Tag Archives: LGBT

Beach Rats

[4 stars]

I was a long time getting around to this first film by Eliza Hittman . In fact, I found her second, first: Never Rarely Sometimes Always. But it was the empathy and craft of that story that sent me back to her debut with Beach Rats. I’m late to the game to say she is someone to really watch, but it is still worth saying.

Hittman didn’t give us a likeable hero in her first film. Harris Dickinson (The Darkest Minds) is flawed in both endearing and truly ugly ways. But he is also trapped by circumstance and his own struggles. And Dickinson committed to all of that without reservation on screen. So much so that you aren’t sure if the movie is a coming of age story or a tragedy. And, frankly, you still won’t be by the end.

Hittman puts you so deeply into the point of view of Dickinson’s character that you completely inhabit his world. At points you even forget you’re not just watching through hidden cameras at his life. But despite being steeped in a sort of macho hell, Dickinson’s Frankie has two strong female influences in his circles: his mother, played by Kate Hodge and his girlfriend, Madeline Weinstein (Mare of Easttown). Both are quiet but strong influences, though whether they can break through to him is all part of the story.

And the tension of the story is drawn so taut that the ending is almost a release on its own. It’s clear this isn’t going to be a happy tale from the beginning, but it also isn’t without sparks of hope.

For a first film Eliza Hittman packed it with subtlety and power. It has been living on my list since its release in 2017, but I hadn’t had the nerve to spin it up. If you’ve been avoiding either of her films for fear of the subject, well, suck it up and make the time. These aren’t easy characters to love, but they are so very human and real as to encourage our commitment.

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Shiva Baby

[3 stars]

Shiva. It’s a thing. And Emma Seligman captures it in a way that is both delightfully uncomfortable and weirdly accurate. Not so much in the specifics, but definitely in the feel of it all. Seligman hit it all dead-on in her script and in her directing. Not bad for a first feature that presents a black comedy with more heart than you anticipate.

She also managed some great casting for her needs. Rachel Sennott (Call Your Mother) manages to be petulantly put-upon while also staying somewhat tragic. She’s a hot mess, but somewhat formed by the world she grew up in.  And Molly Gordon (The Broken Hearts Gallery) is a great counter-balance to Sennott as the calm core of the crazy day of mourning.

Frothing around the two are some fabulous characters. Polly Draper and Fred Melamed (In a World…) as her parents are painfully fun. They run the line between mean and caring in a way that many will recognize. And Dianna Agron (I Am Number Four) brings an outside, quiet tension to the gathering that stays utterly controlled. The rest of the rooms are filled with recognizable faces that lob quiet bombs and cross-conversation through the flick. Seligman just lets the conversations wash over you at times as Sennott passes through or is within proximity; often to funny effect.

If you enjoyed movies like Barney’s Version or This is Where I Leave You, this is probably another you should throw onto your list.

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Fear Street: Part 3 – 1666

[3 stars]

It’s all comes down to this: the origin. And what a nice payoff it is. As you’d expect, given the previous two parts, the cast reprises from the previous 1994 and 1978 time frames to inhabit the 1666 characters. Kiana Madeira and Olivia Scott Welch are back at the center along with Ashley Zukerman (The Code), Gillian Jacobs (Life Partners), and, now with a bit more range, Benjamin Flores Jr. (Rim of the World).

Having the setup of the previous two parts, this third flies in a swift 2 hours of suspense, action, and frustration. But the best part is that everything you’ve learned comes back into play right up through the end. And there is where it stumbles just the tiniest bit.

The main action resolves perfectly fine and acceptably. But there is a moment, and you can’t miss it, where there is an obvious and boneheaded oversight. I know it’s a trope of the genre, but it could have been less ham-handed. In fact, if it weren’t for that, I’d have rated the whole movie higher. That gaff cost it because after all the clever, subversive, and frankly well thought out planning, it was cheap and insulting to the audience.

But that frustration aside, which is small in comparison to the journey, this is a great trilogy of dark fun executed with a clever eye and solid talent. Leigh Janiak pulled the sequence off with aplomb and will have me watching for her next project for sure; as well as some of the cast.

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Bosch (series finale)

[4 stars]

There is nothing more wonderful for a show than to go out on a high, and Bosch most definitely did. In many ways, this was their best season yet, though it stood and relied on all the underpinnings of the previous 6.

Titus Welliver (Escape Plan 2: Hades) embodied Connelly’s detective. He created a tough, thoughtful man, driven by justice more than rules, but very specific about when he’s willing to color outside the lines.

Supported by Jamie Hector as his slightly messed up partner and Amy Aquino (The Lazarus Effect) as his strong but besieged Captain, he’s navigated multiple crimes and corruption, joy and tragedy. Lance Reddick (Sylvie’s Love) as the Chief of Police certainly contributed to both sides of that equation over time. And, as comic relief (often with more than a little edge) Troy Evans and Gregory Scott Cummins as the OG detective partners in the room make the best old married couple on TV.

Madison Lintz grew with the show as Bosch’s daughter. We got to watch her find her feet as an actor and a character. By the end, she has found her footing, with the surprising help of Mimi Rogers, and has blended the best of Bosch and her mother.

There is little doubt where the series had to end, given some of the changes that were made when it was adapted. Both readers and watchers will feel a sense of completion with the arc, regardless of how they came to it. Despite a number of parallel threads running through the season, all are tied up nicely (and one perhaps a bit too conveniently, but was necessary for dramatic effect). And there is still room for it to go forward if they execute on the rumors that are circulating. Suffice to say, if you enjoy police procedural, this is one of the best done in a long time. It is, in some ways, the male counterpart to Prime Suspect, but with a very different perspective and a very different set of flaws.

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Love, Victor (series 2)

[3 stars]

Yes, everyone is still a little too nice and everything is still a little too easy in this series, but I wish there had been a show like this when I was growing up. Because, despite all the young adult, sit-commy tropes, it tackles a wide range of issues head-on that almost no one else has tried. It also manages to finally pull itself free of the confines of the original book to be able to start its own course.

This second season of Victor also broadens its focus. Where the first season was very focused on the stress and fear and wonderfulness of Victor’s struggle to come out, this season tackles the aftermath. And it isn’t all pretty, though it is all well-meaning. And, sure, that’s where things are a bit too easy. But, like the first season, this is a show of hope not trauma. The young LGBTQ+ community needs to know it can go right. And, even when it doesn’t, that there is a community out there for them.

But the show goes beyond that demo to take in growing up as a whole. With several storylines around Victor, as well as some adult struggles, the world expands to something a little more real. I recognize that it’s all manipulative as hell, but it manages to do it in a good and cathartic way that allows you to forgive it.

A renewal still hasn’t been announced, but if they can maintain the quality and trajectory, I’d love to see where they take it next.

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Ailey

[3 stars]

Through contemporary interviews, much-abused archival footage, and the rehearsal efforts of the American Dance Theatre to honor their founder, Jamila Wignot does her best to introduce us to Alvin Ailey, the man. But the truth is that much of who that man was had never really been captured in public records…or at least none that have been readily shared, if the resulting documentary is to be believed at face value.

His cultural truth, his childhood truth…that is on display throughout and in his choreography. That said, there are a few moments of unguarded, personal truth that let us in. Ailey, the man, even though he avoided most of the worst of segregation and prejudice in his working life, never felt safe to be his true self till very late in his life. At least not in the dance part of his life… which by all accounts was most of what he was.

The resulting total of his story is one that leaves you educated and affected deeply. He was respected and loved by his dancers and the arts world. What is sad is that the quality of a lot of the archival footage is pretty worn as, I’m sure, no one saw the point of capturing and protecting the work of a primarily non-white dance company back in the 50s and 60s.

But the film doesn’t focus on the choreography per se. What Ailey thought of himself, his place in the world, and how he dealt with those pressures, is what Wignot really wants us to understand. Not just to comprehend Ailey, but to understand the culture he came from and to help break that cycle. Find this and support it when you get the chance. Even if you know about Ailey and his work, this likely will expose more than you were aware of about him and the American Dance Theater.

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Lucifer (The end, sort of…)

[3.5 stars]

This has been a delayed post because there just wasn’t any rush to get it out there. It isn’t like it was the end of the series or anything. In fact, it’s become a bit of a joy and a joke that Lucifer keeps getting a series finale reprieve. First on broadcast, and now multiple times on Netflix. This latest series (#5, part 2), was originally intended to bring a final close to our anti-hero’s story…before, again, it was granted a final 10 episodes coming later this year. And you can see the shape of the season shift a little as they realize they’ve more to say and are going to be allowed to say it. At least if you know what you’re looking for.

All that said, Lucifer continues to find its real venue on Netflix. Had it started there, rather than languishing on broadcast for a few seasons, it may have found a larger audience as they could have explored more and been truer to the original characters and situations. This second half of the season barrels to a clear ending that still manages to surprise in both delightful and shocking ways. While some characters are seeing their stories finally explored, like Kevin Alejandro, others are being slightly rewritten to meet the new goals, particularly Aimee Garcia, but nothing that doesn’t seem to work.

Overall, the wrap-up to the season is a great ride and with an interesting (if inevitable) springboard for the (maybe) series finale coming soon.

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Hacks

[3.5 stars]

First, let me take a moment to praise the great Jean Smart (Superintelligence) who, after 5 decades in the business, is still enjoying success and delivering wonderful performances. And this latest dark and off-color comedy, with her partner-in-crime Hannah Einbinder, is a great escape as well as a fun musing on generational change and differences (and samnesses).

Broad City trio, Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, and Jen Statsky have found a great balance between the two main characters and their perspectives. They, obviously, find themselves learning more about each other as time goes on and, through that, about their own lives and choices. That’s the formula. But sharp edge of the dialogue and the bare honesty of the business they are in is entertaining as hell.

Hacks constantly evolves as it progresses, each episode peeling back layers of artifice and assumption. But through it all are funny moments and snappy dialogue. The main female duo dominate, but the help of Christopher McDonald, and Carl Clemons-Hopkins shouldn’t be overlooked.

It still has a couple episodes to go, so you can jump on the train and catch up before it finales. And, given the trip so far, I’m willing to get ahead of the finale to recommend it now. In case you’re worried, it’s already been renewed for a second season, so you’re not making an investment that will leave you hanging.

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Supernova

[3.5 stars]

Better known as an actor, Harry Macqueen wrote and directed this quietly intense story that should be recognizable to anyone who has ever been, or ever wanted to be, in a long-term relationship. Despite its framing, it isn’t a story about a gay couple, it’s a story about two lovers in crisis and holding on to one another as they navigate the issues. And he manages to do all this through quiet dialogue and without losing tension.

It’s worth every minute of this movie to follow Stanley Tucci (The Witches) and Colin Firth (Mary Poppins Returns) across the English countryside as they struggle to help one another accept the latest phase of their marriage. Both are wonderfully subtle actors, and the depth of their connection is undeniable.

It’s hard not to watch this and not compare it to The Leisure Seeker. Despite the radically different temperaments of the two movies, they tread the same ground in many ways; that of a deep and abiding love facing mortality. But unlike Leisure Seeker, little happens in this movie and few secrets are revealed. It really is a story about the two talking to each other and their friends. But, thanks to the clever direction and editing, it isn’t in the least boring.

This is definitely one to curl up on the couch with your nearest loved one and consider what it means to spend a lifetime together.

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The Nevers (series 1)

[4 stars]

The Nevers is probably the most complex and dense new world created for genre TV since Game of Thrones. The six episodes are so packed as to be, at times, exhausting to keep up with. But it is worth every gasp and bit of effort. If I have any real criticism of the show it’s that it should have had at least 8 episodes to get started, but I loved every minute we did get.

Originally put together by Joss Whedon, but then carried forward by other ex-Buffy crew Douglas Petrie (Daredevil) and Jane Espenson (Jessica Jones, Husbands), the show will constantly keep you guessing as to motive and plot. No mystery is held back too long and the overall story is wonderfully unique, on television at least.

The story is led by Laura Donnelly (The Fall) with amazingly controlled intensity and depth. She’s surrounded by a group of wonderful performers, some known and some less so (at least in the States). In the latter category, Ann Skelly, Tom Riley (Da Vinci’s DemonsSt. Trinian’s: Legend of Fritton’s Gold), Rochelle Neil (Terminator: Dark Fate), and Amy Manson (Being Human) rise to the top, but are far from the list that should be acknowledged.

And then there are the better known faces. Among them James Norton (Grantchester), Olivia Williams (The Father), Nick Frost (Truth Seekers), and Pip Torrens (Roadkill, and so much more) are the ones that immediately come to mind. And then there is a great smaller role by Claudia Black. Again, that is far from the full number of recognizable faces and great characters there are to enjoy and revile.

I will admit, the show isn’t perfect. Particularly some of the sound mix, which tends to mask the dialogue which is often tossed off so casually as to be too quiet or so heavily accented as to be a challenge (and I watch a LOT of British TV). And as I said, the story is dense and, at times, hard to track all the various threads when you’ve a week between drops. This last problem can be averted by binging (or rewatching) which I will certainly be doing at some point. Some of the plot is inscrutable until later in the season because…secrets. And that one I can live with. And some of the plot is just left hanging due to the lack of time to resolve all the threads.

All that said, it’s worth the effort. Especially true if you like watching strong women (in all kinds of ways) in surprising roles. The society very well mapped to the history we know when England was doing everything in its power to maintain an Aristocracy in control, an Empire cowed, and women in their place. And the finale (reminiscent of Dollhouse’s two season finales) which reveals and confirms much while it whipsaws you in wonderful ways.

I have no idea where the second series of this show will go, but I can’t wait to see what they do with it. The finale raised at least as many questions as it answered. But the main point is that if you haven’t dived into this world yet, make time for it.

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