Archive for the ‘Historical’ Category

That Gay Episode: ‘Mary Tyler Moore’ Comes Out Of The Closet (Decider)

May 9, 2017

Photos: HULU ; Illustration: Dillen phelps; from Decider

Brett White over at Decider continues the series, That Gay Episode this time focusing on the famous Mary Tyler Moore episode where Phyllis finds out her brother is gay. From Decider,

Gay people worry about how they’re perceived — not for vanity reasons, but survival reasons. The period of a gay person’s life — be they minutes, months or years — between acknowledging their queer identity and proudly flying a rainbow flag are a nonstop internal Q(ueer) & A session.”Do they know I’m gay?” “Wait, does this make me seem gay?” “When do I tell them I’m gay?” It’s hard to express who you now know you are when you’re dealing with people whose perceptions of you run back decades.

These are the issues at the heart of The Mary Tyler Moore Show‘s 1973 episode “My Brother’s Keeper.” Unlike Cheers‘ “The Boys in the Bar,” which tackled machismo and gay panic by making half the cast straight-up homophobes, “My Brother’s Keeper” saved its big gay reveal for the very end. To get all meta, this is a gay episode that literally plays it straight for 24 of its 25 minutes.

Read the full article.
Read Kenneth in the 212’s blog post about how this episode and other quintessential queer moments on television personally affected him.

Treme: Season 2 (take 2)

March 23, 2017

Great revisiting my friends in the Treme. What a sleeper hit this David Simon (The Wire) show continues to be. Read Reel Charlie’s updated review by clicking on the image below.

Treme: Season 1 (take 2)

March 17, 2017

David Simon’s 2010 follow-up to The Wire uncovers a meditation on New Orleans post-Katrina. Complicated, nuanced, with a phenomenal ensemble cast and the best variety of music any series has yet to produce. Click on the image below to read Reel Charlie’s updated review.

I Am Not Your Negro

March 1, 2017

i-am-not-your-negroRaoul Peck’s devastating documentary, I Am Not Your Negro frames the words of author James Baldwin who tried to make sense of the murders of his friends, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. while imaging how his country might finally get rid of racism. Samuel L. Jackson provides the voice for Baldwin interspersed with interviews, film clips, and footage of events in the 1960’s forward which define our nation as fractured and segregated. Perhaps only Baldwin who is outside of outside as a gay, black man can clearly illustrate what it means to embody race and gender in America. I left the film not only feeling my white privilege, but realizing I can never truly understand what it means to live in this country as a person of color and specifically as an African-American. I can empathize, watch films, take a moment to feel others disadvantage. But tomorrow I will wake up and busy myself with the details, important or otherwise of my life and not think about race for several minutes, hours, days, or weeks until something jars me once again out of my sleep. For the black person in the United States, the feeling of other, of less than, of feared, of hated never ends. It is with them every moment of every day. Ironic that the election of a successful, talented, educated biracial man to President ushers in the worst era of public racism imaginable since the fight for equality during the 1960’s. Surprising, but not surprising. Makes me question hope. I Am Not Your Negro is mandatory viewing. You may not be in the mood to face these demons. But each of us has a responsibility to see this film, open our eyes and our hearts and work to make this country all it can be. 5 out of 5 for this essential documentary.

Hidden Figures

February 13, 2017


What a wonderfully uplifting film, Hidden Figures turned out to be. In my mind, the perfect way to educate is to entertain. Which is exactly what Hidden Figures did so right. It was packed with blatant racism and sexism. But through it all, the women supported each other, their families, and had so much smarts between them, they disintegrated the glass ceilings. Not an easy task to do. And why haven’t we heard of these women before? We all know the answer to that. Which is why films like Hidden Figures are so needed to change the tide, color and gender of the historical figures taught in school. When we celebrate everyone, we raise the bar for all. Inclusion and acknowledgement are not something to fear. They are an attainable goal to set our sights on. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe proved to be the triple crown for this film. Taraji in particular commanded the screen and displayed her acting skills in a role the antithesis of what she does on Empire. Such a treat spending two hours with these women teaching the world that quietly young women of color made important contributions to the successful history of our space program. 4 out of 5.


February 11, 2017

jackieI surprisingly enjoyed Jackie directed by Pablo Larrain (No), and written by Noah Oppenheim who penned Allegiant and The Maze Runner. Not sure what I was expecting, but Natalie Portman enveloped Jacqueline Kennedy completely and we are rewarded with a deeply solemn and personal character study of an American woman the week after she left the White House still grieving the loss of her husband, President John F. Kennedy. Simply told in flashback while Jackie confides to a reporter, Jackie breathed life once again into the dark story many of us grew up with – remarkably for many born around the same time I was it is perhaps our first memory. Larrain drapes this memory with exquisite detail. From IMDb,

Production Designer Jean Rabasse’s sets, many painstakingly re-created from archival material, synched up with cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine’s cinematography. “Jean created these massive rooms and then Stéphane framed Natalie [Natalie Portman playing Jacqueline Kennedy] in these long shots so that you feel her loneliness and despair. The White House sometimes feels like a maze she doesn’t know how to get out of,” producer Mickey Liddell said.

A strong, intelligent supporting cast featuring Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, John Hurt (no this isn’t Hurt’s final film – he’s still got 5 coming out through 2017), Richard E. Grant, and Beth Grant hold their own, but this is really Portman’s piece. And she brings it all together with grace and poise. Jackie‘s not quite a 4, but nearly. I’ll give it a 3.5 out of 5 which is meant to intrigue you and make you wonder if there might be something in this film for you.


January 2, 2017


Ava DuVernay‘s (Selma) Netflix original documentary, 13th dissects the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery except in cases of incarceration. 13th is a must-see for anyone interested in the conversation of race, equality, and social justice in the United States. DuVerney’s outstanding creation makes this difficult subject understandable and easy to digest. Lingering doubts about our country’s abuse of the criminal justice system disappear with this factual film. Takeaways: we need to spend money taking care of our citizens, not handing them over to corporations who profit from locking them up and keeping them locked up. It’s up to those of us who have never had to face this injustice to finally right this wrong. 13th brings a necessary conversation to the masses. 5 out of 5 for 13th.

Versailles: Season 1

December 30, 2016

versailles-s1We started out buying a few episodes of Versailles on Amazon Prime because I thought it was only a 4-part mini-series. Then when we realized it was a 10-part television series, we stopped watching, waiting for the DVDs to be released until the other week a friend at work told me it was streaming on Netflix. I tell this story to prove that even people who blog about television are confused over what’s streaming where. So back to Versailles (literally I wish). The series from Canada about the early reign of Louis XIV boasts high production values – gorgeous location shooting, lovely costumes, beautiful make-up and wigs for everyone! Work those wigs. Versailles screams high night-time soap opera with a dash of historical drama thrown in to keep you running to Google to figure out the accuracy of the show. Versailles is fun and showy and dark and moody. It’s an English-speaking show, so no subtitles required. 3.5 out of 5. Definitely worth exploring.

Turn: Season 2

December 17, 2016

turn-s2To every thing… sorry, bad joke. I watched a few episodes of Turn: Season 1 in 2015 and just couldn’t get into it. I tried watching Season 2 this week. Turn has a moderate History Channel vibe to it that makes me want to do a Kickstarter for their production budget. The acting is decent. The stories are actually interesting, especially when they meld real people like Benedict Arnold into the story. But there’s just no pull for me. I’m giving this season of Turn a 2.5 out of 5. Next.

World AIDS Day 2016

December 1, 2016


I rarely offer unsolicited advice. But this year given our collective, national, post-election anxiety, stress, and depression, I want to remind every one of one big thing. My generation survived AIDS*. Not everyone. There were a lot of casualties. And a lot of grief. It wasn’t easy. It was horrific and hard and brutal and exhausting. But we banded together and figured it out. Positive and negative, male and female, LGBT, queer, and straight, rural, urban, and suburban, rich, poor, and in-between, all colors, and all creeds. It’s what you do when you’re faced with a crisis.

So here we are once again facing an uncertain future. This time it’s not a disease affecting a few, but an amoral ideology infecting many. I have every hope we will rise up and morph our culture, country and world into the hopeful, inclusive, united planet we are meant to be. How else are we ever going to witness first contact? Seriously though, I’m here as a survivor. As someone who faced mortality and with the help of many am here today not just surviving, but thriving. I’m here to help, to offer occasional sage wisdom, to fight, to encourage, to support, and to love. As long as we are breathing we need to come together and work to make this world a better, more peaceful, kind, and prosperous place for all. We need to leave it in better shape than we found it for the next generation.

So this year, let Reel Charlie’s HIV/AIDS film list for World AIDS Day act as metaphor for a country in desperate need of healing. We faced the worst epidemic of the 20th Century. We are on our way to curing this disease once and for all so everyone affected by it can thrive. We can do the same for our democracy in the 21st Century.

*Disclaimer: I realize my view of the HIV/AIDS epidemic manifests from the lens of first-world, white male privilege. It is not my intent to ignore the continuing crisis of HIV/AIDS in poor and minority communities in the U.S. or in third world countries around the globe. Today my hope is to focus on the positive aspects of controlling HIV and eradicating AIDS which have allowed people like me to survive and thrive over the past 30 plus years since the discovery of the HIV virus. 49.6% of people infected with HIV globally currently have access to life-saving drugs which can make the disease chronic. See for details on the continuing struggle to eradicate HIV and AIDS.

Below find my favorite films that focus on HIV and AIDS.  Some are feature films, some documentaries, 2 are musicals:

The Adventures of Felix – celebratory French film about a young HIV+ man embracing life on the new medication in the mid-90’s.
And the Band Played On – based on journalist Randy Shilts’s book.
Angels in America – based on the award-winning play from Tony Kushner.
All About My Mother – one of the (still) few films using AIDS themes from a female perspective – an Almodovar classic.
Before I Forget – French film about an aging HIV+ male hustler.
Blue – Derek Jarman’s meditation on his AIDS diagnosis and imminent death.
Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt – Academy Award winning documentary on the AIDS Quilt.
Dallas Buyers Club – a straight-identified man starts one of the first buyers clubs in the U.S. bringing experimental drugs into the United States from other countries.
Days – Italian film about a sero-discordant couple (one HIV+, one HIV-).
How to Survive a Plague – outstanding documentary on the history of ACT-UP.
Jeffrey – explores the tension around gay men and sex during the AIDS crisis.
Longtime Companion – Hollywood film about NYC gay men dealing with the worst of the AIDS crisis.
The Normal Heart – HBO adaptation from Ryan Murphy of Larry Kramer’s award-winning play.
Parting Glances – Steve Bucemi’s break-out performance as a punk rock HIV+ gay man in NYC.
Paul Monette: The Brink of Summer’s End (only released on VHS) – amazing documentary on the final days of writer Paul Monette.
Poison – Todd Haynes Queer Cinema classic.  Very experimental. Included on the disk and in the review is the short Last Address, an 8 minute film focusing on NYC buildings by director Ira Sachs.
Postcards from America – based on artist David Wojnarowicz’s life and writing.
Rent – the film based on the hit Broadway musical.
Sex in an Epidemic – documentary about the AIDS crisis in the United States.
Sex Positive – documentary of the evolution of “safer sex”.
Test – beautiful indie film about a young dancer in San Francisco deciding whether to take the new HIV test in the early 1980’s.
Vito – biopic on Vito Russo who wrote the seminal work on queer film, The Celluloid Closet and left us way to early from AIDS.
We Were Here – intimate documentary focusing on several people who witnessed the early plague years in San Francisco.
Zero Patience – John Greyson’s musical about AIDS.  still so out there and revolutionary.
Follow Reel Charlie’s Health category for future postings.
Happy Birthday to my dear friend, Barbara who loves sharing her birthday with World AIDS Day.

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