Archive for the ‘Documentary’ Category

The Wrecking Crew

March 3, 2023

2008 documentary on the studio musicians who created some of the best pop and rock music during the 60’s and 70’s. From the Wikipedia page,

Directed by Denny Tedesco, son of guitarist Tommy Tedesco… and left out of the story was an important historical fact: the bands, in some, but not all, cases, did not play the instruments heard on their records. Instead, the task of recording the perfect tempo, pitch, and timbre fell to a small group of accomplished session musicians.

The Wrecking Crew documents the work of studio players who recorded the tracks for such hits as “California Dreamin'”, “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'”, “Be My Baby”, “The Beat Goes On”, and “Good Vibrations”.

Can’t believe I never discovered this gem of a music documentary before 2023. Outstanding look at the geniuses of this group of musicians, many of whom never got any credit for playing on the records. Fascinating. 4 out of 5.


Carol Kaye on bass guitar.

The Wrecking Crew currently streams on Amazon Prime and Hulu.

Roberta Flack (American Masters)

February 13, 2023

A really wonderful biographical documentary on Roberta Flack currently runs on PBS’s American Masters. From the site,

New film tells Flack’s story in her own words and includes interviews with Reverend Jesse Jackson, Clint Eastwood, Yoko Ono, Angela Davis, Eugene McDaniels, Joel Dorn, Peabo Bryson and more.

From “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” to “Killing Me Softly” and beyond, Roberta Flack gave voice to a global soundtrack of beauty and pain, love and anguish, hope and struggle. American Masters: Roberta Flack illuminates where reality, memory and imagination mix to present music icon Roberta Flack, a brilliant artist who transformed popular culture, in her own words. With exclusive access to Flack’s archives of film, performances, interviews, home movies, photos, hit songs and unreleased music, the film documents how Flack’s musical virtuosity was inseparable from her lifelong commitment to civil rights.

Roberta Flack has long been a favorite of mine. Her albums run from 1969 – 2018, just shy of 50 years. I have loved Roberta since her beginnings including Killing Me Softly, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, The Closer I Get to You, Feel Like Makin’ Love, Where Is the Love, You Are My Heaevn, Set The Night To Music, Making Love, and the amazing freaking incredible remix of Uh-Uh Ooh-Ooh Look Out (Here It Comes) (House Of Trix Mix) I danced to very specifically in 1989 Philadelphia the year before I moved to NYC. Flack was diagnosed with ALS in 2022. She will no longer be performing. This film is a must-see. 5 out of 5.

Watch Roberta Flack on American Masters streaming online now.

The Golden Girls: Ageless

February 3, 2023

Reelz Originals presents a new documentary, The Golden Girls: Ageless on the continuing love for Dorothy, Sofia, Blanche, and Rose. Under an hour, the show talks about the reasons we still worship this perennial favorite and all the ways fans share their love these days including a Golden Girls cruise, a new book, new merch, and even a significant place at the Comic Cons table. And not so surprising – 3 of the talking heads are gay men. So much fun realizing I’m not the only stan in the house. Narrated by Valerie Bertinelli who starred with Betty White in Hot in Cleveland, I give The Golden Girls: Ageless a 3 out of 5.

Watch The Golden Girls: Ageless on Tubi.TV for free.


No Straight Lines

February 1, 2023

Outstanding documentary No Straight Lines from PBS’s Independent Lens profiles the past 40 years of Queer Comics from underground to mainstream. Directed by out lesbian filmmaker Vivian Kleinman and based on the book by producer/writer/professor Justin Hall. From PBS,

When Alison Bechdel received a coveted MacArthur Award for her best-selling graphic memoir Fun Home, it heralded the acceptance of LGBTQ+ comics in American culture. From DIY underground comix scene to mainstream acceptance, meet five smart and funny queer comic book artists whose uncensored commentary left no topic untouched and explored art as a tool for social change. Featuring Alison Bechdel, Jennifer Camper, Howard Cruse, Rupert Kinnard, Mary Wings, and other queer comics artists.

The Filmmakers
Vivian Kleiman
Director/Producer Vivian Kleiman is a Peabody Award-winning filmmaker and a Fleishhacker Eureka Fellowship artist. She was the story editor for Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men, and her work with landmark filmmaker Marlon Riggs includes Tongues Untied, among others. She taught at Stanford University’s Graduate Program in Documentary Film.

Justin Hall
Producer Justin Hall edited the Lambda Award-winning, Eisner-nominated No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics and created the comics True Travel Tales, Hard to Swallow. Hall is chair of the MFA in Comics Program at California College of the Arts, the first Fulbright Scholar of comics, and has curated international exhibitions of comics art.

Really worth watching. When you worry that we haven’t made progress over the past 50 years, this puts it all into perspective. Yes, we’re facing book bans and all the horror of “Don’t Say Gay” in Florida and other ignorant states, but we will not be shoved back in the closet. These artists remind us all to use the tools at our disposal to fight back and demand a place at the table. Hey DeSantis – Joe McCarthy died over 60 years ago. Your hatred and bigotry are the last gasps of the patriarchy. Watch No Straight Lines and feel the power. 5 out of 5.

No Straight Lines currently streams on PBS.
Listen to Vivian Kleinman interview on Brad Shreve’s Queer We Are podcast.

1971: The Year That Music Changed The World: Ep 4 (Our Time is Now)

January 14, 2023

Apple TV+ series about the effect of music from the year 1971. Interesting premise for a docuseries. I decided to dive right into the women’s and LGBTQ episode. Seriously they could have and should have made an episode just for feminism. That said, they didn’t even talk about the Women’s Music Movement. Olivia Records was created in 1973. They only focused on uber-popular heterosexual artists like Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Linda Ronstadt. Don’t get me wrong, those three women are crazy talented and created some of the best pop music around. The second half of the hour focuses on “queer” artists Elton John and Lou Reed. Give me a break. Of course everyone knows Elton’s gay. But back in the 70’s, he was playing the game to sell records. Eccentric yes. Openly gay no. And Lou Reed? They focused on his song, Walk on the Wild Side. That wasn’t about him being gay or bi or pan or fluid. It was about other people being queer or trans. There’s no evidence Reed was ever with men or trans people. Attention, Bowie, party of two. Meanwhile Sylvester released an album in 1978 that included his two massive hits, You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real), and Dance (Disco Heat). Not one mention in the episode of the emerging voices of the Women’s Music scene and out artists like Sylvester. I didn’t bother watching any more episodes. This is just a hatchet job of obvious Top 40 hits. Next time do your homework which is as easy as searching Wikipedia, and focus on the hitmakers and the lesser known performers who actually changed the world. 2 out of 5. Next.

1971: The Year That Music Changed The World currently streams on Apple TV+.

Best of Reel Charlie 2022

December 31, 2022

Before we enter the hopeful year of 2023, read on for Reel Charlie’s favorites in books, music, podcasts, film, and television from 2022.

Books (links to Goodreads)

Another great year of reading thanks as always to Goodreads for keeping me focused, my colleagues at work for keeping me open, and my Kindle Paperwhite for making it fun to obsess over books. I also want to give a shout out to audiobooks (hoopla, Libby free with your library card) which have helped me read/listen to so many more books throughout the year. I read 51 books this year. These are my favorites:

Apparently There Were Complaints: A Memoir by Sharon Gless – she’s amazing.
A Do-Si-Do With Death (Stan Kraychik Mystery #7) by Grant Michaels – a new book from a beloved series.
Flash Fire (The Extraordinaries, #2) and Heat Wave (The Extraordinaries, #3) by T.J. Klune – amazing YA superhero snark.
Hell of a Book by Jason Mott – fascinating.
The Holiday Trap by Roan Parrish – love love love this queer holiday rom-com home swap.
Knock Off The Hat (Clifford Waterman Gay Philly Mystery #1) by Richard Stevenson – saying goodbye is never easy. RIP Richard.
Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo – yes yes yes this is lesbian historicial YA brilliance.
Lavender House by Lev A.C. Rosen – wonderful queer historical mystery.
Legacy in the Blood (Chiara Corelli Mystery #4) by Catherine Maiorisi – need to go back and start this series.
The Measure by Nikki Erlick – my favorite big release.
continued with A Nick Williams Mystery by Frank W. Butterfield. In 2022 read books 8 & 9. Only 22 left to go in this 31 book series. Nick and Carter are my fantasy everything from my parents’ generation.
Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune – favorite book of the year.
Unprotected by Billy Porter – this man is amazing.


Regular readers to Reel Charlie know that I am not engulfing new music like my younger, or more daring counterparts. That said this year I listened with glee to:

Top Genres
New Wave Pop
Dance Pop
Adult Standards

Top Artists
Will Young
Olivia Newton-John (RIP)
Bette Midler
Kylie Minogue
Saint Etienne
Jessie Ware
Diana Krall
Idina Menzel
George Michael
The Ones

Also, a new anthem: Lizzo’s About Damn Time.

Movies & Television (links to Reel Charlie reviews)

This year I have wondered if my viewing has shifted to a more comfort zone reality. In other words, am I watching more things that soothe me, or mildly entertain me as opposed to watching programs that challenge and inform me? Let’s look a little closer at the lists below for an answer.

Here are Reel Charlie’s favorite films and series from 2022:

Documentaries (including podcasts and stand-up):

The Andy Warhol Diaries – delighted by this doc series focusing on Warhol’s romantic relationships.
Rothaniel – amazing tell-all stand-up.
Sound Barrier: Sylvester – incredible podcast on colossal talent Sylvester.
The Standups: Season 3 – where I first saw Janelle James (Abbott Elementary).
Visible: Out on Televisionoutstanding docuseries covers LGBTQ+ life from the 50’s to present.


Bros – couldn’t believe, LOVED and own this on Blu-ray.
Coda – one of the best Hollywood films of the year.
Downton Abbey: A New Era – I am a Downtonite, and yes I adored this.
Everything Everywhere All at Once – my favorite Hollywood film of the year and own it on 4K.
Fire Island – LOVE, great indy film, funny and poignant.
Flee – animated non-fiction film about one gay man’s quest for a safe life.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande – so wonderful, older women rule.
Red Rocket – another indie gem, this time about a porn actor coming home.
State of the Union – saw this one for the first time, more Tracy/Hepburn magic.
Written on the Wind – saw this for the first time as well. Sirk magic.

Television (including limited series):

And Just Like That: Season 1more Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte.
All Creatures Great and Small
: Season 2 – more warmth and critter love.
Around the World in 80 Days: Season 1 loved this so much more than I expected.
As We See It: Season 1 outstanding, authentic lives of Gen Z on the spectrum.
Better Call Saul: Season 5outstanding, despicable can’t stop.
Better Call Saul: Season 6 (series finale) – bye Jimmy and Kim. Nacho forever.
Borgen: Power & Glory – one of the best of the year. Birgitte rules.
The Crown: Season 5 – quiet, reflective.
Feud: Bette and Joan– finally streamed, amazing.
Five Days at Memorial – amazing series about a NOLA hospital after Katrina.
The Great British Baking Show: Collection 10 – my joy, my love.
Julia: Season 1 – another surprise I wasn’t expecting to love.
A League of Their Own: Season 1 – outstanding one of the best of the year.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Season 4 – continuing Midge’s saga.
Only Murders in the Building: Season 2 – loved this season better than the first.
Ozark: Season 4, Part 1 – heavy, heavy…
Ozark: Season 4, Part 2 (series finale) – goodbye Wendy and Marty.
Russian Doll: Season 2 – wacked out even more than the first season.
Somebody Somewhere: Season 1 – wow I really loved this one.
Sort Of: Season 1 – a new voice and room at the table. Sabi rules.
Sort Of: Season 2 – full of angst and growing pains. Sabi grows.
We Own the City – more David Simon magic.
Wisting: Season 2 – outstanding Nordic noir.
Wisting: Season 3 – Maggie’s back.
Work in Progress: Season 2 – heavy and rewarding.

Take Two (watching beloved film and television again):

The Crown: Season 4 – the introduction of Diana.
Don’t Look Up – better the second time.
Downton Abbey: A New Era – a thousand times yes!
Downton Abbey: The Movie (the first movie) – see above.
The Guilded Age: Season 1 – so much better the second time around.
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries: Murder Under the Mistletoe – my drag name would be Phryne.
Rock Hudson’s Home Movies – outstanding indie doc from 30 years ago.
Shadow of a Doubt (4K) – possibly my favorite Hitchcock, definitely his.
Single All the Way – a new classic holiday treat.

Special Posts from 2022:

Reel Charlie Speaks Podcast
One Book One Town (Fairfield, CT) Announcement: The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
We Are All Golden Girls
GLAAD’S 2021-2022 Where We Are on TV Report: LGBTQ Representation Reaches New Record Highs
TJ Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea: a place in LGBTQ Literature
Queer Writers of Crime Book Recommendation #1
Author TJ Klune: In Conversation
Reel Charlie celebrates 13 Years!
It’s A Lot Like Falling in Love: Legacies of Naiad Press and the Tallahassee Lesbian Community (Naiad Press)
Leslie Jordan: 1955 – 2022


What were your favorites in 2022? Thank you for continuing this journey with me. I love reviewing film and television on Reel Charlie. Onward 2023, another year of incredible film, television, music, podcasts, and reading!

Loving Highsmith

November 28, 2022

I so wanted to love the new documentary, Loving Highsmith on the loves and life of author Patricia Highsmith. I’m also starting to hate giving bad reviews. But this film really missed the mark. Was there not enough content? There were way too many B-rolls of modern life which sort of connected to the story and then didn’t. Kept going back to a shot of a Texas rodeo with a calf being roped. I suppose it was meant to be a metaphor for Highsmith’s relationship with her mother? Or conversion therapy? It felt cheap. And she left Texas for New York City when she was only six years old, so the footage made no sense. There were some really wonderful one-liners, like Patricia going out to lesbian bars and having so many conquests. But the filmmakers let those fall with no follow through. The only shining star in this dud was fellow novelist, Marijane Meaker who should have her own film made of her. The rest of this documentary is not worth your time. Too bad because we need more lesbian herstory. 1 out of 5. Next

We’re Here: Season 1

November 11, 2022

The third season of the docuseries, We’re Here premieres this month on HBO Max. The title refers to a chant my generation created in the 1990’s – “We’re Here, We’re Queer, Get Used to It.” You can catch the first two seasons now. The premise is familiar. Three drags queens enter a small town and transform lives with their wisdom and performance. From HBO,

Follow renowned drag queens Bob the Drag Queen, Eureka O’Hara, and Shangela as they continue their journey across small-town America, spreading love and connection through the art of drag.

I enjoyed the two episodes I watched of the first season. It’s fun, breezy, peppered with conflict from the town, and all gets wrapped up by the end of the episode. It’s the way the entire world should be. And why not dream it. If we can imagine it, then it is possible. Yes, there are more than comparisons to Priscilla and To Wong Fo. Let’s face it, this is a result of RuPaul’s success and the granddaughter of both movies combined. But that’s not a bad thing. Every generation needs a bit of glitter and transformation to thrust them forward. Bravo to the girls of We’re Here. I only stopped watching because the young man in episode 3 broke my heart. I am sure his story ended well, but I just couldn’t sit through another gay man expressing internalized homophobia by following the teachings of a church that hates gays. If anyone’s seen the episode and knows it ends well, let me know. 3.5 out of 5.

We’re Here currently streams on HBO Max.

The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart

November 3, 2022

Wonderful music documentary, The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart chronicling the career of the brothers Gibb, Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb who together created The Bee Gees. Beginning in 1958 and continuing through the 1980’s, they sold over 120 million records worldwide, making them among the best-selling music artists of all time. The film documents their beginnings, the early hits, the struggles to stay together once fame hit, their pivot to disco with the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album – the second-biggest-selling soundtrack of all time. From there they moved on to outside projects, break-ups, solo efforts, a comeback, their younger brother Andy’s death, and finally the death of two of the original band members brothers Maurice and Robin, leaving eldest brother Barry to tell the story in the film. The documentary reminded me how much I loved their music in all the different incarnations. 4 out of 5 for this lovely reminder of some of the best of 20th Century pop music.

Reel Charlie favorites include,

I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You 1968
Massachusetts 1968
How Can You Mend a Broken Heart 1971
Nights on Broadway 1975
Too Much Heaven 1979
Night Fever 1977
How Deep is Your Love 1977
and Barry’s duet with Barbra Streisand, Guilty 1980 which I consider one of the best pop songs ever written.

The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart currently streams on HBO Max and Hulu.


Travelin’ Band: Creedence Clearwater Revival at the Royal Albert Hall

October 25, 2022

You’re probably saying to yourself, what’s an old queen like Reel Charlie looking at a Creedence Clearwater Revival documentary? It’s true I was too young to appreciate this music. Actually no, I take that back. My older sisters were only listening to Motown, so I had no invite into rock bands. Although watching this doc in 2022, I wouldn’t call their sound rock. It feels more rockabilly to me after all these years. CCR aficionados will remind me they transcended genre and wrote and performed many styles of music during their time together. I got lured into this after watching something else on Netflix. Ok, it was the new season of The Great British Baking Show which is one of my true loves (go Team Janusz and Team Maxy!). Travelin’ Band: Creedence Clearwater Revival at the Royal Albert Hall turned out to be part music doc, and mostly concert film. I didn’t pay close enough attention to the title to figure that out earlier. The first third is a history of the band, the last two thirds is the concert at Royal Albert Hall in 1970. The guys seemed cleaner than some of the other rockers of that time period. Anyone with an affinity to boy rock bands of the late 60’s (Woodstock era) will surely love this newly uncovered archival footage of their show in London. 3 out of 5.

Travelin’ Band: Creedence Clearwater Revival at the Royal Albert Hall currently steams on Netflix.
Learn more about the concert film and recording.

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