Archive for the ‘International’ Category

BPM (Beats Per Minute)

March 19, 2018

Robin Campillo’s French language film, BPM (Beats Per Minute) tells the story of Paris ACT-UP in the early 1990’s at the height of the AIDS epidemic just before the new medications became available which would save millions of lives worldwide. BPM is without a doubt the best feature film ever created focusing on the AIDS crisis. Perhaps it is because the filmmaker is 55 years old and was alive during the worse part of the epidemic. Campillo crafts a story filled with anger, activism, frustration, creativity, love and sex. Blended together, these elements tell the accurate story of what it was like – the immediacy of life during this pivotal moment in gay history. Activism was important as dancing which was important as sex which was important as community. BPM rightfully snagged six Cesar Awards (French Oscars), including best film, original script, male newcomer, supporting actor and music. BPM is a pitch perfect film with a cast of mostly young actors who lose themselves in their roles as activists fighting for their lives and the lives of the people they love. BPM is essential viewing. 5 out of 5 for this instant masterpiece.

BPM was released on disk, digital, and on-demand this past week.
Buy a copy at Wolfe Video and support lesbian owned and operated business.
Read Reel Charlie’s list of important feature films and documentaries on the subject of HIV and AIDS.



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.

Versailles: Season 2

March 12, 2018

I made it through the first two episodes of Versailles: Season 2, the Canadian english language series based on the reign of Louis XIV. The first season was fun and soapy. I gave it a 3.5 out of 5. This second season simply didn’t hold my attention. Even the king’s gay brother, Philippe I, Duke of Orléans couldn’t make me continue with the series. For viewers who like their historical costume drama heavy on the soap and light on the serious, Versailles might be just right. I’m saying goodbye. It was fun while it lasted. 3 out of 5.

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.

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.

2018 César Awards: ‘BPM’ Wins Six, Including Best Film

March 4, 2018

On Oscar day 2018, I want to honor a French film which didn’t make the cut. BPM just won six César Awards including Best Picture. Césars are the French Oscars. The Oscar submissions for Best Foreign Film come from each country. Only one nomination cam be made per country. France indeed did the right thing and sent BPM over as their selection. The Oscar voters chose to ignore BPM and nominated films from Chile, Hungary, Lebanon, Russia, and Sweden. Those are all great countries.

I haven’t seen BPM yet. I have the DVD pre-orded from Wolfe Video. It’s scheduled for release in the U.S. on Tuesday so it should be in my mailbox any day now. I rarely assume I will love a film after reading the hype, but I am sure I will love BPM.

Read more about the film’s César wins on Indiewire.

Rita: Season 3

February 18, 2018

Season 3 of our beloved Rita continues the journey of play not-by-the-rules, but by breaking them. Danish school teacher Rita knows best for her family, friends, and co-workers. Season 3 focuses more on Rita drifting into unknown waters as her children fly the nest and she’s back to being single. Rasmus might be gone from Rita’s bedroom, but lucky for us not from the series. Helle takes over as Headmaster of the school, Hjørdis and Uffe settle in to their relationship, Jeppe has his first live-in relationship with boyfriend David, and Rita meets a not exactly what she imagined new man named Said. Rita goes on a journey with her students this year which challenges her intimacy with strangers while making the audience wonder why she can’t have similar relationships with those in her personal life. Such a great show which goes darker than normal in this third season. When you get to the end, you realize why. Big changes ahead for our gal. Does that include her finally quitting smoking? Tune in to see. 4 out of 5 for this incredible television series from Denmark.

Tom of Finland (Blu-ray)

February 13, 2018

Splurged on the new film, Tom of Finland from Wolfe Video. The movie is a biopic of Touko Laaksonen, a Finnish artist who survived World War II only to endure 1950’s oppression for being gay. Touko began drawing “dirty pictures” and eventually began selling them internationally since Finland’s obscenity laws were more strict than other countries. He fell in love and lived with Nipa for 28 years until Nipa’s death in 1981. Tom of Finland is a quiet film about a reserved man whose imagination helped shape the aesthetic first of gay men and eventually of all men in popular culture. Tom’s drawings were at one point considered pornographic are now seen as some of the first positive images gay men could find to reflect back on their own lives during pre and post-Stonewall years. An important film, Tom of Finland ends up being a reminder not only of how far we’ve come, but of the positive and healthy role sexual expression plays in society. AIDS certainly came along and decimated the gay community. But through the plague, we found strength, community, and figured out how to survive and thrive. The lessons learned are perhaps best saved for a different post. Focusing on the film, I’d encourage viewers interested in the history of gay male sexuality, those interested in sexuality in general, and anyone interested in the courage to be true to oneself check out Tom of Finland. 4 out of 5.

Rita: Season 1

February 12, 2018

Big hugs and thanks to my dear friends Barbara and Teri for turning me on to Rita. She’s been in my Netflix queue for a while, but I finally watched season 1 with a little nudge from the girls. And now I’m totally addicted to this wonderful Danish series starring Mille Dinesen in the title role as Rita, a 42 year-old divorced mother of three. Rita’s an amazing primary school teacher. She’s raised three children on her own. The kids range in age from 15-22. Rita’s not so good in the romance department. She likes her independence and mostly uses men for great sex. I fell in love with this complicated, nuanced character as well as her family and co-workers. Outstanding supporting cast featuring Nikolaj Groth (Jeppe), Sara Hjort Ditlevsen (Molly), and Morten Vang Simonsen (Ricoo) as Rita’s kids. And Lise Baastrup who has her own spin-off as nerdy teacher Hjørdis, Carsten Bjørnlund as principal Rasmus, Peter Gantzler as Rita’s ex, Carsten Norgaard as Rita’s childhood boyfriend, and Ellen Hillingsø as guidance counselor Helle. But let’s face it. The world revolves around the luminous Rita as it should. Mille Dinesen carries the show effortlessly. Already diving in to Season 2. 5 out of 5. 

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