Archive for the ‘Ways To See Film, Television, and Media’ Category

Do I Love Musicals?

October 18, 2017

Could it be my gay DNA has been working all along? I always say I’m not a fan of musicals. I hated La La Land. I also hated the idea of (because I’ve never actually seen them) Cats, Miss Saigon, Phantom of the Opera, Showboat, Jersey Boys, Chicago, Kiss Me Kate, Rock of Ages, and South Pacific.

But then I started thinking today about musicals. About doing a program at work featuring musicals. About somehow getting my friends involved who are obsessed with musicals. I have yet to see (which I want to see) Hamilton, Book of Mormon, Wicked, Les Miz, Avenue Q, or Spring Awakening.

I thought about my life. To some extent, I grew up on musicals. And no, I’m not talking about The Partridge Family, smart ass. I’m talking actual musicals and their film adaptations. Each year we watched The Wizard of Oz and White Christmas on TV. Religiously.

I knew all the words to all the songs in both films. I discovered set design and pizzazz from Oz and my first real diva moment with Rosemary Clooney singing Irving Berlin’s Love You Didn’t Do Right By Me. But was the little gay boy in me spending more time watching Rosemary or George Chakiris? Probably a little of both.

As a devout Catholic teen, when I wasn’t spending time being an altar boy, lector, cantor, or playing guitar in folk mass, I was listening to and memorizing all the words to Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell.

Of course I totally freaked out when Everything’s Alright and other songs from the Superstar soundtrack showed up prominently in the fourth season of Transparent. Apparently I wasn’t the only one grooving on these tunes in the 70’s. And is it me or does anyone else think that Godspell has a Manson family vibe to it? Maybe I watch too many serial killer TV shows. Streaming Mindhunter as we speak. One thing’s for sure, Jesus in Godspell had the original Jewfro. Whew doggie!

So in 1976, I finally went to New York City and saw my first musical on Broadway: The Wiz starring Stephanie Mills. I clearly remember being in awe of the entire show, but when the curtain rose on Emerald City, I was in green sparkle heaven. Stunning. The film adaptation really paled in comparison. Diana Ross was more than a bit long in the tooth playing Dorothy at 34.

Around the same time, I obsessed over the luminous Barbra Streisand and the smooth skinned hunkiness of Kris Kristofferson in the third film adaptation of A Star is Born. Another huge favorite of mine. Another soundtrack I had memorized completely.

And then adulthood beckoned. Or at least college. While off discovering higher education, I also came across Blake Edwards incredible film, Victor Victoria. To this day, I continue to love and worship Victor and Victoria. Le Jazz Hot stands out as one of the best shiver-inducing numbers from a musical ever. Mary Poppins sets off a 3 alarm fire.

And a few years later there was this: Jennifer Holliday in Dream Girls. And I Am Telling You, I’m Not Going continues to give me chills and brings tears to my eyes. Even today when I watched it. Simply one of the best moments in Broadway history. Screaming along with Effie each and every time.

When did I discover The Rocky Horror Picture Show? During college? Probably. Maybe after. I can’t recall. But I fell hard for this surface silly ode to being yourself. Such a great message wrapped up in a deeply moving gender-bender show of delight. As annoying and destructive as Susan Sarandon was during last year’s presidential election, I still love Over at the Frankenstein Place the best from the deliciously deviant soundtrack.

The AIDS crisis years brought us Rent. I had the honor of seeing it twice on Broadway (thanks Jane). I still tear up whenever I hear Seasons of Love.

AIDS also brought us Zero Patience which continues to be an absolute joy to me. If you want to see a truly unique, smart, and independent musical, check out John Greyson’s Zero Patience: “tell the story of my life.”

Later I had an opportunity to witness the miracle of Hedwig and the Angry Inch with John Cameron Mitchell at the Jane Street Theater before it became a film and an actual Broadway musical. That evening was the first night I wore my baby blue eyeglasses.

And recently I had the honor of seeing Fun Home with a bunch of super fun co-workers. What a treat. The depth of this musical – I never thought in my lifetime I’d see something so beautiful. So sad, so celebratory, so lesbian. Thank you Alison Bechdel for sharing your remarkable life story with us.

There have been others over the years. Actual stage musicals, film adaptations, and just plain films with songs. Additional favorites include 42nd Street, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Cabaret, Cabin in the Sky, Carmen Jones, Funny GirlMoulin Rouge, The Music ManStorm Weather, A Star is Born (Judy Garland), and Tommy. 

And I haven’t even begun to talk about television shows with musical numbers in them. Guess I’ll save that for another post.

So in conclusion, I need to stop pooh poohing musicals. Sure the big formulaic Broadway ones are boring. But no less boring than big Hollywood films or pop music that’s more about the bank than the heart. Great musicals bring a sense of magic and wonder to stories. They take you out of your world, take you out of your blues. And for a brief moment you’re a star, belting out the best damn song ever written.

Thanks for taking this journey with me. I’d love to know what your favorites are – stage, screen or even small screen!


John Sayles’ film series at the library

October 13, 2017

Beginning Saturday, October 14, 2017  I will be presenting a brand-new 3-part film series for the Fairfield Public Library. I’m very excited to share these wonderful films and John Sayles’ genius with library patrons.

Fall Film Series
American Independent Film Director: John Sayles
Saturdays, 1:30 pm
Rotary Room, Main Library

October 14, 2017: Matewan (1987)
October 28, 2017: Lone Star (1996)
November 11, 2017: Sunshine State (2002)

Join us this fall when we examine the work of independent film director John Sayles. Sayles entered American filmmaking in 1979 with his debut, Return of the Secaucus Seven. During the 70’s, these films were dubbed Art House Cinema. Today they’re known as Independent Cinema or “Indie.” Named independent, the genre and specifically the filmmaker, refuses financial assistance, input, or control from Hollywood. The films will be screened by Philip Bahr, reference librarian and film blogger. Bahr will introduce each film with a short presentation on independent filmmaking and a brief introduction to the movie. Afterwards, attendees are welcome to stay and discuss the film.

First up: Matawan this Saturday, October 14th.


A Feminist Film Critic in the Age of Weinstein (The Hollywood Reporter)

October 12, 2017

Film critic Sara Stewart unpacks her understanding of the Harvey Weinstein story and the avalanche of misogyny in Hollywood both in the industry as well as the products created. From The Hollywood Reporter,

In six years, it’s been incredibly rare for anyone from the critical community to simply say to me, “You know, that’s a good point about women.” It seems to me that, when it comes to reviews, voicing concerns about representation is often seen by my peers as an abdication of one’s pure love of filmmaking — a prioritizing of activism over criticism. I disagree. Misogyny in film should be pointed out as plainly and as often as possible. I try to support and promote other writers who do so. Because what message does our collective embrace, or enabling, of onscreen objectification send to the predators still out there?

Read the full article on The Hollywood Reporter.

TV Shows to Watch: A Reel Charlie List

October 9, 2017

Friends often ask how I keep track of television I’m interested in. I have a simple analog way of doing it. Perhaps someone out there will come up with a better alert system in the form of an app. Meanwhile, this how Reel Charlie rolls.

  1. I keep a permanent list of all the TV currently in production I love. It’s an alpha list with the next season up included. It’s in a sticky note program on my laptop’s desktop.
  2. Once I hear a show’s next season has an air date, I add it to my Google calendar.

Yup, that’s it.
What’s your system?

NewFest 2017

September 29, 2017

Metro NYC peeps: NewFest 2017
The 29th Annual New York LGBT Film Festival

Thursday October 19 – Tuesday October 24

NewFest will be celebrating its 29th annual New York LGBT Film Festival from October 19th – 24th, 2017. The six-day festival will feature over 100 films, panels, and parties that reflect the LGBT experience.

Reel Charlie’s looking forward to:
100 Men
Hot to Trot
My Wonderful West Berlin
One Last Thing

How to be a Slut in America – Part 1

September 19, 2017

Filmmaker Brian Jordan Alvarez is creating some of the most interesting episodic media from a gay man’s perspective. First there was The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo, a preposterous and effervescent look at 20-something life in L.A. Alvarez followed that up creating Stupid Idiots with writing partner Stephanie Koenig. Now he showcases a more serious side with Part 1 of How to be a Slut in America. This is less silly, more honest portrayal of a young man figuring out how he wants to live out his romantic and sexual life. Brian Jordan Alvarez continues to put himself out there and rewards us with outstanding content. 4 out of 5.

Watch How to be a Slut in America, Part 1 on YouTube. (NSFW)

The Criterion Collection: Reel Charlie’s Top 17

September 15, 2017

Whenever I see a famous person list their favorite Criterion films, I wonder what my list would look like? I took a shot at this back in 2012. Criterion’s been adding films monthly so my favorites list is ever-evolving. Currently I have a list of 17 must-see films from Criterion’s Collection. If you have access to Kanopy, you can see these films any time.

Reel Charlie’s 17 favorite Criterion releases (in alpha order):

All That Heaven Allows
A Christmas Tale
Desert Hearts
Fox and His Friends
Howards End
The Ice Storm
In the Mood for Love
Monsoon Wedding
My Beautiful Laundrette
A Room With a View
Rosemary’s Baby
The Times of Harvey Milk
Weekend (Haigh)
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown


Honorable Mention:

Being There
Do the Right Thing
Fish Tank
Frances Ha
The Great Beauty
Grey Gardens
La haine
The Lady Eve
Mildred Pierce
Shallow Grave
Three Colors: Blue
Valley of the Dolls

Explore all Criterion films at their website.

The Best Classic Movies for People Who Don’t Watch Older Films — IndieWire Critics Survey (IndieWire)

September 7, 2017

Interesting article about millennials not caring about older films. IndieWire highlights a list of “one film — the right film — could change their minds.” From IndieWire,

A recent article (based on a very unscientific poll) argued that millennials don’t really care about old movies. Maybe that’s true, and maybe it isn’t, but the fact remains that many people disregard classic cinema on principle. These people are missing out, but it only takes one film — the right film — to change their minds and forever alter their viewing habits.

Later in the piece Vadim Rizov (@vrizov), Filmmaker Magazine writes,

I also don’t understand why millennials need to see older films. There’s an assumption here, I guess, that it’s valuable to have some kind of shared national cultural reference points, the “shared monoculture as uniter” concept, but I’m not so sure that’s true.

I’m not sure why it’s important for anybody without the interest for something outside of their cultural intake comfort zone to sit down and watch “Rear Window.” I’m sure they can find other things to do with their time, and not everybody needs to care about movies. They already don’t.

The other thing is that people used to sit and watch older movies on TV for hours at a time simply because they had nothing better to do. Now people have tons of “content” they can consume, so they’re not sharing a collective, inertia-driven intake of older movies, and that’s not coming back, so it’s logical that fewer younger people would be watching older movies.

If you don’t enjoy film, I get the comments above. If you’re consumed only with media created by and for your generation, your youth, I also get that. But to lump an entire generation into one category seems as limiting as assuming everyone needs to watch classic film. I know many people who don’t embrace classic film. That’s fine. But I disagree completely with the idea that since we all have access to streaming services on the device in our pocket, we no longer need to see Hitchcock films. I watched very few classic films in my 20’s. It wasn’t until I moved to NYC in my 30’s and had access to Kim’s Videos and Two Boots Video that I began delving into classic film. I never hit the retrospective theaters until after I discovered classics at home on VHS. So it’s fine to give millennials space to come to the party late like I did. But as a media blogger, I would continue to encourage any one at any age to give older films a try. We live in an era where a certain type of film gets made. These films don’t appeal to many people. Perhaps another group of films from another time may speak more authentically to those alienated by superheroes and violence. I know I’m generalizing here, but hopefully you catch my drift.

Read the full article on IndieWire.
Browse Reel Charlie’s category Classic (which doesn’t always mean older films).

Where Are All the Great, New, Streaming Movies?

September 6, 2017

I receive a monthly email from Decider telling me what’s new to streaming each month. Decider publishes separate lists for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, HBO NOW, Starz, Showtime, Sundance Now, Shudder, Acorn TV, Tribeca Shortlist, and Britbox. I only subscribe to Netflix and Amazon Prime.

The past few months I’ve noticed there’s fewer films I’m interested in adding to my queue. Sure, I’m a series junkie and in September alone I’m looking forward to new seasons from Transparent and One Mississippi. But this man cannot live on episodes alone. It’s hard for me to believe I’m that snobbish I can’t find any newly acquired films on either platform. But this month, there was nothing at all on either list. What’s happening?

Keep in mind, I’m talking new content here. There are 155 items (film and television seasons) in my Netflix streaming queue, 38 in my Netflix DVD queue, and 198 items in my Amazon Prime Watch List. It’s going to take me a long time to work my way through those titles.

Also realize there are outstanding new titles being added this month. However they are films I’ve already seen such as Hidden Figures, Requiem for a Dream, and Carol on Netflix. Nothing I’ve already seen and loved on Amazon Prime. Hmm.

For this post I’m specifically talking about fresh content new to me. I suppose it’s time to start doing some research. I will compare the multiple platforms and see if there’s another worthy of my subscription. If you’re interested in doing the same, follow these links below to see all that’s available in September. No real surprise that I continue to use disks to enhance my viewing experience. From Decider,

From original series to new and classic movies, here’s everything new on your favorite services this month:

Here’s Everything New On Netflix This September.

Here’s Everything New On Amazon Prime Video This September.

Here’s Everything New On Hulu This September.

Here’s Everything New On HBO NOW This September.

Here’s Everything New On Starz This September.

Here’s Everything New On Showtime This September.

Here’s Everything New On Sundance Now This September.

Here’s Everything New On Shudder This September.

Here’s Everything New On Acorn TV This September.

Here’s Everything New On Tribeca Shortlist This September.

Here’s Everything New On Britbox This September.


A Timeline of (Nearly) Every LGBT Couple in TV History (Out)

September 2, 2017

Journey through the American television timeline for a look at the favorite LGBT couples of all time.  Including Reel Charlie favorites,

Willow & Tara (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 2000)
David & Keith (Six Feet Under, 2001)
Ben & Michael (Queer as Folk, 2002)
Dana & Alice (The L Word, 2004)
Jenny & Marina (The L Word, 2004) – ok, seriously anyone and Marina.
Omar & Renaldo (The Wire, 2006)
Tasha & Alice (The L Word, 2007)
Rick & Steve (Rick and Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World, 2007)
Lafayette & Jesus (True Blood, 2010)
Kurt & Blaine (Glee, 2011)
Tara & Pam (True Blood, 2012)
Stef & Lena (The Fosters, 2013)
Piper & Alex (Orange is the New Black, 2013)
Patrick & Richie (Looking, 2014)
Sarah & Tammy (Transparent, 2014)
Dom & Lynn (Looking, 2014)
Augustin & Eddie (Looking, 2015)
Connor & Jude (The Fosters, 2015)
Nomi & Amanita (Sense8, 2015)
Lito & Hernando (Sense8, 2015)

Clicking on the couple takes you to their slide at
Clicking on the series title takes you to Reel Charlie’s review.
109 couples in total. Who’re your favorites? See the full list at Out.

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