American Masters: Inventing David Geffen

September 15, 2021

Sometimes streaming services like Netflix purchase older films and package them as if they are brand-new. In particular with documentaries, it’s important to figure out when the film was made. Case in point, the new-for-Neflix documentary, American Masters: Inventing David Geffen had its original release in 2012 on PBS. Keep that in mind if you’re watching this today – nine years later. Geffen held a vice-grip reign on this project,  obvious from the laser focus on positive aspects of his career. There’s also an odd presentation of him discussing being gay. The only relationship he talks about in his entire life is with Cher. It’s a very odd decision and makes him look really out of date. If he’s never had actual romantic relationships with men, he could say that, but he was with someone for six years during the filming of this documentary. And he was boyfriends with actor/director Steve Antin, obviously not as colossal a star as Cher, but still noteworthy. The entire personal aspect of his life comes off as internally homophobic. Yes, he’s openly gay, but doesn’t want to discuss anything else about his relationships with men. No, he’s not bisexual or straight, but he’s happy to discuss how great it was to be in a relationship with Cher. Feels more than a bit arrested development to me. All that aside, his rise in business is fascinating for anyone who has an affinity to music in the late 60’s and through the 70’s. Or anyone who’s interested in entertainment business and wonders how someone can go from having nothing to being worth 10.5 billion dollars. Yikes. 3 out of 5.

American Masters: Inventing David Geffen currently stream on Netflix.

Q-Force

September 13, 2021

There has been a great mix of adult cartoons created in the past 25 years which speak to all kinds of people – the obvious: The Simpsons, South Park, and the quirky: Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Bojack Horseman to name just a few. Netflix newest foray into adult cartoons, Q-Force reminds me of Archer. It’s snarky, sophisticated, silly, and definitely queer. It’s produced and stars Sean Hayes as a talented secret agent, who’s underutilized – actually not being used at all – due to homophobia. His team consists of a talented group of specialists ready to be assigned difficult missions. They find one on their own, do it right, and the agency finally has to start sending them work, only to discover they team has to put up with a cis gender straight white male member of their team. The agency doesn’t think an all-queer team can manage on its own. Q-Force has the same feel as Archer. I don’t relate to this type of storytelling. It’s well-produced, well written and fun. Glad to see some openly gay content in this genre. 3 out of 5 for me. Probably much more if you are a fan of adult animation series.

Q-Force currently streams on Netflix.

September 11: 20 Years Later

September 11, 2021

In June 2000, I left NYC after ten years. I moved about two hours north to the Hudson Valley. I was still finding my way post-AIDS death sentence, figuring out how to live out the rest of my life now that it seemed as if I had one. The following Spring I started working at this amazing video store called Alternative Videos. The video store is where I headed to on September 11, 2001. I can’t remember if I was scheduled to work that day. I only remember I was there with Barbara, Julia, Scott, Skip, and other folks who worked there. A lot of customers showed up as well. We were an informal community center. People craved community, compassion and like-mindedness during and for a long time after the towers fell.

Hard to believe we are the same country we were 20 years ago. It certainly doesn’t feel as if we learned a thing about unity. But this day has to be about remembrance and hope for a better tomorrow -free from chaos and violence and death. Humans have such a capacity for intelligence and love. We must help each other stay focused on the light.

Film and television reflects and inspires us during the happiest as well as during the darkest of times. After 9/11, a number of films addressed the tragedy in different ways. Today I thought I’d share a few of my favorites.

25th Hour – Spike Lee’s look at one man’s post-9/11 NYC world hours before his incarceration
09/11/01
 – shorts from American and international directors
The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Mira Nair’s look at a racial profiling after 9/11
Shortbus – John Cameron Mitchell looks at a post-9/11, sex positive world of NYers looking for love and lust
WTC View – a young gay man interviews for a roommate the day before 9/11

See a listing of these and other 9/11 related films on Wikipedia.
Visit the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.

Pink: All I Know So Far

September 9, 2021

Full disclosure. Here’s what I know about Pink. Over the years I have heard and enjoyed her songs on FM Radio. I remember all the kidding on Glee about Blaine being obsessed with Pink. And that’s about it. For some reason, I was intrigued enough to give her new documentary, Pink: All I Know So Far a look and ending up really enjoying it. The film is a combination of chronicling her most recent world tour, a look back on her life and career, and mostly a story about her role as mother and spouse. The film, like all documentaries created about a personality is crafted for a message. There are no nannies in sight. We can figure out there must be at least two and possibly four (shifts). But that omission leaves the focus of the film squarely on how Pink navigates a rigorous touring schedule around the globe while balancing her role as mother to two kids with husband Carey Hart. There’s honesty and genuine reflection. You get from the film how much of a hard worker and how focused Pink is. She takes the role of Mom just as seriously as she has taken her career as a singer songwriter. The doc turns into a fascinating glimpse into Pink’s life in the present moment worthy of rabid fans and people like me who want to know more. 4 out of 5.

Pink: All I Know So Far currently streams on Amazon Prime.

Reel Charlie as a Bitmoji

September 8, 2021

My colleagues LOVE Bitmojis. We do a weekly library newsletter. I just added a column for staff favorites which we will rotate. I did the first one. This is what it looks like in the newsletter. Too freaking goofy. The idea is to highlight favorites from any of our collections. I chose Kanopy:

Michael K. Williams, 1966-2021

September 7, 2021

Shocking news yesterday – we lost Michael K. Williams at the age of 54. Williams prolific career began as a back-up dancer and choreographer before finding his way into acting. His first on-screen moment was in Madonna’s Secret music video.  From there he entered acting and never looked back, appearing in many great projects including,

Lovecraft Country
Motherless Brooklyn
When They See Us
Hap and Leonard
The Night Of
Ghostbusters (2016)
Bessie
Boardwalk Empire
12 Years a Slave
Gone Baby Gone
Lackawanna Blues

However it is his role on The Wire as Omar Little which cemented his legacy in television history. Little was a pick-up artist – robbing from the drug dealers. He was feared by everyone, He was black, he was male, and he was gay. He continues to be one of the most fascinating gay male characters ever created. And Michael’s interpretation of Omar made him one of the most beloved villains of all-time.

In memory of Michael, I watched two episodes of The Wire tonight from Season 3: Eps. 11 & 12.

Michael, you left us way too soon. Rest now.

The Other Two: Season 1

September 5, 2021

Somehow I missed The Other Two when it premiered in 2019. I didn’t have access to HBO back then, but I didn’t see it on DVD either. The second season dropped recently and I discovered one of the two lead characters is gay, so I sat down and dug into the series. The Other Two revolves around two 20-something siblings struggling to figure out their place in the world. Suddenly their 11 year old brother becomes an instant celebrity from a song he uploaded to social media. Really great idea about how insta-fame can affect those around the star. I was all in to love this, but it just didn’t grab me. All the pieces were there. I wonder if because I have zero interest in celebrities being celebrities for the sake of celebrity, that I had a sour taste in my mouth watching The Other Two. I’m at an age where I purposefully avoid exposure to these Kardashian look alikes. I just didn’t connect with this. If you’re someone fascinated by this world, definitely check it out. Very well-produced. For me? 2 out of 5. Next.

The Other Two currently streams on HBO Max.

 

Books: Queer Writers of Crime Podcast

September 3, 2021

I am a big fan of Queer Writers of Crime podcast. Over the past two years, host Brad Shreve has introduced me to some favorite new mystery novels and authors. His podcast partner Justene Adamec gives great book recommendations which have steered me into so many amazing crime novels. Episode 99 just dropped this week. I am a guest book reviewer along with two other listeners. I had a blast recommending one of my favorite cozy, queer mystery series, The Pinx Video Mysteries by Marshall Thornton. My segment is close to the beginning of the podcast, so listen in on your favorite platform:

https://www.queerwritersofcrime.com/cl-brees/

Look back at older episodes here.
Read host Brad Shreve’s novels, The Mitch O’Reilly Mysteries.
Catch up great re-published LGBTQ novels from ReQueered Tales.

Thanks so much Brad for the opportunity to contribute to my favorite podcast.

The Wisting

September 1, 2021

Norway creates their most expensive television show to date, The Wisting and boy does it shine bright. The 10 episode police procedural tackles one murder in the first half – that’s all I am saying about that, and another in the second five episodes. The Wisting‘s based upon two books by author Jørn Lier Horst – The Caveman (2012) and The Hunting Dogs (2013). The victim in question in the first half is American, and so two FBI agents fly over to assist in the investigation. This creates an interesting flavor to the first half of the series – the aggressive Americans vs. the cautious, respectful Norwegians. Both stories are fascinatingly complicated. This is a show you really have to pay attention to in order to follow. Every actor is outstanding including Sven Nordin in the title role as William Wisting, police detective, Carrie-Anne Moss as Maggie Griffin, FBI Special Agent, Thea Green Lundberg as Line, Wisting’s daughter, journalist, Jonas Strand Gravli as Thomas, Wisting’s son, in addition to Kjersti Sandal, Mads Ousdal, Mariann Hole, Lars Berge, Richie Campbell, Ulrikke Hansen, Irina Eidsvold Tøien, Gard B. Eidsvold, Fridtjov Såheim, and Christoffer Staib. The Wisting is sophisticated, international murder mystery done right. I loved the split stories – something I can’t remember seeing ever before and the final episode had me scared out of my mind – in a good way. 5 out of 5 for this outstanding Norwegian police procedural.

The Wisting currently streams on Sundance TV and Acorn TV.

The Chair: Season 1

August 31, 2021

Actor Amanda Peet takes the reign as creator and writer of The Chair, a 6-part Netflix half hour comedy about the trials of working in academia. Sandra Oh kicks ass in the title role. Whenever I see her tackle something complex, I think back to her pre-Grey’s Anatomy days of gritty indie films and smile. She truly is a great talent. Joining Oh are fellow actors Holland Taylor, Jay Duplass, David Morse, Nana Mensah, and Bob Balaban. The premise revolves around the first female chair to an English department in a small liberal arts college. You’d think such colleges would be progressive. But no, like most institutions, they are kicking and screaming well into the 21 Century. Oh is a single Mom, somewhat involved with Duplass’ character who’s a widower, a star at the school, and really screwed up over his grief. What is it with hot women being attracted to guys who don’t shower on a regular basis? I don’t care how smart someone is… ick. So the show looked like a lot of fun. Unfortunately it suffers from a number of tired TV tropes. Mainly the old people (three of them) playing to stereotype, the aforementioned drunken, irresponsible genius, and single Mom trying to balance work, home and the generations in her family. Although Netflix produced this, it felt at times closer to a network sitcom. What saved it were moments of greatness from Sandra Oh, Holland Taylor, and Nana Mensah in particular. They should have done the show just about the women. That would have made for a more interesting watch. The Chair‘s not bad, it’s just in need of some better three dimensional characters. The final episode redeems the series, but ends on a way too obvious note. Less obvious storytelling and more wonder from these great actors. 3 out of 5.


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