Archive for the ‘Gender’ Category

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 1

March 18, 2018

Released this week on disk, Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood‘s book, The Handmaid’s Tale exceeds all expectations. Why? Well first there’s the obvious: the production value swings off the charts – writing, directing, acting, costumes, set design, cinematography all outstanding. The tenor of the production brought literal chills to my body. By episode three I was curled up in a ball on the sofa. The Handmaid’s Tale might possibly be the first excellent television series I don’t suggest binging on. Let the terror settle in a bit similar to how Hulu released it – one episode per week. But the real reason I felt wrecked to my core was that this 1985 Sci-Fi novel now reads as a warning to our potential future. And not something in the distant future we need to pay heed. Instead it feels very much like the possibility of what might happen to our country if Trump walks away from the Presidency for even more greed and power leaving the executive branch shattered and ripe for Pence and his insane far-right christian cronies to take over the country once and for all declaring martial law on all of our freedoms. And by all I mean every woman, all men who don’t follow strict heteronormative behavior, people of color, the poor and disenfranchised and my own personal group – LGBTQ folk. So the creators at Hulu have done their job well scaring the shit out of me and making The Handmaid’s Tale a call to arms. Each of us is required to do what we can to keep these lunatics not only at bay, but to bury this hatred for diversity and freedom once and for all. Love truly must win in all its beautiful colors and permutations.

Shout out to a crazy great cast including Elizabeth Moss, Samira Wiley, Yvonne Strahovski, Max Minghella, Amanda Brugel, Joseph Fiennes, Madeline Brewer, O-T Fagbenle, Ann Dowd (shudder), and Alexis Bledel (shattering her Rory Gilmore curse forever). Words cannot describe how visceral my reaction to The Handmaid’s Tale has been. It deserves all the praise your friends have doled out, it deserves all the awards, it’s deserves attention and it deserves to be an artistic warning to every decent human being to do everything in their power to crush this hatred and darkness in humanity once and for all. 5 out of 5.


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.

The Man Who Came to Dinner

March 15, 2018

I wish I had a category called “return to later” like I do with books on Goodreads I think are good, I’m just not in the mood to finish. Such is the fate of The Man Who Came to Dinner, a 1941 comedy based on the play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart starring Monty Whoolley, Bette Davis, Billie Burke, and Mary Wickes. Woolley plays a famous author who gets stranded in a small Midwestern town and ends up alienating everyone around him. Classic film critic Steve Hayes felt Woolley’s character was the quintessential fussy urban gay man, which made me add this to my to watch list since I’m always looking for hidden classic film gems with LGBT content or in those days – LGBT implications. For some reason, after finishing about a quarter of the two-hour film, I lost interest. It’s a well-made film. It just didn’t speak to me. Perhaps another time. For now, I’m giving it a 3 out of 5. Next.

By the way, this is the last DVD I received from Netflix after cancelling my DVD subscription.


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.

Mozart in the Jungle: Season 4

March 11, 2018

Breezed through the 10 half-hour episodes of Mozart in the Jungle: Season 4. It started out quiet, not sure where it was headed. I’m glad I stuck around because once they got to Japan, everything fell into place. Lots of great moments as Lola Kirke’s Hailey continues to discover herself, Rodrigo continues to unravel, and Gloria and Thomas find their footing,  expertly walking the line between complicated supporting character and punch line. This was the season John Cameron Mitchell guest starred as an annoying choreographer. He nailed that role. It was also the season the writers made it clear how difficult it is for women to be conductors. The producers balanced the gender gap between writers and directors which always makes me feel better about supporting a project. My only issue with the writing is poor Cynthia. Saffron Burrows has second billing in the credits but the writers seem unsure what to do with her character. I have a hard time understanding that. To me, Cynthia has always been fascinating and could have her own show. I give Mozart in the Jungle a 3.5 and leave it at that.

Babylon Berlin: Season 1

March 10, 2018

Season 1 of the Netflix imported German historical drama, Babylon Berlin landed this month in the U.S. making it the most expensive television series ever produced outside the United States. Created by Henk Handloegten, Tom Tykwer (Run, Lola, Run, The Princess and the Warrior), and Achim von Borries, is it worth the cost? You bet. The series weaves a complicated and compelling story based on novels by Volker Kutscher. Taking place in 1929 during the Weimar Republic, Babylon Berlin follows police inspector Gereon Rath played by Volker Bruch, who has been transferred from the city of Cologne to Berlin, and aspiring police inspector Charlotte Ritter played by Liv Lisa Fries. Both actors embody their characters seamlessly and carry the show effortlessly. Babylon Berlin explores the intersection of traditional Weimar Germany with the rise of frustrated and dangerous voices including communists and Nazis. The take-away every other country in the world should learn from Germany is that the art coming out of this modern-day European power never downplays their past. Germans own their atrocities and don’t ever want to repeat them. Rath and Ritter finds themselves uncovering corruption within their own police force, probing for poisonous gas and gold in train yards, searching for murdered and missing communists, enjoying moments of bliss in nightclubs, and managing complicated family relations. Gereon Rath fills the role as outsider, unraveling the mystery along with the audience. He suffers silently from PTSD due to World War I trauma. Charlotte Ritter unravels the complicated journey a woman had to go to through in order to free herself from poverty and make a place in the world. Personally, Charlotte’s story ruled the series. Babylon Berlin‘s story and characters span every aspect of 1929 German society. Where it falters stems from too much money which makes one scene in particular way too Hollywood action film for my taste. But I can certainly forgive the transgression. I found the story captivating and confusing in the best of ways. Babylon Berlin made me think as well as enjoy – my favorite way to watch television. 4 out of 5 for this Netflix giant.

Note: Netflix presents the 16 episode arc as Season 1. When originally released in Germany, the 16 episodes were split into two seasons. So right now, we are wondering whether Netflix will produce a third season for Germany which would be our Season 2. Stay tuned.

qFLIX Philadelphia 2018

March 8, 2018

Program line-up just announced for qFLIX Philadelphia 2018: The LGBTQ+ Film Festival on March 19-25, 2018.

Lots of hopeful films including many pansexual/fluid entries coming to the festival this year. Reel Charlie’s go-to list starts here:

HELLO AGAIN directed by Tom Gustafson
HIDDEN KISSES directed by Didier Bivel
A SKIN SO SOFT directed by Denis Côté
FOAM PARTY! directed by Roberto Pérez Toledo
BETWEEN THE SHADES directed by Jill Salvino
STILL WAITING IN THE WINGS directed by Q. Allan Brocka
THE FEELS directed by Jenée LaMarque
AFTER LOUIE directed by Director Vincent Gagliostro

See the complete program at qFLIX.

Rita: Season 4

March 6, 2018

Season 4 of Reel Charlie’s second favorite (Borgen still #1) Danish series, Rita took a sharp right turn. Rita got a job in her old hometown, reacquainted herself with her high school best friend and contemplated setting down roots. With the exception of Hjørdis and Uffe, Season 4 leaves all of Rita’s kids, colleagues and fuck buddies behind.  But the biggest change comes in the form of time. The season travels back and forth between Rita’s teen years and present day. Tessa Hoder does an outstanding job as Rita in 1985. For me, parts of this worked and other parts didn’t. Certainly the change shook up the series. The producers took chances and that’s always to be commended. Personally I missed her kids, her love interests and her life back at her former school. Rita had no sex or love life in Season 4. The 8-episode arc spent most of the time watching her soul search attempting to find her place in the world. The big reveal in the seventh episode wasn’t much of a surprise to me. I guessed as much. It’s hard to imagine a singular event forever catapulting someone in a certain direction, but I have known people who experienced that in real life. Without giving away too much, I wanted more for Rita. A friend of mine who is a Young Adult novel guru often frets over the reality that sex for female characters, especially YA teen girls has to mean something – either love or repent. It frustrates her that YA female characters just can’t have sex as a part of their life experience and move on. I felt that way about Rita. Why couldn’t she just be sexually liberated? Why couldn’t she just be someone who doesn’t need a man. She likes to sleep with men, but she doesn’t need to be in love with one or take care of one. What’s so threatening about that? So I felt a little lost watching Season 4. I’m tempted to give it my odd “more than like it” score of 3.5, but Rita has meant so much to me I’ll leave it at 4 out of 5. I hope they do one more season so she can reconnect with her children and others from her former life. If not, it’s been an amazing ride.

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.

A Streamer’s Guide to Best Actress (Decider)

February 21, 2018

Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I love these articles popping up online pointing us to the best of someone’s career and how to stream it. Decider just posted an article about the five actresses nominated for Best Actress at this year’s Oscars and how to stream the best of their canon. From Decider,

The 2017 Best Actress field at the Academy Awards is an especially strong field, representing some of the top Best Picture contenders in a way that doesn’t always happen with the Oscars. It’s something that deserves to be celebrated, so first off a big round of applause for:

  • Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water

  • Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

  • Margot Robbie in I, Tonya

  • Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird

  • Meryl Streep in The Post

Find all the films and the full article on Decider.

Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water

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