cooper and Libatique had me mesmerized through most of the film. The decision to turn her Ally into a Jennifer Lopez-type performer shocked me. I never expected that. But after a moment of feeling uncomfortable, I got it. They wanted to show how narrow the line becomes between selling out and having a big career. It turned out to be a perfect choice. The energy in the concert scenes felt as real as any concert I’ve been to. They performed live at Stagecoach Festival, Glastonbury Festival, and Coachella. Those choices created honest, magical moments for the film. Off-stage, the chemistry between Cooper and Gaga felt effortless. I cried during several scenes and was so enthralled I didn’t even hear a phone ring across the theater until about ten people started yelling because the person took the call. Cooper’s Star is packed with the kind of power one can only hope for when they create art. Whether the volume turns up loud, quiet, or somewhere in-between, his A Star is Born stands tall next to the other versions as the film to beat this year at the Oscars. I left the theater thinking, “almost perfect.” The film dragged towards the end of the second act. At 2 hours 17 minutes, surely they could have tightened things up a bit. Other than that, I am hooked. 4.5 out of 5.

Check out Reel Charlie reviews of
A Star is Born (1954)
A Star is Born (1976)

A Place Called Home: Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2

October 6, 2018

My dear friend Julia suggested I try Acorn’s Australian soapy drama, A Place Called Home. It’s fun, it’s sassy, it’s full of mystery and intrigue with memorable characters. It’s take place in the 1950’s, after the war. I love the lead character Sarah who’s already showing signs of PTSD. I love the female daughter Anna who struggles with a love out of her class. And I love the father George who becomes instantly smitten with Sarah. But it is the son, James who takes up most of my head space. James is not-so-secretly gay. And struggles with a marriage to a woman and attempts to get beyond his sexual orientation. It’s the 1950’s so you can imagine how this goes. I’d love to keep watching A Place Called Home, but it pains me to see James go through his young life trapped in a world where he’s doomed to fail. I just can’t. Not because it’s a bad series. Because James’ pain is too much for me to absorb right now. Maybe later. 3 out of 5.

The Yorkshire Vet

October 5, 2018

Continuing with Acorn TV’s line-up, I caught a few episodes of the delightful documentary series, The Yorkshire Vet. Based in Thirsk, North Yorkshire where James Herriot practiced, stories focus mainly on vet Julian Norton who travels between his practice and the countryside administering medicine to all sorts of animals in need. This is a real easy show to watch. Sweet, sincere and full of furry creatures. 3 out of 5.

19-2: Season 1, Episode 1

October 3, 2018

Another Acorn TV entry, Canada’s 19-2 delivers a standard police procedural which could be happily living on any American network. Nothing earth-shatteringly original about 19-2. I was hoping for a little more edge to this series given it takes place in Montreal, one of my favorite cities in the world. Sexy veteran officer back on duty after partner has been shot. Sexy rookie from a safer neighborhood transfers in and they are assigned together. Conflict ensues. Canada produced four seasons in all. I need a little more variety in my cop shows. 2 out of 5. Next.

Girlfriends (U.K.): Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2

October 1, 2018

So I won a year’s subscription to Acorn TV from RB Digital. Finally a perk for all those sales pitches at library conventions. I created an account this past week and immediately threw 24 items into my cart. I started out with Girlfriends, a U.K. series starring Phyllis Logan (Downton Abbey), Miranda Richardson, and Zoë Wanamaker as three lifelong friends now navigating their 60’s, each single with grown children. I was really looking forward to this for several reasons. I love shows about older people. I love the three actresses. And it’s British. Everything sounds better with a British accent. I guess I thought this was going to be lighter, more like Golden Girls. So first the drama threw me off. Then I didn’t really feel like an easy flow was happening. I kept thinking of a similar series – Grace and Frankie and how it keeps having trouble figuring out what it’s supposed to be. And finally the gay reveal in episode 2 was really bizarre. It felt like something from 20 years ago, not the 2010’s. I won’t give any details. You should decide for yourself. I didn’t hate Girlfriends, so I’ll give it a 3(barely) out of 5. It’s just not something I want to continue watching.

Fauda: Season 1

September 30, 2018

Rounding out the month, I binged the past two weeks on an exciting new Netflix import. Many thanks to my work colleague Claudia for giving me a heads up about Fauda, an Israeli thriller television series that dishes out equal parts writing excellence, suspense, and violence. As with several other shows, I tolerate the violence because of the quality of the series. Full disclosure, there’s torture scenes and killing in Fauda. But it’s not a fantasy. It’s reality. Season 1 of Fauda had me on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen next, to whom, and to what end. In Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles, or ok dubbed in English if you really don’t want to read, Fauda packs a wicked punch leaving you breathless through many episodes including heartbreaking episode six as well as the shocking season finale. Lots of sexy actors, male and female. Gritty, realistic drama about the ongoing war between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Add Fauda to the top of your queue. 4 out of 5.

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