Archive for the ‘Best of lists’ Category

‘Dark’ and other German TV series to watch worldwide (Deutsche Welle)

December 14, 2017

Has Netflix first German produced series, Dark given you a hankering for all things FRG? If so, Deutsche Welle offers ten series from Germany that have been distributed or soon will be worldwide. I’m very excited about Berlin Babylon. From Deutsche Welle,

The most expensive non-English drama series ever produced, “Berlin Babylon” started airing in Germany last October. Netflix purchased broadcast rights for the US. Three directors, including Tom Tykwer, recreated the atmosphere of Berlin in the 1920s for this period drama.

Check out the slide show now.

 

Advertisements

Christmas Classics to Get Your Holiday Groove On

December 5, 2017

Click on the links below for Reel Charlie’s holiday reviews of my favorite Christmas classics:

La Bûche (The Yule Log)
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Christmas in Connecticut
Un conte de Noël (A Christmas Tale)
Hollywood, je t’aime (just one scene, but it’s a doozy)
Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas)
Love, Actually
Make the Yuletide Gay
Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special
White Christmas

Also don’t forget to pull out your old television DVDs. I’d recommend Bewitched and The Partridge Family for cockle warming fun.

World AIDS Day 2017

December 1, 2017

This year in first-world countries we can finally say people living with HIV who are compliant with their medication and maintain an undetectable viral load can not transmit the virus to their partners. Think about that for a moment. It’s game changing. Read the Washington Post article featuring my friend Michael Mitchell and his husband Mark S. King.

HIV negative people who take PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) have a stronger line of defense to keep themselves negative. In fact, the NYC Health Department is saying PrEP use and compliance contributed to the lowest HIV infection rates in history during 2016.

There’s a lot to be grateful for this year in HIV/AIDS news.

Read previous World AIDS Day posts from Reel Charlie:
2016
2015
2014
2011 (the first year I posted)

Below find my favorite films that focus on HIV and AIDS.  Some are feature films, some documentaries, 2 are musicals:

The Adventures of Felix – celebratory French film about a young HIV+ man embracing life on the new medication in the mid-90’s.
And the Band Played On – based on journalist Randy Shilts’s book.
Angels in America – based on the award-winning play from Tony Kushner.
All About My Mother – one of the (still) few films using AIDS themes from a female perspective – an Almodovar classic.
Before I Forget – French film about an aging HIV+ male hustler.
Blue – Derek Jarman’s meditation on his AIDS diagnosis and imminent death.
Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt – Academy Award winning documentary on the AIDS Quilt.
Dallas Buyers Club – a straight-identified man starts one of the first buyers clubs in the U.S. bringing experimental drugs into the United States from other countries.
Days – Italian film about a sero-discordant couple (one HIV+, one HIV-).
Holding the Man – based on the true story. Two guys fall in love in 1970’s Australia.
How to Survive a Plague – outstanding documentary on the history of ACT-UP.
Jeffrey – explores the tension around gay men and sex during the AIDS crisis.
Longtime Companion – Hollywood film about NYC gay men dealing with the worst of the AIDS crisis.
The Normal Heart – HBO adaptation from Ryan Murphy of Larry Kramer’s award-winning play.
Parting Glances – Steve Bucemi’s break-out performance as a punk rock HIV+ gay man in NYC.
Paul Monette: The Brink of Summer’s End (only released on VHS) – amazing documentary on the final days of writer Paul Monette.
Poison – Todd Haynes Queer Cinema classic.  Very experimental. Included on the disk and in the review is the short Last Address, an 8 minute film focusing on NYC buildings by director Ira Sachs.
Postcards from America – based on artist David Wojnarowicz’s life and writing.
Rent – the film based on the hit Broadway musical.
Sex in an Epidemic – documentary about the AIDS crisis in the United States.
Sex Positive – documentary of the evolution of “safer sex”.
Test – beautiful indie film about a young dancer in San Francisco deciding whether to take the new HIV test in the early 1980’s.
Vito – biopic on Vito Russo who wrote the seminal work on queer film, The Celluloid Closet and left us way to early from AIDS.
We Were Here – intimate documentary focusing on several people who witnessed the early plague years in San Francisco.
Zero Patience – John Greyson’s musical about AIDS.  still so out there and revolutionary.

Follow Reel Charlie’s Health category for future postings.
Happy Birthday to my dear friend, Barbara who loves sharing her birthday with World AIDS Day.

More Than Meets the Eye: William Wyler (NYC’s Quad Cinema Retrospective)

November 30, 2017

Nominated twelve times for Best Director Oscar and winning three, fans of American film director William Wyler can immerse themselves in a retrospective of 25 Wyler classics at New York City’s Quad Cinema in December. From More Than Meets the Eye’s Quad Cinema,

In The American Cinema, Andrew Sarris grouped William Wyler in the dreaded “Less than Meets the Eye” category, alongside Huston, Wilder, and Lean as “directors with reputations in excess of inspirations.” And what a reputation Wyler has: this consummate perfectionist worked for nearly half a century, from the silent era to the dawn of the New Hollywood, earning the most-ever Best Director Oscar nominations with 12 (and three wins). His name has become virtually synonymous with Hollywood craftsmanship and prestige; Wyler made unapologetically big movies about big themes with big performances. But a closer look reveals countless grace notes between the crescendos, and shows Wyler to be an acute chronicler of mid-century American life. He had the range of an accomplished journeyman, but whatever the genre, he proved a fluid stylist of startling invention. The Quad is proud to present New York’s most extensive Wyler retrospective in 15 years, a much-needed reconsideration of this vital film artist.

Click here for a list of the 25 films and their screening dates.

Reel Charlie Wyler favorites include:
The Best Year of Our Lives
The Children’s Hour
Dodsworth
Funny Girl
The Heiress
The Little Foxes

Major Female Directors (Barb’s Lists)

November 26, 2017

Mira Nair directing

My good friend Barbara – known online as Uncle Barb helped me formulate my love and appreciation for cinema at her store Alternative Videos of Woodstock (NY). “As a proprietor of a bookstore and then a video shop, Uncle Barb spent years informing herself about books and films, especially those relevant to the LGBTQ community.”

I miss our daily interactions on film and life. Phone, email and text are fine, but no substitute for facial expressions and the sound of laughter. Barb sent me a series of reply emails in response to my list of great directors on my birthday post this year. I loved the lists so much, I asked her if I could repost. Here they are with comments from me taken directly from our email correspondence.

Major Female Directors – Barb’s Choice:

Jane Campion Top of the Lake Angel at My Table Holy Smoke Sweetie
Liz Garbus What Happened, Miss Simone? The Farm: Angola, USA Girlhood
Deepa Mehta Fire Earth Water
Gillian Armstrong Charlotte Gray Oscar & Lucinda Mrs. Soffel
Sally Potter YES Orlando
Julie Taymor Titus Across the Universe Frida
Barbara Kopple Shut Up & Sing Wild Man Blues Harlan County, USA
Lina Wertmũller Swept Away Seven Beauties Love & Anarchy Ciao,Professore!
Gurinder Chadha What’s Cooking Bend It Like Beckham Bhaji on the Beach
Mira Nair Monsoon Wedding Salaam Bombay Mississippi Masala

(Reel Charlie’s comments: This is an outstanding list. I would say yes to most of this list for me personally. My only hesitation is Julie Taymor. I thought Frida was fine, but the other two I can’t remember watching. Maybe I need to revisit. I’ve never seen a Lina Wertmuller. Shudder.)

Second Tier List:

Jamie Babbit But I’m a Cheerleader
Niki Caro Whale Rider Zookeepers Wife
Mary Harron I Shot Andy Warhol
Marleen Gorris A Question of Silence Antonia’s Line
Nisha Ganatra Chutney Popcorn Cake
Patricia Rozema I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing Mansfield Park Into the Forest
Maggie Greenwald Songcatcher Ballad of Little Jo
Lisa Gornick Do I Love You? Tick Tock Lullaby Book of Gabrielle
Lisa Cholodenko High Art The Kids Are All Right Laurel Canyon

(Reel Charlie’s comments: Worship But I’m a Cheerleader. Holds up so well. Should watch Whale Rider again, remember adoring it. Enjoyed I Shot Andy Warhol. Still love Chutney Popcorn – think of it as a great date movie. LOVED Songcatcher – another movie from AV era. LOVE Lisa Gornick. Love Lisa Cholondenko’s High Art.)

Women Director’s to Watch:

Kelly Reichardt
Greta Gerwig (AO Scott called her new film Lady Bird, ‘the perfect film’)
Patty Jenkins (Monster & the new Wonder Woman)
Miranda July

Many directors seem to be working in tv and on series instead of films, Jamie Babbit and Lea Poole for example.

(Reel Charlie’s comments: These are great lists, thank you! Love Greta Gerwig’s writing in Frances Ha and her acting in 20th Century Women. Looking forward to seeing Lady Bird. Lots of buzz around it. Yes to Jamie Babbit – I see her credit often on great series work.)

Want gender equality? Learn more from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.
Support Women Makes Movies.

Check out Reel Charlie’s Gender and Lesbian category archives for more female driven films.

Happy Birthday to Me (2017)

November 16, 2017

No, I’m not 2017 years old. I just feel like it some days. I’m in the air on my birthday this year. I thought it might be fun to post something like this:

If you really love me, you’ll watch a film by at least one of these directors sometime in November:

Alfred Hitchcock
Andrea Arnold
Andrew Haigh
Barbara Streisand
Cheryl Dunye
Christopher Guest
Dee Rees
Derek Jarman
Douglas Sirk
Eytan Fox
Ferzan Ozpetek
Glenn Gaylord
Gurinder Chadha
Ilene Chaiken
Ingrid Jungermann
James Ivory
Jill Soloway
John Cameron Mitchell
John Greyson
John Sayles
John Waters
Kenneth Lonergan
Lisa Cholodenko
Lisa Gornick
Lynne Ramsay
Mike Leigh
Mira Nair
Nicole Holofcener
Pedro Almodovar
Peter Paige
Rikki Beadle Blair
Robert Altman
Spike Lee
Stephen Frears
Susan Seidelman
Todd Haynes
Tom McCarthy
Ventura Pons
Xavier Dolan

It’s good to have choices.

Halloween Favorite Films and Television 2017

October 27, 2017

Twas the weekend before Halloween, and all through the blog.

Each year I repost my favorite spooky reviews: films and shows worth watching during Samhain season. Blessed be and trick or treat.

From the archives,

American Horror Story – first couple seasons are the best
The Bat – give Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead some sugar
Black Mirror – get your Sci-Fi, near future tech savvy freak show on
The Cabin in the Woods – new-ish camp classic
The Conjuring – Connecticut ghosts!
Halloween – the original
The Paul Lynde Halloween Special – can it possibly get any more camp than this?
Paranorman – genius animated film with zombies and witches centering around bullying!
Les Revenants (The Returned) – amazing two season French television ghost story.
Rosemary’s Baby – what’s not to love about a nice NYC couple living next door to a coven of witches?
The Shining – the original
True Blood – Alan Ball’s adaptation of the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris

Reel Charlie spooktacular categories to peruse:
Directors – Alfred Hitchcock
Horror
Supernatural
Suspense

John Sayles’ Lone Star Screening at Library

October 26, 2017

Our second screening of the American Independent Film Series featuring John Sayles’ Lone Star (1996) happens on Saturday, October 28, 2017 at 1:30 pm in the Rotary Room of Fairfield Public Library. Join us as we discuss and view this perfect film from John Sayles’ canon. So excited to revisit this classic American film, perhaps even more topical today 21 years after its release.

Register at the library’s website.

Series Novels That Would Make Great TV & Film Adaptations

October 23, 2017

I’ve read a number of series novels over the past few years I know would make great television. I got to thinking of that recently after hearing Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City is being picked up by Netflix for at least a ten-part installment of more than likely one or all of the final three Tales novels since Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis are on board to reprise their Mary Ann and Anna roles respectively. Three of Richard Stephenson’s Donald Strachey Mysteries were adapted for HereTV about 10 years ago. And of course Barbara Wilson’s first Cassandra Reilly novel, Gaudi Afternoon turned into a Susan Seidelman spectacular romp through Barcelona. And we could sure use a sequel with an equally outstanding director and cast.

All of this got me thinking. If I had the power of the green light, which series would I produce? Here is my incomplete list of some of my literary favorites:

Michael Nava’s Henry Rios’ Mysteries’ produced perhaps the most sophisticated gay male sleuth ever. Henry’s actually a lawyer and a drunk and then in recovery. The seven books take us through the worse of the AIDS crisis in the 1980’s to the final installment in 2001. Can’t say enough about this essential must-read series which would make for some outstanding television.

My second choice without a doubt goes to Greg Herren’s Scotty Bradley Mysteries. Herren’s lead character is adventurous, goofy, humpy, lives through Katrina in New Orleans, boasts a set of pot-smoking parents and not one but two emotionally monogamous boyfriends – a thrupple. Scotty is a former go-go boy who solves crimes with his retired FBI agent primary partner Frank and their mysterious international gun for hire third, Colin.

An even dozen novels comprise Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan Mysteries. Lippman’s books revolve around a former newspaper reporter who turns private eye. Many lists mention Tess Monaghan if you’re a fan of The Wire and crave more gritty Baltimore drama. Lippman delivers.

Years ago, I served grand jury duty in NYC. This was pre-smart phones, pre-ereaders. I found the first three Wraeththu books in one volume. Plopped the bible-sized book in my lap and proceeded to devour Storm Constantine’s magical world. Wraeththu are another species superior in many ways to humans with mostly male characteristics, but intersexed so they can reproduce. Fascinating reading especially in today’s world of transgender visibility. These books would make for a magically sexy adaptation. Think a Sense8 goes sci-fi pagan/wiccan sort of mystical reality.

If vampire movies ever come back in vogue again, and you know they will, Jourdan Lane’s Soul Mates series would make for some kick ass sexy gay male entertainment. Peter and Lucien would be the perfect other worldly follow-up to Queer as Folk‘s Justin and Brian.

Marshall Thorton’s Boystown series take place in 1980’s Chicago. The ten novels (as of 2017) are classic private eye with a twist. Nick Nowak is gay and unapologetic about it. He’s a man’s man character finding his way in a post-Stonewall world where his biological family has rejected him because of his sexuality. He is forced off the police force – a family business but refuses to leave Chicago. Nick becomes a private eye and solves cases like the best of them.

Jordan Castillo Price’s Mnevermind series follows Daniel Schroeder in the near future as he tinkers around as a memory specialist stalled in life until he meets the mysterious Elijah, a young man living on the spectrum. Outstanding romance future tech mash-up with great fleshed out characters. Price has an extremely popular 8-part PsyCop series, which I also enjoy but Mnevermind continues to be her series I return to with a smile.

‘Nathan Burgoine’s Triad Blood series involves “a vampire, wizard, and demon (who) form a bond in Ottawa, Canada that leaves them both a part of—and apart from—those in power in the supernatural world around them.” Burgoine’s addictive stories are begging to be adapted for the screen. Casting Anders the arrogant, sexy, demon would be the most fun.

So far I’ve only read the first book of Aleksandr Voinov’s Witches of London seriesLars which I absolutely adored. Voinov’s books are pagan romance stories which fascinate me to no end. “Lars Kendall is a solitary pagan on the Northern Path, loyal to the gods of the Norse pantheon.”
Rhys Turner hires Lars to renovate his house. Magic of all sorts ensue. Witches of London could easily be a very modern, sophisticated, more realistic Bewitched romance for the early 2020’s. Makes me imagine my own life taking off in an earth religion direction.

Also only read the first book of Charlie Cochet’s THIRDS series, a (so far) 10-part novel series based in the future where humans and therians live side-by-side. THIRDS would make an outstanding LGBTQ super hero futuristic action film franchise which could easily turn the tired Hollywood super hero trope on its head. Fun, action, and a bit of romance.

And finally I vote for making the graphic novel Wuvable Oaf into a feature film or a bizarre, niche television series. Everyone I know who reads this novel falls in love with its crazy cast of characters. “Oaf is a large, hirsute, scary-looking ex-wrestler who lives in San Francisco with his adorable kitties and listens to a lot of Morrissey. The book follows Oaf’s search for love in the big city, especially his pursuit of Eiffel, the lead singer of the black metal/queercore/ progressive disco grindcore band Ejaculoid.”

I’m sure there’s more series out there. What would you like to see turned into a television show or film?

Do I Love Musicals?

October 18, 2017

Could it be my gay DNA has been working all along? I always say I’m not a fan of musicals. I hated La La Land. I also hated the idea of (because I’ve never actually seen them) Cats, Miss Saigon, Phantom of the Opera, Showboat, Jersey Boys, Chicago, Kiss Me Kate, Rock of Ages, and South Pacific.

But then I started thinking today about musicals. About doing a program at work featuring musicals. About somehow getting my friends involved who are obsessed with musicals. I have yet to see (which I want to see) Hamilton, Book of Mormon, Wicked, Les Miz, Avenue Q, or Spring Awakening.

I thought about my life. To some extent, I grew up on musicals. And no, I’m not talking about The Partridge Family, smart ass. I’m talking actual musicals and their film adaptations. Each year we watched The Wizard of Oz and White Christmas on TV. Religiously.

I knew all the words to all the songs in both films. I discovered set design and pizzazz from Oz and my first real diva moment with Rosemary Clooney singing Irving Berlin’s Love You Didn’t Do Right By Me. But was the little gay boy in me spending more time watching Rosemary or George Chakiris? Probably a little of both.

As a devout Catholic teen, when I wasn’t spending time being an altar boy, lector, cantor, or playing guitar in folk mass, I was listening to and memorizing all the words to Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell.

Of course I totally freaked out when Everything’s Alright and other songs from the Superstar soundtrack showed up prominently in the fourth season of Transparent. Apparently I wasn’t the only one grooving on these tunes in the 70’s. And is it me or does anyone else think that Godspell has a Manson family vibe to it? Maybe I watch too many serial killer TV shows. Streaming Mindhunter as we speak. One thing’s for sure, Jesus in Godspell had the original Jewfro. Whew doggie!

So in 1976, I finally went to New York City and saw my first musical on Broadway: The Wiz starring Stephanie Mills. I clearly remember being in awe of the entire show, but when the curtain rose on Emerald City, I was in green sparkle heaven. Stunning. The film adaptation really paled in comparison. Diana Ross was more than a bit long in the tooth playing Dorothy at 34.

Around the same time, I obsessed over the luminous Barbra Streisand and the smooth skinned hunkiness of Kris Kristofferson in the third film adaptation of A Star is Born. Another huge favorite of mine. Another soundtrack I had memorized completely.

And then adulthood beckoned. Or at least college. While off discovering higher education, I also came across Blake Edwards incredible film, Victor Victoria. To this day, I continue to love and worship Victor and Victoria. Le Jazz Hot stands out as one of the best shiver-inducing numbers from a musical ever. Mary Poppins sets off a 3 alarm fire.

And a few years later there was this: Jennifer Holliday in Dream Girls. And I Am Telling You, I’m Not Going continues to give me chills and brings tears to my eyes. Even today when I watched it. Simply one of the best moments in Broadway history. Screaming along with Effie each and every time.

When did I discover The Rocky Horror Picture Show? During college? Probably. Maybe after. I can’t recall. But I fell hard for this surface silly ode to being yourself. Such a great message wrapped up in a deeply moving gender-bender show of delight. As annoying and destructive as Susan Sarandon was during last year’s presidential election, I still love Over at the Frankenstein Place the best from the deliciously deviant soundtrack.

The AIDS crisis years brought us Rent. I had the honor of seeing it twice on Broadway (thanks Jane). I still tear up whenever I hear Seasons of Love.

AIDS also brought us Zero Patience which continues to be an absolute joy to me. If you want to see a truly unique, smart, and independent musical, check out John Greyson’s Zero Patience: “tell the story of my life.”

Later I had an opportunity to witness the miracle of Hedwig and the Angry Inch with John Cameron Mitchell at the Jane Street Theater before it became a film and an actual Broadway musical. That evening was the first night I wore my baby blue eyeglasses.

And recently I had the honor of seeing Fun Home with a bunch of super fun co-workers. What a treat. The depth of this musical – I never thought in my lifetime I’d see something so beautiful. So sad, so celebratory, so lesbian. Thank you Alison Bechdel for sharing your remarkable life story with us.

There have been others over the years. Actual stage musicals, film adaptations, and just plain films with songs. Additional favorites include 42nd Street, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Cabaret, Cabin in the Sky, Carmen Jones, Funny GirlMoulin Rouge, The Music ManStorm Weather, A Star is Born (Judy Garland), and Tommy. 

And I haven’t even begun to talk about television shows with musical numbers in them. Guess I’ll save that for another post.

So in conclusion, I need to stop pooh poohing musicals. Sure the big formulaic Broadway ones are boring. But no less boring than big Hollywood films or pop music that’s more about the bank than the heart. Great musicals bring a sense of magic and wonder to stories. They take you out of your world, take you out of your blues. And for a brief moment you’re a star, belting out the best damn song ever written.

Thanks for taking this journey with me. I’d love to know what your favorites are – stage, screen or even small screen!


%d bloggers like this: