Archive for the ‘Frustration’ Category

Winter: Season 1

March 16, 2018

Watched an episode of Winter on Acorn TV via hoopla from my public library. Winter embodies an Australian police procedural which finds a female detective mid-career looking for a quieter life who gets drawn into a series of murders which span over a decade. Rebecca Gibney in the title role as Eve Winter creates a fine performance. Other actors don’t fare as well. In the end, this felt like an Australian version of a decent network TV show. Certainly not something I could commit to but I get the appeal. Easy to follow, simple murder mystery with the usual suspects: angry middle-aged male detectives, earnest young female detectives, competent, sick-of-having-to-prove-herself middle-aged female detective. I give Winter a 2.5 out of 5.



March 14, 2018

How do you take a British mystery show starring a group of great actors such as Michael Kitchen, Sophie Okonedo, and Phyllis Logan and make it crappy? By turning it into a B-movie horror show the moment the tension begins. Such is the fate of Alibi, a British series on Acorn TV available through your public library’s hoopla platform. I was hoping for fun, for suspense. Instead I was gifted with schlock. What a waste of talent. 1 out of 5. Next.

Nailed It!

March 13, 2018

Netflix new food contest show, Nailed It! showed so much promise in theory thanks to the inclusion of NYC chocolatier Jacques Torres. Unfortunately the fun of this show – taking regular people and making them attempt to recreate confection masterpieces loses its gleam due to tacky stunts from the show’s host Nicole Byer. To her credit, I’m sure she’s just following what the producers tell her to do. But the over-the-top, loud-mouthed antics rubbed me the wrong way. Some finesse would have gone a long way. I realize Nailed It! is a comedy show about the failures of baking. Turning down the LOL track would have helped the series succeed. 1 out of 5. Next.

Love & War: Season 1, Episode 1

February 1, 2018

Sometimes you just can’t go home again. I remember being so excited when Susan Dey announced she would star in a Diane English (Murphy Brown) sit-com after leaving L.A. Law. Dey exited Love & War after the first season citing creative differences. The reality stemmed from the lack of chemistry between co-star Jay Thomas and Susan. Amazon Prime streams the first two seasons of Love & War. Annie Potts (Designing Women, The Fosters) took over for Susan in Season 2. It doesn’t take long for the awkwardness to set in during the pilot. That coupled with the leads breaking the fourth wall to discuss their feelings about each other made for a cringe-worthy episode. Those of you familiar with Reel Charlie know how much I adore Susan Dey. It is with heavy heart I give Love & War a 2 out of 5. Next.

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.

Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

January 13, 2018

Sat down the last two evenings with the 1974 adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. I stayed with it for more than half of the film. Honestly I could not get into it. The pacing too slow, actor’s delivery dull, sets looked cheap. Lauren Bacall overacted. Ingrid Bergman atrocious. Anthony Perkins reusing his Psycho persona. I’ve heard fun things about this incarnation from Steve Hayes. It’s as if he watched a completely different movie. I simply could not finish it. I really enjoyed the 2010 version from the Brits. And am looking forward to seeing Branagh’s newest addition when it arrives on Blu-ray in the library. Meanwhile 2 out of 5 for Sidney Lumet’s lackluster film, Murder on the Orient Express. Better go back and re-read the book.


January 7, 2018

Samsara, the film according to Wikipedia,

is a 2011 non-narrative documentary film, directed by Ron Fricke and produced by Mark Magidson, who also collaborated on Baraka (1992), a film of a similar vein. Samsara was filmed over five years in 25 countries around the world. It was shot in 70 mm format and output to digital format.

Saw Samsara on Blu-ray and yes the images are beautiful. But having access to all kinds of art and media digitally online, I wonder if films like this are even necessary today? Also, there was no theme or organization to the scenes. But my biggest pet peeve: nothing was titled. So one minute you’re watching a beautiful scene in well, is it Nepal? And the next you are in, is it Central America? Arizona? Next is flood-ravaged buildings. Is it New Orleans? You never know. I could see having the ability to turn this feature on/off depending on your experience. But to not have access at least to locations left me frustrated. I just didn’t see the point. 2 out of 5 for Samsara. Next.

Heat and Dust

January 6, 2018

Watched the Cohen Media Group’s restored version of Merchant Ivory‘s 1983, Heat and Dust today. For me this next line will be Merchant Ivory heresy. I did not like the film. I turned it off after 30 minutes. Shudder. The horror. I know! I am so ashamed. I simply could not get into it, understand it, or enjoy it. It wasn’t awful. It was flat and meandering. I’m still shuddering. Take away my lifetime membership card now. Someone quick, beat me with an old VHS of Howards End. For the record, I still consider Merchant Ivory’s quartet of films, A Room with a View, Maurice, Howards End, and The Remains of the Day beginning only two years after filming Heat and Dust to be four of the most perfect films every created. Meanwhile 2.5 out of 5 for Heat and Dust.

Dream Boat

December 30, 2017

Netflix airs some great niche programming including a decent amount of LGBTQ content. Dream Boat follows several international gay men as they embark on an all-male gay cruise to find love, friendship, connection and camaraderie. Reel Charlie readers know I’m far from a prude and much prefer nudity and sex over violence. However, there were a few instances of full frontal male nudity and a couple of seconds worth of a blow job that felt completely unnecessary. What exactly was the reason for that? Not enough for titillation, not meaningful enough to move the story forward. Just awkward. The film was also riddled with stereotypes, which I blame on the cruise. Drag night? Leather night? White Party night? Yawn. Add to that the actual essential conversation doesn’t happen in the documentary. Instead we are spoon fed superficial, contrived dilemmas with no real bite or depth. Too bad because the subject matter is necessary and fascinating. 1 out of 5 for Dream Boat. Next.

Christmas in Connecticut (1992)

December 28, 2017

One last holiday movie post. Ick, I finally sat down after all these years and watched the remake of Christmas in Connecticut. The original is one of Reel Charlie’s favorite holiday films! I’ve hesitated watching the 1992 remake directed by (gasp!) Arnold Schwarzenegger and starring Dyan Cannon, Kris Kristofferson, and Tony Curtis. Could be camp good with that line-up? But no. It was painful watching the awkward scenes of Kristofferson acting out a fake rescue. And Cannon who can be lots of fun didn’t meet the Stanwick standard. I’m blaming Schwarzenegger. He directed one episode of Tales from the Crypt and then this. After that I suppose he focused on acting and politics. 1 out of 5. Next.

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