Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Rita: Season 3

February 18, 2018

Season 3 of our beloved Rita continues the journey of play not-by-the-rules, but by breaking them. Danish school teacher Rita knows best for her family, friends, and co-workers. Season 3 focuses more on Rita drifting into unknown waters as her children fly the nest and she’s back to being single. Rasmus might be gone from Rita’s bedroom, but lucky for us not from the series. Helle takes over as Headmaster of the school, Hjørdis and Uffe settle in to their relationship, Jeppe has his first live-in relationship with boyfriend David, and Rita meets a not exactly what she imagined new man named Said. Rita goes on a journey with her students this year which challenges her intimacy with strangers while making the audience wonder why she can’t have similar relationships with those in her personal life. Such a great show which goes darker than normal in this third season. When you get to the end, you realize why. Big changes ahead for our gal. Does that include her finally quitting smoking? Tune in to see. 4 out of 5 for this incredible television series from Denmark.


Rita: Season 1

February 12, 2018

Big hugs and thanks to my dear friends Barbara and Teri for turning me on to Rita. She’s been in my Netflix queue for a while, but I finally watched season 1 with a little nudge from the girls. And now I’m totally addicted to this wonderful Danish series starring Mille Dinesen in the title role as Rita, a 42 year-old divorced mother of three. Rita’s an amazing primary school teacher. She’s raised three children on her own. The kids range in age from 15-22. Rita’s not so good in the romance department. She likes her independence and mostly uses men for great sex. I fell in love with this complicated, nuanced character as well as her family and co-workers. Outstanding supporting cast featuring Nikolaj Groth (Jeppe), Sara Hjort Ditlevsen (Molly), and Morten Vang Simonsen (Ricoo) as Rita’s kids. And Lise Baastrup who has her own spin-off as nerdy teacher Hjørdis, Carsten Bjørnlund as principal Rasmus, Peter Gantzler as Rita’s ex, Carsten Norgaard as Rita’s childhood boyfriend, and Ellen Hillingsø as guidance counselor Helle. But let’s face it. The world revolves around the luminous Rita as it should. Mille Dinesen carries the show effortlessly. Already diving in to Season 2. 5 out of 5. 


February 4, 2018

New Todd Haynes film, Wonderstuck currently streaming on Amazon. Haynes is one of my favorite filmmakers. Far From Heaven always makes it on my top films of all-time list. CarolSafe, Poison, Velvet Goldmine up there as well. Wonderstruck brings together a collaboration between Haynes and Brian Selznick, writer and illustrator. Certainly Wonderstruck has that feel of magical opulence from Selznick’s mind. The story takes place in 1927 and 1977. Back and forth we go between a rich, deaf girl seeking out her mother and a young recently deaf boy seeking out his biological father. Their worlds exist side-by-side in the film as each character travels to Manhattan in search of their mystical parent. Kudos to the production design department. 1927 Manhattan looked great next to 1977’s seedy Manhattan. In the end, parts of the film worked well while some felt flat to me. The lead child actors both did a good job. However the story stalled in several places. Perhaps tighter editing might have helped. I certainly didn’t hate Wonderstruck. I was simply hoping for a magical fairy tale of pardon the expression: wonder. There were moments of wonder which weren’t sustained for me. 3.5 out of 5.

One Day at a Time: Season 2

January 31, 2018

I can’t say enough about Netflix’s reboot of Norman Lear’s One Day at a Time. The show emits a message of love and respect wrapped up in a dopey situation comedy format. Yes there’s slapstick humor. And lowest common denominator humor. But there’s also smart writing, attention to character development, embracing contemporary issues in an honest way with a Cuban-American family who defines what it means to be American. Cracking idea to recast the series from a Latinx perspective. And I love that Elena, the teenage daughter is an out and proud lesbian. Her butch comment made me laugh so hard. Adorable. Super cool cast including Justina Machado (Six Feet Under), Todd Grinnell, Isabella Gomez, Marcel Ruiz, Stephen Tobolowsky, new cast member and trophy boyfriend Ed Quinn and legend Rita Moreno. One Day at a Time creates a perfect blend of mindless entertainment with in-your-face current topics. Yeah, I’m bumping this one up to a 4 for Season 2. I laughed a lot during the twelve episode arc. And adored their politics.

God’s Own Country

January 30, 2018

Call Me By Your Name may be taking up a lot of space in awards season buzz, but I challenge its status as a gay film. It’s a bi film. It’s a pan film. It’s a fluid film. It’s a questioning film. And it’s a mediocre film. If you want to see a beautiful, gritty gay male love story, catch God’s Own Country now out on disk and streaming. It’s springtime in Yorkshire. It’s lambing season. Young farmer Johnny Saxby resigns himself to a lonely life on his parents’ farm tending livestock. Johnny spends his nights getting pissed in the local pub which remarkably for this small town leads to hook-ups with other men. And while at least one of the young men want more from Johnny, it’s not until the arrival of Romanian farm hand Gheorghe Ionescu, that Johnny glimpses the possibility of a full and complete life, something he never dared dream. The leads Josh O’Connor and Alec Secareanu exude a natural chemistry and grit in their performances. The only warning I’ll make in this film is the brutality of farm life. Animals are auctioned off, off-spring born, animals die. Farmers experience life like no other profession. And in the middle of the mud and cold, a beautiful lamb is born. God’s Own Country gives us the kind of quiet, respectful film we deserve. The stark West Yorkshire scenery becomes its own cruel character. Even the interior shots seem bitter cold to me. But the love between these two men slowly starts to thaw everything around it. 4 out of 5 for God’s Own Country.

Grace and Frankie: Season 4

January 28, 2018

Grace And Frankie

Grace and Frankie continues to be a mixed bag for me. Just when I’m ready to give up, something clicks and the stories feel real and I feel a part of the show. Season 4 took its good old-time getting me to that place. Lots of silliness mixed with awkwardness. At the very least, the balance between the girls, the kids, and the ex-husbands seems to flow better each season. There’s even room for additional characters – boyfriends, thrupple potential, kids’ partners, along with oddballs and girlfriends. All in all, I enjoy the show. It just never seems to bowl me over like it finally did in Season 2. I gave the show a 4 out of 5. Seasons 1 & 3 each got a 3 out of 5. Same for this season. Wondering where they might head next.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

January 27, 2018

Spoiler alerts: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is perhaps the last nominated film I’ll watch before this year’s Oscar Awards. There are films I haven’t seen and I’m fine with that. I’ve caught six of nine, a better percentage than usual for me. My first reaction to Three Billboards is how modern the story feels. When people look back on the film historically, they will see topical themes of police brutality, rape culture, white male domination, and women struggling with how to confront and extinguish injustice. Each of these issues could fill up a lifetime of research and discussion. To meld them into one film speaks volumes for screenwriter and filmmaker Martin McDonagh (In Bruges). Couple this with breath-catching performances from Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell and you’ve got an outstanding film worthy of its Oscar nod for Best Picture. But it is McDomand’s role and her character Mildred Hayes’ journey which captivates and keeps Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri lingering in your mind long after the final scene. While chock with action and plenty of violence, the film manages to ask important questions: Is there ever a good reason for an eye for an eye response? How far should one person go to seek justice? Is vengeance an acceptable form of justice? Can we forgive our neighbor for crossing a line due to grief? The interplay between characters makes these questions not necessarily important to answer, but important to ponder, to discuss, to give importance to as a community trying to make the world better. The film truly feels like a post-Trump election movie. It showcases what happens to a small community when people are ignored and some in charge are allowed to act in immoral and illegal ways. And it certainly questions the right for what is an appropriate response to all of this injustice?

There’s controversy surrounding the film (see Vox article). I didn’t feel like the racism was swept under the carpet, although there’s no denying this was a white-centric film. In the end, the comment from Harrelson’s character Bill that Rockwell’s Dixon is good underneath all his hatred and violence felt naive to me. The fact that Bill never suspended Dixon in the first place tells you all you need to know about his outlook on life. And the final scene where Mildred and Dixon take a road trip together is left open-ended. I didn’t think they rode off in the sunset together after the film ends. To the contrary, I thought there were many possibilities to the ending all of which included Dixon never becoming the good man Bill thought he could be. I was satisfied with the story arc and ending. McDonagh did a great job telling one woman’s tale. 4 out of 5 for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Seeing Ourselves in Film: The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

January 26, 2018

Seeing Ourselves in Film: The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) screening Saturday, January 27, 2018 at 1:30 pm. Fairfield Woods Branch Library. Click to register.

Call Me By Your Name

January 25, 2018

Regular readers to Reel Charlie are aware of my trepidation for the new film, Call Me By Your Name adapted from the novel by André Aciman. For background, take a look at my post Call Me By Your Name: Straight Man. I realize there are a million stories to be written about love and sexuality. Actually there are probably as many stories to be written as people existed. Since my previous post focused on the novel and marketing of the film, let me now focus on the film. I’m glad I watched it. I almost bailed halfway through, but I persevered and saw the entire film. I’m happy to now have the complete experience to review.

A lot of people loved this film: 96% of reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes and 88% of viewers. And specifically several people I know whose film opinion I respect. So did I watch a different movie? The first half was lackluster. Armie Hammer’s stilted acting, moments when it felt like the two leads were reading lines from a teleprompter. It didn’t feel like passionate acting to me. I assumed I would have to eat crow over this film and so I was expecting it to exceed my expectations. Instead it proved to be a very uneven film. In the end, Timothée Chalamet carried the film. Elio’s story proved complex and compelling. The rest of the characters served as window dressing to his journey of first love. Hammer’s Oliver blossomed in the second half of the film. But he never did embody the irresistible charmer and erotically charged stranger every character touted him to be. Perhaps his big lug American presence was enough to sway the small town? We’ve all known men like him. Conflicted beings who might open up for a moment only to slam shut once again after they go back to their conventional life. Did that experience make Elio stronger? I hope so. I had an experience like Elio’s when I was 19. It lasted six months with an older man of 25. It took him 10 years to marry a woman, but marry a woman he did. When I look back at the loves of my life, he doesn’t even make the top 5. Perhaps that’s why I personally wouldn’t waste story time on a character like Oliver. Olivers never stand the test of time. They end up dull and quietly miserable with their life. The final scene with Elio and his Dad spawned mixed feelings. I certainly appreciated the openness his father’s sharing allowed, but his Dad’s logic felt less like sage wisdom and more like a middle-aged man who could only approve of passion and authenticity for teenagers. I hope viewers realize the nuance of that scene. Every morning you wake up is the right time to seek passion, adventure and love. If you didn’t get it when you were young, the only moment when time has truly run out is literally when time has run out.

Finally, I want to address the sex scenes, or rather the difference between the male/female and the male/male. Female/female are in a whole other category due to the patriarchy. Normally when I watch a gay male film, there ends up being more straight sex scenes than gay. That’s a marketing ploy to get more than just gay men to watch the film. I have a feeling Call Me By Your Name deliberately attempts to make the straight sex scenes rough and the gay scenes infused with a sense of sacredness. Of course everyone should evolve to the point where they respect all sexualities and points of love. From my 2018 vantage point, many films still feel unbalanced. So much so, I am in awe when filmmakers present gay male sexuality with the same openness as their straight counterparts. I know, I know. I’m so binary. Whatever the reason, most films continue to shy away from showing two men in a sexual situation as equally as they show a woman and a man.

I didn’t hate Call Me By Your Name. The infusion of openly gay director Luca Guadagnino  and a script from James Ivory helped soften Aciman’s awkward story. I think it does a disservice not to pepper the script with conversations around bisexuality if that was indeed the original point. Instead we are once again fed the trope that some men seek out other men when they are young, but in time they find a nice woman to settle down with and live a conventional life because that is what real men do. The only openly gay men in the film were made fun of by the family and given a split second of screen time. I wish Call Me By Your Name presented as a film for us to digest and love or not. Instead, it continues being heralded as the best film of the year, and finally a post-gay film which doesn’t focus on gay identity or AIDS or any other tedious aspect of modern gay male life. Reality check: we still don’t live in a post-gay world. And what does that even mean anyway? I don’t want to be post-anything. I like the perspective I have as an openly gay man in a culture which more often wants to suppress rather than celebrate who I am. 3 out of 5 for Call Me By Your Name.

Better Call Saul: Season 3

January 24, 2018

I watched the first three episodes of Better Call Saul: Season 3. I nearly called it quits on the series. A work friend quietly convinced me to continue watching. I’m so glad I did. The stories blossomed slowly over time this season. What impressed me the most was the subtle way this turned out to be Rhea Seehorn’s story of Kim Wexler. Kim’s been there from the start with Jimmy. But this season, we see her make decision after decision which adversely affect her professional and personal life. We also see Michael McKeon’s Chuck unravel in unnerving ways. And we continue to see how Jonathan Banks’s Mike, Giancarlo Esposito’s Gus, and Michael Mando’s Nacho come into play in Jimmy’s life. And finally we find out how Bob Odenkirk’s Jimmy becomes Saul Goodman. Continued outstanding writing and acting. 4 out of 5 for Better Call Saul.

%d bloggers like this: