Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

The Assignment with Audie Cornish

January 23, 2023

NPR’s Audie Cornish hosts a CNN weekly podcast. I came to hear about long COVID and stayed for the OnlyFans piece. Both were very informative. The 30-minute format works well for Cornish. From CNN,

Fiery Twitter threads and endless news notifications never capture the full story. Each week on The Assignment, host Audie Cornish pulls listeners out of their digital echo chambers to hear from the people who live the headlines. From the sex work economy to the battle over what’s taught in classrooms, no topic is off the table. Listen to The Assignment every Thursday.

4 out of 5.
Listen now on CNN, or find the show on your favorite podcast platform.

American Horror Story: NYC (Season 11)

November 19, 2022

Spoiler alert: The good news is after eleven seasons, Ryan Murphy and crew produced an American Horror Story focused on gay men. The action happens in 1981 NYC as a mysterious illness begins circulating throughout the gay male community. There’s also a serial killer (maybe two) on the loose targeting gay men. Once the first killer is captured, I realized the second killer is not a killer, he’s the grim reaper. And he’s a giant bodybuilder in full leather. There lots of in-your-face gay content which Murphy’s become known for and I’m grateful for his matter-of-fact inclusion. As much as I like having some details kept amongst ourselves, I realize that’s very old school of me. What Murphy’s doing is showing gay, queer, LGBTQ culture in all of its forms which make the affection and love on the screen completely normal to most folks. Especially important as we continue to fight for equal rights around the country and the globe. Great cast including Russell Tovey, Joe Mantello, Billie Lourd, Denis O’Hare, Charlie Carver, Leslie Grossman, Sandra Bernhard, Isaac Powell, Zachary Quinto, Patti LuPone, Jeff Hiller, Rebecca Dayan, Matthew William Bishop, Kal Pennm and Casey Thomas Brown. Lots of heavy hitters, so the acting is first rate until the scripts went campy and silly in places. The final two episodes transitioned from serial killer as a metaphor for AIDS – to AIDS as a reality. Unfortunately, the lengthy montage felt too heavy handed. And I didn’t realize Joe Mantello’s character would morph into Larry Kramer. I wasn’t feeling that. I am not a fan of blood and gore, but I thought within the genre, they did a great job creating a period horror show using metaphor for the burgeoning AIDS crisis, and as I said, actual AIDS by the end of the season. Overall the season was uneven. But I do like a show that takes risks and they certainly did with AHS: NYC. Definitely a 3.5 or 4 in places, but overall a good even 3 out of 5.

American Horror Story currently streams on FX and Hulu.

Five Days at Memorial

August 31, 2022

Five Days at Memorial is a fictionalized disaster medical drama limited series adaptation of the non-fiction 2013 book by Sheri Fink. When historians look back on the early 21st Century, the aftermath of Katrina will be seen as one of the worst natural disasters. Of course with climate change we are certainly headed for worse natural disasters in our lifetime. What Katrina will be remembered for is the horrific lack of response by the local, state, and federal government. Why? First there’s Bush’s appointees – at the top of the list Michael D. Brown who were hired as cronies, not as experts in their fields. Sure, go ahead and give your friends jobs. Just don’t give them the first Under Secretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response (EP&R) in the newly created Department of Homeland Security. Second and this one is the worst sins of Katrina, no one cared about rescuing poor people of color. If you hesitate on that last sentence, image a Katrina-like storm hitting Newport, RI or Santa Barbara, CA. Enough said.

The limited series is incredible. Full of trauma and suspense. Yes, it’s entertainment. But it reminds us in a respectful way of the horror people faced, both patients and hospital staff as everyone tried to continue to care for the sick and dying during the worst disaster the U.S. had ever seen –  over 1,800 fatalities. The cast is outstanding including Cherry Jones, Vera Farmiga, Cornelius Smith, Jr., Robert Pine, Adepero Oduye, Julie Ann Emory, Michael Gaston, and Molly Hager. Each of the five episodes focuses on one day during Katrina and then after the levees broke. I will tell you the intensity builds and builds. By the final episode, I was sobbing during several scenes. I don’t want to forget Katrina. None of us should. 4 out of 5 for the haunting Five Days at Memorial.

Five Days at Memorial currently streams on Apple TV+.

Reel Charlie Speaks – Episode 2: HIV AIDS Films

July 25, 2022

It took two months instead of one, but I am publishing the second Reel Charlie Speaks podcast. In Reel Charlie Speaks, I focus on a classic piece of work and discuss what it meant to me when I first discovered it and how it has stood the test of time. Today I reflect upon six HIV AIDS films from my list of the best HIV AIDS Films I’ve compiled over the years.

Read Reel Charlie film reviews on each of the titles discussed in this episode:
Adventures of Felix (currently not streaming in the U.S.)
Before I Forget (currently not streaming in the U.S.)
Blue (streaming on Kanopy)
How to Survive a Plague (streaming on Amazon Prime and SlingTV)
Parting Glances (streaming on Plex, Amazon Prime, and Philo)
Zero Patience (streaming on The Criterion Channel)

See the full list of Reel Charlie’s HIV AIDS films.

Philip Bahr marching in ACT-UP demo. Kennebunkport, Maine. September 1, 1991. Screen grab from the film How to Survive a Plague

Coming up:
August 2022: Coming Out
September 2022: Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City


The Signifyin’ Works of Marlon Riggs: Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (No Regret) (1993)

October 29, 2021

Part of the Criterion boxed set The Signifyin’ Works of Marlon Riggs, 1993’s Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (No Regret) explores the experience of HIV+ gay black men living through the worst years of the pandemic. Powerful, diverse voices from Michael Lee, Joseph Long, Assoto Saint, Reggie Williams, and Donald Woods. In under 40 minutes, these five men share their reality living with the virus that continued killing so many of their friends and lovers. It would not be until 1997, four years after the release of this film that combination therapy would help curb the death sentence from HIV and AIDS. In 1993, five brave souls put intelligence and understanding to the terror and discrimination behind this virus which vilified so many and was ignored by our government and churches for far too long. 5 out of 5 for this essential and historical short film.

Currently The Signifyin’ Works of Marlon Riggs box set is only available on disk from your local library. I don’t say this often enough about the films I love, but this Criterion release is available on DVD or Blu-ray and would make an incredible gift to someone interested in the history of the gay black male movement in the United States or anyone interested in film history. I cherish my Blu-ray set.

Peter Staley’s new book, Never Silent

October 5, 2021

AIDS activist Peter Staley’s got a memoir out this month, Never Silent: ACT UP and AIDS Activism. Peter was featured prominently in the ACT UP documentary, How to Survive a Plague. Vanity Fair has an excerpt from Staley’s memoir about how he helped fix the script for the film, Dallas Buyers Club which was originally riddled with homophobia and AIDS denialism. From Vanity Fair,

I wanted to read the entire script before answering the email, but Bergen monopolized my attention for a week. Finally, on the flight home, I started reading the very made-for-Matthew-McConaughey opening: a rodeo stud has sex with two women while snorting coke before riding a bull.

Well, that’s strange. I thought Woodroof was gay. My friend Derek certainly thought he was. But it was true he wasn’t out about it. His friends had said he told the local press he contracted HIV from injecting drugs, thinking that carried far less stigma than gay sex, at least in Texas.

But as I read on, it didn’t take long before my jaw was in my lap. I knew the real Woodroof had tried the antiretroviral drug AZT early on and—like many, including me—had to stop taking it because of the anemia it caused. He joined the AZT-is-poison crowd but went on to become the country’s biggest buyers club supplier of bootleg ddC, AZT’s equally toxic sister drug. Logic wasn’t one of his strong suits.

Read the full article at Vanity Fair.
Check out Peter’s book on Goodreads.

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton: Erotic Vagrancy

August 9, 2021

I just finished and enjoyed the juicy new biography, Elizabeth and Monty: The Untold Story of Their Intimate Friendship by Charles Casillo (2021). Part classic movie trivia, part juicy Hollywood gossip (an easy leap with Taylor’s marriages), Casillo offers up a side-by-side comparison of Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor’s lives. Chapters alternate between each actor. I love both of them, especially Monty and so this was an easy read, or in my case, listen since it was on audiobook – free from hoopla and your public library! There were a few very funny moments in the book, but the absolute funniest was the description of the Vatican inserting itself in to the Taylor (Richard) Burton affair. Both parties were married to other people at the time and Liz had just stolen Eddie Fisher three years prior from Debbie Reynolds. Think pre-internet – the world was scandalized in a good, salacious way by Liz and Dick; so much so that even the Vatican chimed in with what has be to one of the funniest dirtiest phrases I have ever heard. From EW,

The Vatican newspaper printed an Open Letter taking Taylor to task for “erotic vagrancy.”

Of course god forbid the man was also vagrantly erotic, but still I want a t-shirt ASAP! And I hope Liz wore this as a badge of honor. Great scandalous read. 4 out of 5.

Catch and Kill: The Podcast Tapes

August 1, 2021

Ronan Farrow’s a busy young man. In 2017 he published a New Yorker article which helped bring down Harvey Weinstein, and helped spark the #MeToo movement. Farrow wrote a book about his experiences reporting on Weinstein, Bill Cosby and other sexual predators called, Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators. Catch and Kill was adapted into a podcast based on interviews Farrow did for the book. The podcast was adapted by HBO Documentary Films into a six-part documentary miniseries. Which is where we are today. Pretty smart on Farrow’s part to package the information into four unique formats. It worked because I am one of the people out there who never read the article, the book, or listened to the podcast. But I did watch the HBO mini-series and I have to say this is fascinating stuff. Farrow’s a natural for this story. Perhaps because of what happened to his sister. Or as a gay man, he makes it easy for women to trust. Whatever’s going on, he really honors the women in this story and sits back and allows them to tell their stories in their own time and in their own way. Still hard to believe this has been going on so blatantly, so frequently. Grateful to have lived long enough to see the #MeToo movement. I hope the former president’s era becomes the last gasp of this horrific violence and disregard for women in our society. 5 out of 5 for Catch and Kill: The Podcast Tapes.

Catch and Kill: The Podcast Tapes currently stream on HBO Max.


Atypical: Season 4 (The Final Season)

July 31, 2021

What an absolute joy it has been watching the cast and crew of Netflix’s Atypical work their magic over the past four seasons. Inevitably, all good things must come to an end. And regular readers know I love when a great show bows out before its expiration date. Bravo to Atypical for giving us four near-perfect seasons of entertainment. A young man living on the spectrum navigates high school and college with assistance and love from his younger sister and loving parents. Along the way he finds a best friend, a girlfriend, independence, and a direction in life. Love the cast including Keir Gilchrist, Bridgette Lundy-Paine, Nik Dondani, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Rapaport, Jenna Boyd, Graham Rogers, and Fivel Stewart. The series dipped slightly in Season 2 for me, but redeemed itself by the end of the season. The final two seasons were 5 out of 5. The best endorsement I can give a series is when it ends with a good cry. I adored Atypical and am thrilled it ended on such a high note. 5 out of 5.

Atypical currently streams on Netflix.
Read Reel Charlie’s reviews of Season 1, Season 2, and Season 3.

#Criterion #Pride: Marlon Riggs and Dee Rees

June 29, 2021

So thrilled to add these two outstanding LGBTQ African-American film selections to my collection. From Criterion who has just released the following:

The Signifyin’ Works of Marlon Riggs

There has never been a filmmaker like Marlon Riggs: an unapologetic gay Black man who defied a culture of silence and shame to speak his truth with resounding joy and conviction. An early adopter of video technology, Riggs employed a bold mix of documentary, performance, poetry, and music in order to confront the devastating legacy of racist stereotypes, the impact of AIDS on his community, and the very definition of what it means to be Black. Bringing together Riggs’s complete films—including his controversy-inciting queer landmark Tongues Untied and Black Is . . . Black Ain’t, the deeply personal swan song that was completed after his death at the age of thirty-seven—The Signifyin’ Works of Marlon Riggs traces the artistic and political evolution of a transformative filmmaker whose work is both an electrifying call for liberation and an invaluable historical document.


The path to living as one’s authentic self is paved with trials and tribulations in this revelatory, assured feature debut by Dee Rees—the all-too-rare coming-of-age tale to honestly represent the experiences of queer Black women. Grounded in the fine-grained specificity and deft characterizations of Rees’s script and built around a beautifully layered performance from Adepero Oduye, Pariah follows Brooklyn teenager Alike, who is navigating the emotional minefields of first love and heartache and the disapproval of her family as she expresses her gender and sexual identities within a system that does not make space for them. Achieving an aching intimacy with its subject through the expressive cinematography of Bradford Young, this deeply felt portrait finds strength in vulnerability and liberation in letting go.

Not a disk collector?
The entire Marlon Riggs currently streams on The Criterion Channel.
Dee Rees’ Pariah currently streams on Netflix.

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