Archive for the ‘African-American’ Category

The Deuce: Season 1

February 28, 2018

David Simon‘s (The Wire, Treme) new HBO series, The Deuce released on disk this past week. Simon’s series offers a gritty, heady, intelligent look at NYC’s sex trade during the birth of the porn industry. The Deuce starts out quietly. The huge signature ensemble cast features street hookers, pimps, police, bar owners, college students, journalists, and young gay men all discovering their lives weaving in and around the sex industry of the early 1970’s. Simon takes his time showing us the changing landscape of business and pleasure in one of the world’s most outrageous neighborhoods. Costuming, props, set design, hair and make-up are all so spot-on, you’d swear you were thrust back in time to the post-hippie era when free love could come for anyone at a price and women and queers were beginning to feel their power. The city was still run by criminals, but other voices are beginning to be heard. Stellar acting from Maggie Gyllenhaal, luminous in the pivotal role of Candy. James Franco plays double duty as twins Vincent who’s smart and a hard worker and Frankie who’s proud of being a fuck-up. I hate to say this after all the posing Franco’s done over the years but damn that boy can act. The Deuce features Gbenga Akinnagbe (The Wire), Gary Carr (Downton Abbey), Dominique Fishback (as my heart Darlene), Lawrence Gilliard Jr. (The Wire), Margarita Levieva, Emily Meade, Method Man, Kayla Foster, Don Harvey, Chris Bauer (The Wire, True Blood), Chris Coy (Treme), Natalie Paul, Michael Rispoli, Kim Director, Pernell Walker (Ruby!), Tariq Trotter, and Ralph Macchio (yes, him). Told you it was an ensemble. Chris Coy plays quiet, sexy, out and proud Paul with dignity and mischief. Everyone fits together like a jigsaw puzzle. The Deuce moves slow and steady through the subtle changes which affected the avalanche of what has become a 97 billion dollar industry. David Simon gives due respect to the industry’s beginnings and the characters who made it all happen. 4 out of 5 for The Deuce.


Before Moonlight: 10 films that celebrate the African American LGBT experience (LGBTQ Nation)

February 23, 2018

Great list from LGBTQ Nation featuring ten fantastic films celebrating the African-American LGBT experience. I’ve seen 9 out of 10. The only reason why I haven’t seen them all is I’m waiting for Saturday Church to come out on DVD. I’ve ordered a copy for the library’s collection. Seven are stellar films in their own right and I’d mark them as classics:

The Watermelon Woman – Cheryl Dunye’s indie masterpiece
Moonlight – Oscar finally got something right
PariahMudbound‘s Dee Rees’ debut film
Tongues Untied Marlon Riggs’ late 80’s doc on gay, black men
Brother to Brother – Anthony Mackie’s breakout performance
Looking for Langston – Isaac Julian’s love story to the Harlem Renaissance
Tangerine – Trans women of color in a film shot on an iPhone.

Looking for Langston – Isaac Julian (1989)

Richard Pryor and Marlon Brando Sitting in a Tree

February 11, 2018

Have you heard the gossip? Supposedly Richard Pryor and Marlon Brando slept together. Yes, full-on gay sex. You would think in 2018, this could be viewed as no big deal. Just another affair in the lives of Hollywood men. Instead the quotes from music producer Quincy Jones who started the conversation and Pryor’s widow confirm we are definitely not living in a post-gay world. The patriarchy still wants to get off to two hot women together while simultaneously retching over two men. Pay attention to the words in these quotes:

from Quincy Jones via HuffPost,

[Marlon] “Brando the actor and Jones were longtime friends. During a down period in Jones’s life, he spent time on the island in Tahiti which Brando owned. The two called each other Leroy, owing to a story recounted extremely well (one among many) in this recent GQ profile. used to go cha-cha dancing with us. He could dance his ass off. He was the most charming motherfucker you ever met. He’d fuck anything. Anything! He’d fuck a mailbox. James Baldwin. Richard Pryor. Marvin Gaye.”

And this from Pryor’s widow Jennifer Lee Pryor in Vulture,

“It was the ’70s!” she said. “Drugs were still good, especially quaaludes. If you did enough cocaine, you’d fuck a radiator and send it flowers in the morning.”

Do any of the following words or phrases sound like they are from a person who lives in a society which respects male/male relationships as much as it does male/female?

“He’d fuck anything.”
“He’s fuck a mailbox. James Baldwin. Richard Pryor. Marvin Gaye.”
“If you did enough cocaine, you’d fuck a radiator…”

Thanks for equating gay male sex to having sex with a mailbox or a radiator. Guess real men have to be pretty desperate or extremely horny to have sex with other men.

Are some men bisexual or fluid? Of course they are. Are some men situationally ok being intimate with men? Yes. Do some men enjoy the company of other men when there is alcohol or other intoxicants around? You bet. That still doesn’t give people the right to dehumanize gay male sexuality. Men and women can experiment all they want. And they can determine who they want to be in relationships with and who they want to just fool around with. People do that all the time. At the end of the day, I hope most of us are living our lives respecting each other no matter what the circumstances. Sex can be fun, it can be a release, it can be an escape. It can also be something deeply connected to a committed relationship. Let’s try to respect everyone’s orientations, choices and decisions and not frame their experiences as less than or other. We are all in this together.






Insecure: Season 1

February 4, 2018

Watched the first three episodes of Issa Rae’s Insecure (HBO) this weekend. Enjoyed the writing and wit. She explores the intersections of race and gender in Los Angeles beautifully. Certainly not an easy thing being a woman of color in our culture. Smart stories and natural acting from the cast. Created by Rae and Larry Wilmore. Premise revolves around a 29 year-old African-American woman who’s still single (although living with her boyfriend), no children, and working for a non-profit. She’s ambivalent about her life choices. Makes for a good jumping off point. In the end, the all 20-something cast didn’t interest me. That’s certainly not a slight on the quality of Rae’s Insecure. I’m simply at an age where I’m more interested in older, complicated characters. 3.5 out of 5.

Brooklyn Ninety-Nine: Season 1, Episode 1

January 22, 2018

Took a shot at watching the cop spoof show, Brooklyn Ninety-Nine starring Andy Samberg (who is kind of adorable), Andre Braugher, Stephanie Beatriz, Melissa Fumero, Terry Crews, and Joe Lo Truglio. There’s a certain style to this comedy which falls somewhere between Parks and Recreation and Reno 911. I don’t really get either style of humor. But I wanted to give the show a shot. It’s well-produced and has funny moments. It’s just not my taste. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. As I say often on Reel Charlie, comedy is extremely subjective. If either of the shows mentioned are favorites of yours, consider checking out Brooklyn Ninety-Nine, now in its fifth season. 3 out of 5.

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction: Episode 1

January 17, 2018

David Letterman’s new monthly Netflix show, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction features President Barrack Obama and Rep. John Lewis as his first guests. Streaming now on Netflix, this show is a must-see not so much for the content, but for the way it will make you feel. I had a visceral reaction watching President Obama walk out on stage. I burst into tears. I grieve for the state this country is currently in due to the election of Donald J. Trump. But Rep. Lewis reminds us that this is simply a setback on the road to creating a better tomorrow. I’m paraphrasing, but you get the point. Both inspirational as well as a reminder of how different the world is in 2018 with Trump in charge. If you want to feel good, watch Letterman’s show. It’s one hour of inspiration. Obama never had all the answers. But he knew how to lead and inspire. He followed rules and protocol and saw us through an economic recovery that was created by people like Trump. We have to stay positive and this first episode of the new Letterman show does just that.

Four Bewitched Christmas Episodes

December 25, 2017

Owning a television series on disc allows you to binge in unique ways. For instance today I was able to watch all four Christmas episodes of Bewitched thanks to the series boxed set. So much fun to travel from 1964 – 1970. The four episodes span a wealth of stories including not believing in Santa Claus, older people hating Christmas, Santa getting stuck in CT thanks to an Esmeralda spell gone bad, and a very special episode, Sisters at Heart about racism which was written by a group of LA 10th graders and won a special Emmy award that year.

Bewitched Christmas episodes:
Ep# Title Director Writer(s) Air Date
1–15 “A Vision of Sugar Plums” Alan Rafkin; Herman Groves December 24, 1964
4–16 “Humbug Not to Be Spoken Here” William Asher; Lila Garrett & Bernie Kahn December 21, 1967
6–14 “Santa Comes to Visit and Stays and Stays” Richard Michaels; Ed Jurist December 18, 1969
7–13 “Sisters at Heart” William Asher; William Asher & Barbara Avedon (teleplay) December 24, 1970

Bewitched “Humbug Not to Be Spoken Here” 1967


Bewitched “Sisters at Heart” 1970


November 24, 2017

Director Dee Rees’ (Bessie, Pariah) Netflix original film, Mudbound explores the dark and violent side of race relations in post-WWII America. Based on Hillary Jordan’s novel, Mudbound tells the story of two young men, one African-American and one Caucasian who return from Europe after fighting in WWII only to be suppressed and constricted in the small mindedness of Alabama during the late 1940’s. Incredible ensemble cast featuring Jason Mitchell, Garrett Hedlund, Mary J. Blige, Jonathan Banks, Rob Morgan, Jason Clarke, and Carey Mulligan. Mudbound certainly is not an easy film to watch. But it’s essential. There is a tenderness between the two returning soldiers as they share PTSD and liquor that’s rarely seen between two straight male characters in American film. That tenderness only makes them more vulnerable to the hatred of the locals who don’t understand what these heroes need in order to live the rest of their lives healthy and happy. Mudbound assaults you with prejudice and racial violence. It also reminds you that people who leave and return for any reason, usually come back more evolved and enlightened. So there is hope for humanity subtle and deep. Director Rees created a classic work with Pariah. Mudbound feels like she’s on her way to a long and intelligent career. 4 out of 5.

Happy Thanksgiving 2017

November 23, 2017

I certainly have many things to be thankful for this year – great friends, an amazing family, a supportive and loving non-partner/partner (my bex, Dennis), a fantastic job in a career that helps the disenfranchised and people at risk, wonderful co-workers, a healthy body that responds to exercise, doctors and medical staff who keep me humming after all these post AIDS crisis years, and a brand-new 7 year-old puppy girl who will come live with us on Saturday.

But this year has not been without struggle. Now more than ever it’s important I keep myself glass half full. There is so much to do if we are to make this country and our world a reflection of decency, kindness, love and inclusion.

Today is U.S. Thanksgiving. Many of you will be home with family and friends. I wish you a calm, happy, foodie day. And afterwards, if you’re looking for the perfect Thanksgiving movie, consider What’s Cooking. It’s very American and very ethnic. Which is very American. Now more than ever.

Read Reel Charlie’s review of the perfect Thanksgiving film: What’s Cooking.
What’s Cooking is currently streaming on Amazon with a Tribeca Shortlist subscription. Or rent it digitally for $3 from Amazon, Apple, or Vudu. Or get the DVD from Netflix or your library.


November 12, 2017

Now that I’ve presented three of my favorite John Sayles’ films in a series for the library, I wanted to discover some of his films I’ve yet to watch. First up: Honeydripper. The action of Sayles’ 2007 creation takes place in 1950 Alabama centered on a fledgling blues club for African-Americans. All the familiar Sayles’ ingredients are present: a large, interconnected ensemble cast, social issues, and attention to script detail. Honeydripper also includes a story firmly rooted in the past. And a kick-ass musical score. This is an easy film to watch laced with everyday people trying to figure out how to survive and find some happiness along the way. 4 out of 5 for Honeydripper.

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