Archive for the ‘Historical’ Category

Queen Elizabeth II’s Funeral

September 19, 2022

Today is the day of Queen Elizabeth’s funeral. Do you remember where you were during Diana’s funeral? I was living in the Lower East Side of New York City. My dear college friend John had moved back into the city and was living with me for a few weeks while he got settled. I remember watching it and feeling all sorts of feelings and then going out and walking and walking trying to figure out what it all meant. Death is so strange when it happens to someone young. When it happens to someone older, it’s still just as sad, but that worry of what the person’s life might have been doesn’t happen, and the grief, at least for me is more tolerable. Luckily I felt that way about both of my parents. Not so with my friends who died of AIDS during the height of the AIDS crisis. Now I think about family members who died in their 50’s and 60’s and think yikes!

So today, the world mourns and celebrates a long, productive life. Yes, there are conversations we need to have about colonialism and reparations. We need to have those conversations and votes and mandates. Today, many people around the world take a moment to remember a life well lived.

Do I need to say I will be watching a few more docs on Elizabeth II during the next few weeks? I plan to. Has her death sparked any interest for you in exploring her life through feature film, documentary, or TV series?

Pallbearers carry the coffin of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth as the hearse arrives at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain, September 11, 2022. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis/Pool

NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project

September 1, 2022

Not exactly a media post, but perusing NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, I imagined many filmmakers and showrunners gaining inspiration to create media projects around these landmarks. Over 400 and counting in NYC. From nyclgbtsites,

Making an invisible history visible

Our groundbreaking work documents historic places connected to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in New York City and tells the often untold story of their influence on American history and culture. Explore the map below, view our curated themes, or browse an index of over 400 sites.

Visit NYCLGBTsites.
Donate to NYCLGBTsites.

Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop, NYC

The Last Movie Stars

August 15, 2022

Ethan Hawke’s six-hour docuseries love letter to Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman, The Last Movie Stars mines the couple’s lives to understand what made them the final glorious, technicolor, Hollywood It couple of the 20th Century. The last great glamour spark from a bygone era. Touted by The Guardian as electrifying. And dubbed riveting by two work colleagues, I dove into The Last Movie Stars with wonder. The creativity behind Hawke’s early days of the pandemic’s Zoom chats and his use of the same actors reading transcripts from Newman’s archives were highly effective. The series doesn’t evade the messiness of their lives. Instead it casually drifts back and forth between the beauty of their union, their combined colossal talent and the folks they left behind in the wake of their inevitable marriage. Shockingly, I only made it through two episodes. I felt like I had seen enough. I loved Making Montgomery Clift, the recent documentary on Monty’s life by his nephew. After bolting on The Last Movie Stars, I guess I felt like Hawke could have said this in 90 minutes instead of six hours. Also, and I am not being bitchy nor am I alone in this observation. Hawke needed to bathe more during the Zooms. Everyone else showed up freshly scrubbed. We get it. You’re an anti-Hollywood star. But you’re the director of the show. You’re still rich. So walk into your palatial bathroom and scrub a dub dub. That point aside, the series is a must-see for Newman/Woodward fans, and fans of old-school Hollywood in general. 3 out of 5.

The Last Great Movie Stars currently streams on HBO Max.

Downton Abbey (2019) (take 4)

August 1, 2022

All hail the first Downton film. Comfort food forever. This one feels-good anytime I pop the 4K disk into the player. Relax, and enjoy.

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


Little Women (1978)

July 21, 2022

The 1978 TV movie version of Louisa Mae Alcott’s Little Women may not be the best version, but for pop culture fans from the late 70’s, it’s a virtual Who’s Who cast featuring:

Susan Dey (The Partridge Family; L.A. Law) as Josephine ‘Jo’ March
Meredith Baxter Birney (Bridget Loves Bernie and late-life out lesbian) as Meg March
Eve Plumb (Jan Brady) as Elizabeth ‘Beth’ March
Ann Dusenberry as Amy March
Dorothy McGuire (Gentleman’s Agreement) as Marmee March
William Schallert (Patty Duke’s Dad) as Jonathan March
Greer Garson (Mrs. Miniver) as Aunt Kathryn March
Robert Young (Father Knows Best; Marcus Welby, M.D.) as Grandpa James Laurence
Richard Gilliland (Designing Women; Jean Smart’s husband) as Theodore ‘Laurie’ Laurence
William Shatner (Captain Kirk) as Professor Friedrich Bhaer
Cliff Potts as John Brooke
Virginia Gregg as Hannah
Joyce Bulifant (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) as Mrs. Kirke

The show went on to win a 1979 Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for a Series. It’s absolutely beloved by fans like me who memorized 70’s television. I always miss my dearly departed first partner Joe Greenwood who would have suggested sitting through all 194 minutes of this mini-series long before I pulled the DVD out. Few since then have that obsession and understanding. The show came in last place in The Hollywood Reporter’s list of the best Little Women adaptations, mostly because of

“Jo’s grinding narration or the Easter-colored set design/costuming, which deflate this misstep even further..”

which of course isn’t Susan Dey’s fault. Oprah Daily was a bit kinder. Corrine H. Smith’s blog, The Little Women Project: Reviews of all of the Movies digs a bit deeper,

“My favorite character to watch is Robert Young, who portrays Mr. Laurence. What an inspiring choice for this role! He plays the kindly gentleman perfectly. I like to hear his voice and to watch his interactions with the girls. And he looks great with his full head of white hair and his bushy mustache. Not Marcus Welby-like at all.

I have to admit that Susan Dey grew on me, as Jo. I didn’t expect her to succeed in the role, and she does, at least in my opinion. But the oddest part of this show comes when she meets Professor Friedrich Bhaer, who is at least 15 years older than she is. Someone decided to fill this spot with William Shatner. C’mon! Laurie Partridge meets Captain Kirk? Really? And he has to put on a fake German accent too, to boot? Geesh. We can only suspend our disbelief so far, you know. In spite of this mis-match, I like most of this movie. I would watch it again. Especially since I know who will show up near the end.”

This network television mini-series proves sweet and sincere. I thought in particular Susan, Eve, and Ann did a great job. And of course Dorothy and Greer were channeling their inner Violet Crawley. Edith Head did the costumes and Elmer Bernstein did the score. Bravo to NBC for sinking their teeth into this classic novel’s adaption, one of fourteen adaptations! 3 out of 5 for this ode to the 1970’s.

Little Women (1978) is available on DVD. It currently does not stream anywhere.
The blog Everything Susan Dey featured a large amount of stills from the mini-series.

Susan Dey as Jo in Little Women (1978).

Reel Charlie Speaks – Episode 1: Dancer From The Dance

May 25, 2022

Reel Charlie introduces a new monthly audio program – a podcast which explores one work from the past. I discuss the story, and what I thought the first time I watched/read/saw it, and now today what I think. Reel Charlie Speaks inaugural Episode 1 highlights Andrew Holleran’s 1978 seminal gay male novel, Dancer From The Dance. Join me for a half hour of fun.


Read more about Dancer From The Dance on Goodreads.

Parallel Mothers

April 15, 2022

ATTENTION – MAJOR Spoiler Alert: It’s always a Reel Charlie treat to witness the birth of another Pedro Almodovar film. Almodovar continues to be my favorite living director. Excited to see Parallel Mothers is of course an understatement. That said, shockingly I didn’t love the film. To me, it’s two different stories which could have stood on their own, and actually felt at odds with each other – focusing on one felt like the other plot dropped, only to awkwardly return. Main character is Penelope Cruz’s Janis. She’s a successful photographer who meets a forensic archaeologist named Arturo. She tells him her family story about her great-grandfather who was killed during the Spanish Civil War. The two sleep together, Janis gets pregnant, Arturo is married and so she decides to have the baby on her own. In the hospital about to deliver, she meets a teenage mother, Ana and they have their babies at the same time. Fast-forward a few months, Arturo meets the baby and doesn’t think she is his child. Janis swears she only slept with him, which makes her question her own maternity. This is the point in the film where you have to yell, MELODRAMA and then relax into it. Otherwise it’s too absurd. Yes, the babies were separated at birth, and of course Ana’s baby, which is really Janis’s baby dies suddenly. Meanwhile the grave excavation continues to enter in to the story, begging for attention. Janis, 20 years Ana’s senior has Ana move in, and collects DNA without Ana’s consent. And here’s where the film really goes off the rails. Janis sleeps with Ana. They begin a sort of lesbian affair while Ana is living in Janis’s home and acting as an au pair and housekeeper for Janis. Ana’s barely out of her teens. Janis has no freaking excuse. In the too tidy ending, everyone’s together at the excavated mass grave site – Janis, Arturo, Ana, and the baby (now with Ana). Janis and Arturo are together and Ana doesn’t seem to have a care in the world. I know it can’t be lesbian or biphobia because it’s Almodovar. But dropping the transition between the two relationships in favor of the straight one is just plain sloppy. That said, I think I could have loved either of these stories better if they were separate films. And seriously, the grave excavation story fascinated me because it was history. The baby swapping felt very soap opera, which Almodovar does so well. The grave excavation felt like a very serious subject to have to compete with a soap opera. Still it’s Almodovar and it’s gorgeous, and I made it through. I can’t remember the last time I gave an Almodovar film anything less than a 5 out of 5 (it was I’m So Excited – 4). But here we go. 3 out of 5 for Parallel Mothers.

Parallel Mothers is available to rent on various streaming platforms or on disk from your local public library.
Peruse the 17 Pedro Almodovar films reviewed on Reel Charlie.

Visible: Out on Television

March 26, 2022

Finally able to watch the outstanding and important 5-part docu-series, Visible: Out on Television about LGBTQ representation in television. Not to sound all smarty pants, but even I learned a number of new facts. From the 50’s to 2020 (when it was released), Visible: Out on Television packs a powerful punch with episodes devoted to:

Episode 1: The Dark Ages – 50’s and 60’s
Episode 2: Television as a Tool – 70’s and 80’s
Episode 3: The Epidemic: 80’s and 90’s
Episode 4: Breakthroughs: late 90’s forward
Episode 5: The New Guard

Love, love, love this outstanding and necessary look at the journey television has taken depicting LGBTQ people and our communities. Bravo to Executive Producers Wilson Cruz, Wanda Sykes, Jessica Hargrave, and Ryan White for making this happen. 5 out of 5. Must-see and a fascinating look at the history of television and the queer community. Stands tall on the shoulders of Vito Russo’s work.

Visible: Out on Television currently streams on Apple TV+.

Irish Ireland Roots

March 17, 2022

My father’s side of the family is 1/2 German, 1/2 Irish. My mother’s side of the family is unknown, although we assume most of it is German. So I usually say I’m a quarter Irish. I don’t have a real affinity to that part of my ancestry. Other family members wallow in our Irish roots. Still I wanted to do something this year on St. Patrick’s Day other than wear green or consume too much beer. So I thought I would recommend a great film about Ireland’s history. Director Steve McQueen’s debut feature film, Hunger turned out to be an easy choice. Created in 2008, Hunger focuses on the 1981 IRA prison hunger strike in Northern Ireland. Beautiful and grotesque, politics and art are some of the words I used to describe this remarkable film.

Read Reel Charlie’s 5 star review. 

Hunger is available streaming on Tubi (with commercials), IFC, and AMC+.

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