K-GAY TV Goes to the Movies

This could all be an exercise in how emotionally broken and busted up I am.

Or bitter.

Or self-loathing.

Or what have you.

But I watched some movie and now I want to talk about it.

Merry Christmas Eve, by the way!

Anyway. I’ve fallen into this avoidance trap. I don’t know why, but I’m doing anything in front of the TV to avoid watching Christmas movies. Maybe it’s because I watched Bad Moms Christmas last year and it put me off the whole genre? Nonetheless, this has manifested by me creating my own themes to binge.

One of these was gay themed movies. The two I want to discuss today both put me off watching them for one reason or another – fine, they both annoyed me – if that tells you how hard I was resisting Christmas themed movies.

How can a movie annoy me before I’ve even seen it, you ask?

Not surprisingly, it was the usual trigger for me: idiots.

When Bros came out and the first weekend earnings were reported, they lacked a certain luster. It made less than $5 million in its opening weekend. The writer and star blamed straight people for not seeing his rom-com because the main characters were gay.

Like…what?

Ballpark cocktail napkin math, there’s 20 million gay men in the US. Countless others who identify as queer, questioning, gender-fluid or trans. And then a handful of lesbians who sympathetically tolerate gay men.

Y’know what, that’s too complicated. The old rule of thumb (and by “old” I mean outdated) is that 10% of the population is gay. In America, that translates to around 35 million people. If just ten percent of that 10% <ahem> came out for opening weekend, that’s a $35 million opening weekend.

Bitch, your own people didn’t show up for you. Trust me, having written a couple of gay themed books, I understand the phenomenon. Don’t blame the straights, it’s your community.

So, yeah…that kinda put me off.

Conversely, the other gay themed movie is been awaiting was My Policeman. After the media hullaballoo surrounding star Harry Styles’ other movie release this year (Don’t Worry Darling) I was looking forward to something I could enjoy without experiencing a shitshow of humanity-baiting press beforehand. But the idiots came through and pissed me off again.

Several of the reviews went out of their way to mention Styles’ English accent sounded contrived and unbelievable.

Harry is from the United Kingdom.

What the hell is wrong with people?

After overcoming those frustrations – at least to the point that the idea of watching them bothered me less than the idea of viewing Christmas content – I made a weekend of it.

Are you ready for this? Gird your loins. No, on second thought, you little peeves put your loins out of your minds altogether. I’m sorry I mentioned it.

Bros

Months and months ago, I heard about this gay movie that was coming out this year called Bros. It was written by and starred Billy Eichner, who I am not a fan of – he’s just not my cup of personality tea. Conversely, it was directed by Nicholas Stoller who brought us okay titles like Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek. It was also being produced by Judd Apatow.

So there was plenty of recognizable name power behind it. You gotta assume that if anyone could succeed at being a gay-centric rom-com into the mainstream, it was a crew like this.

I spent the time mentally playing Russian roulette. This wasn’t a movie, it seemed as it was a sentence.

Don’t get me wrong, I was only mentally playing Russian roulette, not literally, so it wasn’t that bad. But even weeks after watching it I’m still trying to figure out if I’m bending over backward to not hate it.

Here are me takeaways:

1) There’s some (singular) guy candy. The whole premise of the trailer is that nerdy gay Billy can’t grapple with the reality that hot co-star Luke MacFarlane could be into him. Ok, I feel that particular struggle. Anymore what used to be surprise at learning someone was attracted to me has turned into outright suspicion. Like when a good looking guy pays attention to me my response isn’t to be flattered, it “What do you want?”

2) Sadly, Luke’s character – as easy as he is to look at – has almost the entire patchwork of gay fucked up-ness in his quilt: your basic gym bunny of a commitment-phobe, hyper-sexualized, Homo. Even when the story opens him up a little by giving him a totally out of character secret dream to make him look vulnerable, it’s immediately thrown in the dirt and stomped on by throwing his gay-shame in our faces when his family visits the Big Apple for Christmas.

3) Stunt casting is alive! But maybe not well? Several out actors played roles in this film. That was nice to see – even if the community didn’t come out for the show, it supported the community of out entertainers in its casting. The winner for me was Amanda Bearse playing Luke’s character’s mother. The conservative mindset of the character explains some of Luke’s dis-ease with Billy meeting them, but it was her eventual understanding of how her narrow worldview impacted others that did it for me. It was nice to see Guillermo Diaz play a het dad instead of an unhinged killer. Jai Rodriquez playing Luke’s uber-masc brother pretty much made me realize casting members of the community was more important than casting people who could sell the characters they were playing. Debra Messing is a moderately bright spot in the film playing herself as an out of date star that basically has a meltdown during her scene over being famous for being a fruit fly.

4) The Gays can’t seem to evolve professionally. In the 70s and 80s, we were all basically hair burners and retail queens. Now we’re all drag queens or caricatures of people with no real depth or involved in something that serves our ungrateful and entitled community. Case in point, Billy’s character is a podcaster who is named to lead the blah-blah-blah LGBTQ center. But first he had to build it, which is a central theme in the movie. The closest we come to an actual profession is Luke’s character who is an attorney who does estate planning. To further the programming of The Gays and reinforce that we should not aspire to such respectable professions, he hates it.

5) For as much as we call ourselves a community, there’s truly no unity here. Again, The Gays didn’t go to the movie, but if they had, all they would have seen is the usual selfish infighting amongst the alphabetical factions.

6) The Gays are as self-unaware as ever. Bowen Yang (more stunt casting!) plays a billionaire media mogul who briefly comes into the orbit of this storyline. The scene ends with him dismissing the main characters by telling them he has to go to a Pride pool party and they are too “old” to go in the pool, so they have to leave. Now, I’m all for cleverly bitchy wit. I’m also one for accountability, too, and watching this scene play out made me cringe. Excluding people based on things that are out of their control like age or genes is just not ok. Yang is no underwear model, so I can’t imagine how he felt delivery such an ageist line. If he’s the typical ‘22 model of The Gays, I’m sure the point was entirely lost on him.

Honestly, this is pretty much how I felt about the whole movie. I couldn’t figure out if it was just basic or if it was trying to lampoon was passes for Gay Kulture these days but just wasn’t smart enough to pull it off.

That’s my main takeaway – confusion.

Honestly, props to those involved for taking a big swing on this. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a big miss for me. If you want to see a gay movie about a nerd and a stud falling in love with an out of date TV star having a meltdown…see 1999’s Trick. Tori Spelling was an amazing bit of stunt casting in this indy flick whose meltdown is truly a memorable moment. Plus, Coco Peru’s cameo alone is worth the ticket – rental, now – price, because…it does burn, Coco!

My Policeman

After bracing myself for Harry’s inability to pull of a convincing English accent, I settled into this little slice of life time capsule. Then again, after watching Bros, it was pretty easy to settle in with the expectations bar set pretty low.

This movie takes place in two different times in the three main characters’ lives, separated by 40-some odd years and splices the events of the two points together as the story unfolds.

I’m not going to try and do that here. Suffice to say, it ends up unfolding as a three-way tragedy.

The movie starts with an infirm old Patrick being delivered by medical transport to the home of childless couple Tom and Marion. He’s just recovered from a stroke and is here to convalesce. Marion is glad to have their old pal from decades earlier back in their lives, not to mention someone to take care of to give her days some purpose. Tom is not so happy about the arrival, spending his screen time walking the couple’s dog on the beach.

As the story hood between the past and present, we learn that Tom is a retired policeman who early in his career was a lone singleton in his precinct who was told that single officers don’t get promoted. Enter Marion who is a school teacher that is instantly smitten with the handsome young Tom – let’s face it, regardless of which side your bread is buttered on, Harry Styles is pretty easy to look at, weak-assed English accent be damned.

Tom introduces Marion to a young Patrick, who he claims to have met after an accident.

The three become friends. And it’s a friendship independent of the marriage. Marion and Patrick enjoy cultural outings together without Tom. Tom, for his part, enjoys his alone time with Patrick in…other ways.

Marion does what wives in the 50s-ish era did, ignored the signs about the true nature of Tom and Patrick’s relationship. On that note, maybe we understand a little more of Marion’s motivation behind inviting Patrick to their home to heal. Certainly, it’s easier to understand Tom’s absence in the house.

But it was nostalgic viewing for me. Even though my early relationships with men occurred in the late 80s and early 90s versus the 40s or 50s, the closet was still the room I spent the most time in. Beards – as the women in relationships of convenience were called – were still commonplace. A friend of mine who was a bank VP in the early 90s was told the same thing Tom was. Being a VP versus a beat cop, his response was more “Who the fuck cares?” versus pairing up, but it still happened.

Maybe nostalgia is the wrong word. Because the end result was that I was mad at the memory. The secret life gays were forced to live. The way women were treated as results. The emotional costs on both sides of the transaction.

Regardless, it was a far better depiction of this type of gay-straight love triangle than Threesome. But that probably went without saying – even if you never knew that movie existed…

What upset me most, though, about My Policeman was knowing that the current – or recent – generations of The Gays are oblivious to the trauma of the reality so many generations of their predecessors existed in. Their own culture. But it’s not their problem and certainly nowhere near as traumatic as their realities. Y’know, the one where no one gets their pronouns right and they don’t make enough on their OnlyFans to support their undeserved caviar tastes, leaving them no choice but to self-diagnose with anxiety and/or depression as a result. That’s tragedy.

So while I quite enjoyed watching the story of My Policeman unfold – as well as Harry’s too-infrequent naked ass – the movie left me angrier for what our culture has lost than anything else. That loss is history. Such an important piece of any culture and one of the reasons I spell the word with a K when I pair it with the word gay.

Still, as a counterbalance to my reaction to Bros, I feel like my emotional Geiger counter might not be as broken as I alluded to in my intro. I was still a bit intrigued by the fact that neither of these stories really had the emotional impact upon me their creators would have imagined.

Until

I rewatched Top Gun: Maverick.

Sixteen minutes in and I am shedding tears the way I wish I could shed belly fat: fast and voluminously.

“What the fuck?!?” I asked Myrtle, who opened one eye at the question to let me know it was my problem and not worth rousing her from her nap.

If it would have just been that one instance of nostalgic tears, I could have written it off. But sixteen minutes later, there’s I was again, wiping my face – not my eyes, my face – with both hands.

Then fourteen minutes later.

Then ten.

And it really didn’t let up for the two-plus hours of the movie.

Top fucking Gun fucking Maverick. That’s the movie that provoked an emotional response from me?

Maybe I am more emotionally busted up than I want to let on.

On the other hand, maybe before I decide I should survey a bunch of naval aviators to see what their response was to TG:M. If they didn’t have a strong emotional reaction to the movie, maybe that’s my out: if you’re in the community, there’s a normalizing factor that familiarity breeds where you’re more witnessing the story versus becoming emotionally invested in it.

Oof. I should have stretched before that reach.

K-GAY TV Goes to the Movies

Mental Venn Diagrams

I’ve been taking some deliberate time lately. Grabbing back what I can of “me” time versus running from work (from home) to social engagements immediately after. Or making a point of taking a lunch to workout and shower before the back half of my day instead of working from 8-5 (or later, many days) without taking a lunch break at all.

I’m not mad that the job I ended up signing on for keeps me engaged at that level. I’m just forcing myself to remember, my work is only one part of my identity and happiness.

To that end, sometimes I’ll leave work (from home) and meet friends – or not – for drinks, maybe dinner. Others, I’ll leave work (from home) and go do dinner deliveries for a couple hours to get out of the house for a bit.

The thing that was missing there wasn’t immediately obvious to me. Just really revealing itself last week – the week before my vacation.

Me time.

All of my activities involved being a participant with someone else. Not that I know the intent wasn’t there. I know I would intentionally set out take myself out for a solo drink often. Sometimes neighbors would drop in to the local watering hole. Others, just the staff would pull me out of my solo time to just be at zero, thinking Xtopher things and recharging my spirit, if you will, so I was ready to put my best self out into the world again.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not mad about being world famous on my block. I just remember from my days of career management, I always had my me time.

I was missing it.

Since my usual activities weren’t providing the recharge I needed, I ripped a page out of the Silver Fox’s playbook and just started staying home. There’s a bit more to that, which I’ll get into later this week or this weekend, but I looked at what I was doing and made a conscious change to change my results.

Like a damn smarty.

It’s kinda hard to stay home. I don’t have a big place, and there’s literally a bookshelf dividing my desk from my couch. Ergo, if I’m looking to get away from work, and “get away” isn’t physically executed…what’s giving me that perceived distance?

Since I’d joined HelloFresh, there were two nights of cooking built in as that get away. That was nice. Keeping the kitchen clean from its newly increased full-function usage versus the usual fridge and microwave abuse it was accustomed to could provide a nice transition one night a week. Can’t say I was keen on turning that critical cleanliness as an escape mindset loose on the rest of my home, though.

It’s a mess.

Last night, in a fit of semi-boredom, I cleaned to metal light fixtures that hang over my kitchen bar. The years of cumulative dust and cat hair since their last cleaning – lacquered in place by kitchen grease now that I’ve taken up cooking again – made it quite a task. I’m not lying when I say each fixture took closer to ten minutes than five to clean. Since it was hands over shoulders work, that added some extra humility to the exercise.

But I needed it last night.

Why? Why did I need a couple 5-10 minute tasks?

To give my mind time to make decisions in the background while I was focused on something else.

It’s a good trick.

And there are just too many TV show options to be able to decide!

If I were a younger gay man – or just one interested in blending my DNA in with the rest of the Gay Herd – I’d have opened up the loathsome Grindr and used that to kill time. But I’d still bet that I’d stand out from the other livestock there by thinking about something while there…

Are you shocked my dilemma is essentially nonsense? What TV show to watch…this is a first world problem of the highest order.

Here’s the deal, though. Last week I’d watched My Policeman – more on that in another blog – and had seen Don’t Worry Darling available to stream on another recent scroll through my entertainment options. In that moment, as the credits rolled, I was able to ask myself, “Self, do you want to watch both of Harry Styles’ current cinematic offerings in one night?”

I quickly responded – reflexively, even – in the negatory. I also dismissed switching to Disney+ to watch The Eternals as some sort of Harry Styles Plan B (he’s in the end credit scene).

Somehow, my addled brain ended up watching the first Kelvin Universe Star Trek movie to scratch the itch I was feeling. It’s Harry Styles adjacent since Chris Pine plays Captain Kirk in Star Trek but also co-stars with Styles in Don’t Worry Darling. As an extra Venn moment, the teaser at the beginning of the film – the moment that we later find out was the break from the standard Trek canon to Kelvin Universe – is Kirk’s birth. Kirk’s dad is played by none other than Chris Hemsworth, known for his role as Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, of which The Eternals is a part.

Exhausting, right? And I didn’t even mention that Zoe Saldana plays Uhura in the Klein Star Trek films and Gamora in the MCU’s Guardians of the Galaxy movies. See? I pulled a punch for you in describing my insanity.

It took more effort and time to type that out than it dI’d to process and execute in real time. And I mention that because yesterday I finally got around to watching Booksmart.

Amazing movie. It did a fantastic job of presenting a story that should be relatable across multiple generations. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

As the credits rolled I found myself thinking, “Should I watch Don’t Worry Darling? Wait. Didn’t I just watch it a while back?” You see, Booksmart was Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, Darling is her sophomore effort.

This is why I needed to B-reel the question. I couldn’t recall whether I’d watched Don’t Worry Darling recently and I also wasn’t sure I wanted to dedicate an afternoon/evening geeking out on one director. It’s neither star Trek nor Wars, so giving something multiple movies in a day elevates it.

So I cleaned light fixtures.

Ultimately, the media drama – not buzz, drama – surrounding Don’t Worry Darling made me decide to give it a watch. It was time to see the thing that created the opportunity for all this other stuff people were talking about to exist.

Couldn’t find it.

I was goading myself in an attempt to sharpen my focus or resolve to succeed because I knew I had seen it available recently. Did I need to rent it to play out my plan?

Nope. Wasn’t even available for rent on any of the streamers I have.

I popped over to IMDb to see where I could watch it. HBOMax. I don’t have that one, and I wondered if I’d seen it advertised to watch while watching House of the Dragon with the Silver Fox at his place. Didn’t seem likely, the last time we’d watched TV together was too far removed.

Maddeningly, I couldn’t find it.

Gave up, I did. Watched Star Trek: Into Darkness instead, I did.

And, no…it wasn’t because of the Uhura thing since the overlap didn’t exist. But since Benedict Cumberbacht plays Khan in this movie, it was enough to derail the fleeting impulse I had to pull up Disney+ and watch an Avengers et al movie – because Xtopher definitely does not watch one Marvel movie, it’s “Sayonara, rest of the week” if I start down that rabbit hole. So the MCU crossover double casting in Into Darkness satisfied the Marvel impulse while also finishing up the two best Kelvin Universe Trek films. Sorry, Star Trek: Beyond, you were…fine.

Interestingly enough, Beyond also dips into the MCU casting pool with Idris Elba as the bad guy. Crap. Guess now I have to watch it. It’s not like I have to get up early tomorrow, so…why not?

I guess this blog was tonight’s B-reel activity. How nice you got to experience that realization in real time right along with me.

Mental Venn Diagrams

Nostalgia Zone

When I first heard – years and years ago, now – that there was a sequel in development to 1986’s summer blockbuster Top Gun, I might have sprained something rolling my eyes. Admittedly, when news of production delays started trickling out, my surprise was hard to locate.

But once this year surprisingly finally arrived, bringing with it the promise of the Memorial Day weekend release of Top Gun: Maverick, I was…intrigued. Daunted, but intrigued.

Daunted because I had been psyching myself up for a post-lockdown return to theaters for months. There were shows whose marketing made me swear they would be the trigger to get me back yo my pre-pandemic routine of seeing 2-3 movies each month. After the marketing hype died down and the reviews started rolling in and showing the reality of that hype, those movies quickly faded from memory.

It was like the hyper intensity of losing one’s virginity all over again! I wanted to “give it up” for a worthy movie, not…The King’s Man.

Like Spider-Man – which I see makes my prior analogy creepy since this movie is about a high school superhero. In my defense, that could have been any Marvel movie. However, I’d given a Disney employee a ride last November and mentioned Black Widow possibly popping my post-COVID theater cherry and he encouraged me to save it and stream Black Widow.

In defense of ScarJo’s superhero swan song, I did stream it and it was quite enjoyable. Even the second time I watched it on Disney+.

The reality is, Spider-Man didn’t do it for me. I just couldn’t get to a theater for Peter Parker. None of the other seasonal tentpole movies got me there, either.

Strangely, it did end up being a Marvel movie that ultimately got me there: Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. It was…good, and I’m glad I saw it on a big screen, but at the same time understood the save it for streaming advice I’d gotten about Black Widow six months earlier.

But you know what made it the winner?

Top Gun: Maverick.

The gushing critical reviews were near-unanimous. It had a 97% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

It seemed to be universally taking everyone’s breath away.

What, you thought the title would be the only pun in this post?

It had a Memorial Day weekend opening, 36 years after the original’s holiday weekend – I think the original had a July 4th debut – release.

But it wasn’t the hype or the reviews that bore out the hype that still failed to get me there. It wasn’t only the crowds I anticipated for a three day weekend blockbuster release that kept me away.

It was the PNW weather, believe it or not.

You see, when I saw the original, it was during the first summer I lived away from home after graduating high school. I saw it in an old-time one screen movie house in Manhattan on a sultry summer weekend night.

No AC.

No air handling whatsoever.

Movie magic induced adrenaline.

Sweaty hunks playing volleyball.

For so many reasons, those herculon-upholstered movie theater seats probably needed to be wrung out after this show.

But what will always stay with me about this viewing experience is the Basic Becky that stood up in the middle of both the show and and the theater and decided that it was more important for us all to see everything she’d consumed that day.

Given the presence of the humidity and heat, the absence of AC or any ventilation and the smell of co-ed puke and the underlying burn of stomach acid…an irreplaceable memory was created.

While I could certainly do without a Basic Becky reunion, I just couldn’t get behind a Top Gun reunion without summer weather. The PNDub let me down, having clocked our 10th wettest May on record. Seeing Maverick under those weather conditions would have been as weird as going to a movie theater and not eating too much popcorn!

So, Doctor Strange it was. It was an action that also indulged my desire to root for the underdog, since Maverick’s release was expected to knock Doctor Strange off of its two week reign of the box office. My ticket purchase didn’t keep it on top – nor did the other dozen tickets sold for that screening. But those conditions made for a comfortable post-COVID return to the movies for this grumpy old man.

Crowds. Who needs ‘em?

Carrying that strategy forward might extrapolate to my seeing Maverick this week…while everyone else is wrapping up the Jurassic World trilogy.

Nostalgia Zone

Three Act Plays

That’s what they all are, right?

Plays.

Three acts is the norm. Sure Billy S did some shit back in the day. Then there was the occasional epic endeavor, like Angels In America, that had so many kicks to the heart balls to deliver that it needed to be broken up into two three act plays.

But overall, three gets the job done. Two, and people feel blessedly cheated. Four, and no one likes you.

Plus, there’s the whole “I can nap at home for free” chestnut among reluctant theater-goers. Four acts seems less like a nap than an entire damn night of sleep.

At least for my nearing-geriatric sleep patterns.

Why is this on my mind tonight?

Well, I just poured my third glass of wine. Emptying the bottle.

Heavy pour.

But it is in deference to a Silver Nugget – a phrase coined by Little Buddy about the secrets people started sharing with me when I turned 50. She – Little Buddy – is not yet 50, but enjoyed my sharing of privileged information here on this blog, and felt compelled to come up with a name for these aged secrets.

Being the Little Buddy that she is, this process involved an evolving train of thought on a text thread.

It was impressive, and I know I’ve failed to retrieve the best of her efforts from the impenetrable vault that is my memory. The fallout is mine to deal with.

The Silver Nugget in question came from my sister, who was not yet 50 at the time of this nugget’s disclosure. It was more of a hybrid wisdom: things of a life hack nature combined with parenting perks.

In this case, it was my sister pulling the epically resonating parental sacrifice offset of having my tween nephew refill her wine glass for her. He comes back into the room heeltoeing his way to her throne chair in order to avoid spilling anything from a glass that was filled so full, its meniscus existed only on a theoretical plane.

Being a highly decorated and multi-faceted snob, I had to make mention of the situation. It was also helpful – and I credit my Catholic upbringing for this skill – in deflecting my own uninhibited imbibing. An ongoing situation – clearly – for another time.

Being a mother, my sister coolly spared my judgment a total of zero fucks and set me straight.

“Why waste the trip?”

Fair point, but my snobbery was feeling robbed of a Karen moment.

Being in high end kitchen retail for several of my career years, I knew things.

I knew that a bottle of wine held five pours.

I knew that a proper pour was five ounces.

And I knew that wine glasses came in varietal sizes, designed to enhance the drinking experience by combining the sinuses and the palate for an optimal flavor experience. Overfilling the glass defeated these design endeavors.

Adding a total of zero additional fucks after hearing my objections, for a total of…<carry the none>…yes, zero actual fucks, my sister completely poo-pooed my criticism of her life choices.

I now know that was a mom life hack.

And now embrace it.

On a Monday morning, approaching 2 A.M.

And as I watch crappy movies from the earliest of aughts featuring the best of actors, I find myself wondering if I’m enjoying my wine in three acts better than these movies in their own three act efforts.

I think I am…but now I’m on my last glass and still have an hour and a half of Under Suspicion left to go. I think I should have made sure to have some backup spiked seltzers for this crisis.

Here’s one of Little Buddy’s bronze nuggets – which evolved during a fit of pandemic drinking: anything under 5% ABV is hydration.

So my spiked seltzer backup is…health food.

Technically?

Don’t argue with your elders.

Three Act Plays

Is Kevin Costner Superdad?

Is there a Dad Prototype?

This is the question I’ve been kicking around for a while after seeing Kevin Costner in a few really well written dad roles. It came back into my consciousness after that Gillette commercial controversy last week.

Playing “the parent” is usually portrayed on-screen as a traumatic life event for actors. Well, insofar as women used to playing anywhere from the 20-something ingenue to the 30-something career woman trying to have it all to the 40-something good wife.

But after that, it’s a leap into playing the mother of an adult child. Traditionally presented as a “yikes” moment for the woman. And, sure…an actor in their 40s or 50s might very well make an argument that they are too young to play parent to a 20-something. It’s valid. Possible enough, though, in real life.

Except…this is Hollywood! It’s anything but real life. In this land, 20-somethings play high school students. The last thing we really want is to see our Young Adult characters leap from the novel to the big screen in an accurate depiction of a gangly, pencil-necked and acne stricken teen.

No, thank-you.

Let’s get some pulchritude and voluptuousness into these teenage characters! Body issues don’t always happen on their own, best if we give ’em a gentle little shove at the get go, right?

With that in mind, why wouldn’t there be an inversely applied standard to casting parents? Sure, a 45 year old can have a 25 year old child. That’s realistic enough…but maybe less common today than a 25 year old having a parent in their 50s since people weren’t getting married and starting families straight out of high school in the late part of the 20th century. But if we’re going to make high school kids feel bad about looking too young compared to their Hollywood counterparts, it seems only fair that we make their parents feel too old, right?

Hollywood, talk about Chosen Family.

Yet, oddly enough, the one person this doesn’t really negatively affect is the dad actor.

I first noticed this a couple years ago when I checked my own surprise at Kevin Costner showing up as the dad figure in Superman.

Well, Man of Steel.

The movie came out in 2013; making Henry Cavill a 30 year old Superman, Diane Lane his 48 year old mother and Kevin Costner a 58 year old adoptive father. Kinda makes my point right there.

But on a different level, you’ve got this 58 year old actor bringing his gravitas to a well written role, too. He takes the simple living, hard working aw-shucks character and makes him a tough but fair plain spoken dad that is faultless. I’m sure actual dads watching the film envied his ability to be tough and unemotional when dealing with his son, pushing him to his best self and then kind of grateful when he got killed off so they didn’t have to compare themselves to him in any sequels.

Great, he’s faultless and selfless!

Just remember, he only had to be this curmudgeonly hard ass for two hours – and everything was written out for him.

His character would be a tough act to follow, even though real dads pretty much work without a net. For 18 years or more versus 120 minutes.

But who else could have raised Superman?

Flash forward a couple years to Molly’s Game.

And me crying while watching him do dad-ing right for Jessica Chastain in that role.

This time around, though…he plays a flawed character. Sure, in his early scenes – coaching her to Olympic greatness – he’s a hard ass, treating her as a physical equal to her brothers and taking no excuses. Later, they clash over gender roles at the dinner table.

It’s a short role he plays, but it builds in a lot of challenges and inconsistencies to the father-daughter dynamic that go a long way toward shaping his adult daughter, who is the titular character.

Of course, their relationship eroded and eventually totally implodes when she discovers he’s cheated on her mother. They become estranged, but the movie does a good job of making him his daughter’s demon, not just for his flaws, but also for the frustrations she suffered in her Olympic pursuits.

It was really impressive writing. About a true story…so maybe they had a head start on the writing. Still, the vulnerability he showed in admitting his faults while also demonstrating that a decade or so later, when she needed him, he was still there and still knew his daughter better than she knew herself. How his own flaws strengthened him and allowed him to be quietly supportive of his daughter – even after she’d grown away from him and no longer needed him as a coach – and a character role model for his daughter…oof.

Heavy stuff.

But, really, played beautifully by this actor that made me jealous of how good a dad he was. And I don’t even have friggin’ kids! It’s one thing to dismiss a role like Superman’s dad as a fluke. Like I said, he only had to do it for 120 minutes and every word was written for him.

This role, though…it’s based on Molly Bloom’s actual dad. On top of that, it’s based off of the book that Molly Bloom wrote and how she perceived her relationship with her father.

Stepping into a role with that dynamic and crushing it…yeah, maybe that Kevin Costner is the dad everyone wants to be when they grow up.

Even me.

And maybe it’s characters like his that we need to aspire to in order to become both better men and fathers. Perhaps if those Covington Catholic boys had fathers as well written and acted as Kevin Costner’s dad roles, they could have walked away from controversy.

But no one is making that comparison. So we’re left with a razor blade commercial saying men need to be better and that behaviors we’ve allowed to be ok and dismissed in the past…weren’t, in fact, ok.

Thanks, Gillette.

Now, who is going to show us the way?

Is Kevin Costner Superdad?

Diversity: Redux

Also, Diversity: Dux, because I’m a lame ass, Forgetful Freddy and thought that I posted my thoughts on diversity in Hollywood specifically, but entertainment as a whole two years ago!

This was back in September of 2016, after Rami Malek won his Emmy for Mr Robot. Look at all that’s happened for our endearing Egyptian heritaged actor in the two years that my OP gathered cobwebs in my drafts.

PS: he has a twin…named Sami – c’mon, twins named Rami and Sami? I’m dying. But as a striking teacher in LA, now someone else in the family is making headlines!

But before you begin thinking that my idea of diversity only extends as far as attraction, here’s a few other bullet points from my 2016 draft:

Laverne Cox and Candyce Cane had both become quite visibly cast trans-actors. Cox for several seasons on Orange is the New Black and Cane on Lucifer.

Empire and Atlanta were emerging phenomenons that showcased largely black ensemble casts. And on the other hand, Jane the Virgin was a soapy sitcom featuring a nearly all Hispanic lead cast and Sofia Vergara was pulling off a major role as a second wife in a mixed marriage on Modern Family.

Modern Family also featured a gay married couple that was presented as basic, mainstream America…y’know, like gay marriage was normal.

All this had me thinking that in 2016, basic white people had just become so passé.

2017 saw an extension of that as the #MeToo movement gave voice to sexual predators in Hollywood, but also empowered everyday Americans to start talking about their own sexual abuse in ways and voices on a scale we had never been exposed to before.

It’s almost like – if one looked at it, just so – squinty eyed and head tilted – we could forget that we had a raging dumpster fire of a human sitting in the Oval.

While he raged about immigrants from “shithole countries” sending us “Bad Hombres” and rapists, murderers and drug dealer, America held Hollywood’s middle aged, white power players to task for their past abuses of their power and their peers.

While he engaged in a do nothing drum circle about a vanity wall – squandering his congressional majority by not forcing the issue when democracy was held hostage by a GOP stranglehold – the entertainment industry continued to publicly call him out on his lack of statesmanship and basic, human decency.

Twitter.

Mainstream Media.

Awards Shows.

Saturday-friggin’-Night Live.

The entertainment industry used its pulpit not to bully, as the President continued to do daily, but to reflect his behaviors back onto him and keep his egregious flaws in the light of day. That’s a fine and responsible use of a pulpit, right there.

I should mention that all the while, Hamilton is still either on Broadway or touring to sold out crowds across the country. For Broadway to send such a cultural juggernaut out into the world…that’s really not something that happens too often. Maybe once a decade you encounter that type of reception for a play in America.

Yet, here was Hilary Clinton, getting a standing ovation from the crowd when she entered the theater to see Hamilton. Conversely, the actors stopped to call our reprehensible vile VP Mike Pence out when he saw the show.

Heartening.

While 2018 started off with a bang – with Black Panther knocking the February box office off the charts – the year was certainly not a lock as far as the trajectory of diversity in our country was concerned. While Black Panther was a strong start, the separation of migrant families at our southern border began shortly after. Children taken from their parents and put in cages without even giving the parents a coat check claim on their offspring.

How abysmal.

Black Klansman came to the box office and kinda drowned in its own quirkily presented message. But then, like a beacon, Crazy Rich Asians closed out the summer box office season and laid way for Bohemian Rhapsody to carry us into the holidays.

But even with all of this headline making diversity in our popular culture, the White House was still ramping up for a budget battle for wall funding. The President couldn’t seem to decide if he wanted to replace the Statue of Liberty’s New Colossus passage with a simple “Keep Out” or something equally literary sounding like “Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here”.

And then we got The 2018 Golden Globes, courtesy of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Rami picks up a much expected win for his lead as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. Even more exciting, I suppose, is the upset win for the movie as Best Picture – Drama.

I thought Bohemian Rhapsody was good, don’t get me wrong! Not outstanding, but I enjoyed it. Malek was surprising in his ability to capture how Mercury’s social insecurities and discomfort manifested in behaviors that ranged from awkward to offensive bravado. I found myself checking my initial response – which was “this is bad acting” – several times and remembering, “oh, yeah…he did act pretty strange in interviews”. I’m glad that people got it.

Soooo, I’m also glad he won a Golden Globe for his work! I’m quite surprised, though, that the film picked up a best drama award. Most of the world seems shocked that the Foreign Press overlooked the sexual misconduct allegations by the director. I just thought there were better dramas in the category.

It *is* the HFPA, though. I can see where a film about a mixed heritage Brit that fronted a worldwide phenomenon of a rock band would score points with them. The Oscars might be a different story!

But diversity at this year’s Golden Globes wasn’t just about Rami and Freddie.

Crazy Rich Asians and If Beale Street Could Talk we’re both nominated for multiple awards, the latter bringing home several. Beale Street featured a another nearly exclusive cast of black actors, bookending the year that began with Black Panther’s release ten months earlier with almost exclusively black ensembles.

Sandra Oh was the first Asian American woman to (co)host the show – or any major entertainment awards ceremony in this country. Managing to go from a frequent nominee and audience member with only one major win under her belt for her 15 years on series TV

…to host of the show while also doubling her recognition with her lead actor work on Killing Eve.

The snarky observationalist in me wants to say that white actors were so rare in this ceremony that we only managed to sweep the achievement awards. We even had to make up a new one to pad our numbers!

Jeff Bridges was awarded the Cecil B DeMille award for his lifetime body of work in film. His family certainly has the pedigree to back that up. Father, mother, brother and wife of 45 years were or are all in the industry. Watching him receive his award made me a little nostalgic, though. I miss the days when old, white actors won awards and did one armed push ups on stage to remind us they mattered.

That new award I mentioned? The HFPA decided that their awards – presented to equal categories in Film and TV – lacked an achievement award for television to balance out the Cecil B DeMille award for film. They created the Carol Burnett award to balance those scales. Naming an award like this that will become a legacy that recognizes a seven plus decade career after a woman was another heartening sign from Hollywood that diversity was welcome in their industry, even if the country was still schizophrenic about the subject.

Miraculously, they managed to not fuck that action up by awarding it to a man on its inaugural presentation. It was kind of cute to see Steve Carrel spoof the slam dunk nature of the award – since recipients are told ahead of time – by reading off several male nominees along with Burnett. Even cuter was the camera cutting to her backstage with both hands giving crossed fingers as she waited for the winner to be announced.

Hell, maybe someday we’ll even have a Jamie Lee Curti…never mind.

Let’s just give Hollywood and the entertainment industry a deserved pat on the back for both inclusion and self-policing. The GOP could learn a lot from their example over the last few years.

And Rami – or Sami, or both…I could make an exception to my Puritan ways – if we ever cross paths on the street…I’m running you to a corner store for some beer and then we’re gonna get to work proving that old adage about the difference between a gay man and a straight man…

Now, onward to the Oscars!

Diversity: Redux

Crazy, Rich Diversity

I really intended this post to be a lighthearted poking of fun at myself for crying copiously yet again in yet another movie. At least this time, with the movie in question being Crazy Rich Asians, I wouldn’t have to be too ashamed of my emotional dark movie theater melo-theatrics since is was at least a rom-com versus – I dunno – Mission Impossible.

I kid. That’s about the only movie I saw this summer-slash-who-am-I-kidding-year that I didn’t cry at.

…at which I didn’t cry? Yeah, that’s better English.

But then I got distracted and never tapped out the piece. The first thing that distracted me was not all that surprising: Asians were having widely reported similarly emotional experiences, although theirs went beyond just seeing a well executed rom-com starring Asian actors…the first in 25 years in the US, by a US studio.

That caught me off guard.

But I loved reading about the Asian culture nuances that triggered these folks. I didn’t love reading about how white people in America represent 60% of the population and 74% (ish) of the US studio produced movie roles while Asians make up 6% of what sounds like a super low and wrong statistic of the US population but only 4% (again, ish-ish) Of the movie roles in their natural or naturalized home country. Most of those roles are ninja types and silent concubines that provide flavor but no real presence to the films they are in.

So…yeah, I got distracted.

Then the Emmys aired and Sandra Oh became a meme

And I was off to the racist.

Er…races. Really?!? How is this possible?!? Now, I didn’t fact check this assertion that in 2018, Sandra Oh is the first Asian woman to be nominated for a Best Actress Emmy…but I did check my surprise. I think I was more surprised that I wasn’t that surprised after thinking on it for a bit.

The Emmys, like their Oscar counterpart for film, have always been a white persons club. There’s an award show color hierarchy:

Gold: the statuettes

White: the winners

Every other color: token seat fillers

After all, the Emmys vigorously patted themselves on the back for Rami Malek’s Lead Actor win in 2016. But as a person of Egyptian descent, he’s barely in the POC column.

Sidenote: Dear Rami,

Dating your female lead from the Queen biopic? Still not buying your heterosexuality. But it’s cute.

Yours truly,

Waiting4U in Portland

Wanna know what really makes me feel bad about Crazy Rich Asians?

It’s that at some point – before seeing the movie or maybe leaving the theater after – I thought, “Wow. First Black Panther and now this…2018 is shaping up to be a big year for minority driven mainstream movies!”

That’s like the cinematic version of latently racist comments like, “I’m not usually in to black guys, but…” that sound like compliments but are really offensive. Either someone is an attractive person or they aren’t attractive to you, then they are everything else they are.

Either you like a movie or you don’t. The story is good or it isn’t, then there’s everything else about it.

So, for a moment there I felt bad about liking this movie that made me feel good. This show that I liked so much. But after checking my latent racism, I decided that, yeah…I’m a little racist, but mostly because I’m lazy. Kind of like I’m lazy about adopting inclusive pronouns to be more gender inclusive in my conversations.

What can I say? People are still largely oblivious, selfish jerks. And I’m a people, so at least I’m cognizant of the opportunities I have to become better. I think that puts me ahead of the general population – also, I don’t take duck lip selfies for the Instagram and never take pictures of my food in fancy restaurants.

So, there’s that, that and that.

Still, latent racism aside, I’m seriously ready for the Freddie Mercury biopic to come out in November. Not only to see Rami play Freddie, but because it’s a movie about a thrilling pop culture phenomenon who was a minority, played by an actor who is also a minority instead of whitewashing the casting like Hollywood so often does.

Seriously, early considerations for the role in its various early incarnations – that couldn’t be made until Hollywood got over itself about race and AIDS – were:

Ben Whishaw

Adam Lambert

Hugh Jackman?!?

Joseph Gordon Leavitt (swoon!)

Ezra Miller (also, swoon!)

Zachary Quinto

…c’mon! There’s some dark complexions in that group, but the closest we get to diversity is Judaism or being Australian.

Between now and then, I’ll keep myself busy with Searching. It’s a John Cho movie where Cho plays a father looking for his missing daughter by spelunking through her digital/virtual life and learning that we don’t always know those closest to us as well as we think we do.

I’m excited about it because it’s a movie that could have been cast differently. Sure, the Queen movie could have cast a white actor, Crazy Rich Asians was pretty much boxed in with its casting…but Searching could have gone a different direction. It’s a story about a missing child and what a parent will do to find her.

The bottom of my friggin’ glass is covered with the optimism I have that choices like this will become more commonplace in the hopefully not-distant-at-all future.

Crazy, Rich Diversity

I Might Be Insatiable

I also might be watching too much TV.

Twice last week I finished binge watching a series – one on the Netflix and the other on Amazon.

Twice last week I said to Myrtle, “There’s a lot going on there for such a small town”.

I kid you not. Talking to my cat…

My intent here is to write about the semi-controversial Netflix show called Insatiable Before I get there, let me give you a quick rundown of what I mean by “a lot going on” using the other show I watched last week as an example. The Kettering Incident takes place in a small town in Tasmania. A doctor returns to town from the city for her dad’s retirement. He’s the Tasmanian equivalent of the Chief of Police.

What you learn soon after her return home is that she was considered a suspect in the childhood disappearance of her best friend. When this comes around, I think to myself, “OK, we can make a show of this”.

Nonono. That’s merely the Tip o’the Iceberg!

The disappearance might really be caused by an alien abduction. It seems literally nothing has happened in this town since the disappearance except maybe there’s aliens.

Just kidding, here’s everything else that’s happening in this podunk town:

Immediately after our good doctor returns, someone else is murdered.

Then there’s a drug ring. You find out later it’s led by one of the cops investigating the murder – in which our heroine is an instant suspect.

Eco-terrorists.

Secret toxic waste disposal.

A man returns from the dead and is later found murdered.

The town is being overrun – people included – by erratically fast growing moss.

In a strange wtf moment, the drug kingpin cop sleeps with his prime suspect…which is still our doctor.

Another murder. <yawn>

Secret government conspiracy.

A kidnapping.

Clones!

What. The. Eff?

In the final episode, new plot lines are still dropping and then the damn show just ends.

One plot line is actually wrapped up in the finale. So for as much as this show has going on, it ended and just let most of the balls it had in the air drop and bounce away.

It’s like these writers think that the audience is incapable – probably correctly so – of focusing on a plot point from start to finish in a season. To compensate, and by “compensate” I mean “continually re-focus our attention from our phone screens back to the TV screens”, the writers seem to figuratively blow something up every episode. They don’t end up wrapping up the storyline they blow up, they just use it to keep our interest until the next explosion.

Believe it or not, I think Insatiable has even more bizarre stuff going on. For what it’s worth, these writers at least tidy up before they wander off at the end of the season. Not everything, but at the end of the 12 episodes, you’re at least left feeling relieved versus abandoned.

I wanted to watch this show after hearing its pre-release buzz about fat shaming…hence, the controversy. The critical position – including a 200,000 signature demand to pull the show before it aired – was that celebrating a large person’s weight loss with a story about their pursuit of a beauty pageant title was offensive.

Taken that flatly, I would agree. However, having seen the trailer and not been offended, I watched the show and learned that the actual issues with the program are the wacky plot lines the 90 second trailer doesn’t even touch on.

The show’s response to the criticism was that it was exploring the damage that that fat shaming does to a person’s psyche.

Boy, did that response undersell the word damage.

I also wanted to watch this because it’s been almost 20 years since Drop Dead Gorgeous and I needed a fucked up beauty pageant fix!

This show certainly delivered on the fucked up-ness criteria.

But it all started off so normal.

Bullied small town Georgia fat girl, Fatty Patty, gets her jaw broken while defending her candy bar from a homeless person. She ends up losing a ton of weight due to having her jaw wired shut to heal.

Duh. Nothing special here.

The Homeless Guy presses charges against her.

That’s kinda unique…

Which is when she meets her rather fey attorney, who coincidentally is a frustrated beauty queen coach. Having just lost a title with his most recent adopted-Chinese-beauty-queen-wanna-be to his never-loses-a-pageant-nemesis, who just happens to be his former high school jock tormenter and the city’s district attorney, he has sworn off beauty pageants…until he meets the now beautiful Patty.

Did ya follow all that?

Because after that the train for Crazy Town leaves the station.

Patty is a smart kid, so she turns her attorney’s pageant coaching offer down. However, after a day at school, realizing the different treatment she gets being suddenly outwardly beautiful and mistaken for a transfer student versus Fatty Patty, she snaps and takes her attorney up on his offer saying, “I’d rather have revenge”.

Remember that.

It’s after that moment where the show loses its equilibrium. From that point, you can tell a story that kinda sounds like the First Mrs Trump’s post-divorce mantra.

Patty struggles with the attention of boys. From the convenience store clerk that she flashes to get what she wants to the high school jock son of her flamboyant attorney/pageant coach to the bad boy son of the town minister.

Normal enough high school stuff, even without the extreme weight loss storyline.

But instead of pursuing that arc, the writers decide to take us on a shark jumping tour.

Here’s some of the shark storylines we viewers have to jump:

That adopted Chinese wanna be pageant queen? Yeah, her mom blames her daughter’s loss on their coach, claiming he was molesting her.

In a head scratching fit of irony, a few episodes later it’s revealed that the mother is actually having an ongoing sexual affair with the high school jock. Who – remember – is the son of her daughter’s pageant coach.

This story needed to take place in a bigger town.

As Patty’s pageant success grows, the frustrated adopted Chinese wanna be spirals more and more out of control in her jealousy. This seems to reach its peak when she attacks Patty in front of most of the town and in defending herself, Patty ends up unintentionally crippling the girl.

The town turns on Patty and blames her for the incident, calling it bullying. Which is insane enough, given the facts that A) the girl was one of Patty’s tormentors when she was Fatty Patty and was never held accountable as the bully she was; and, B) once again, Patty was only defending herself, which unfortunately resulted in an injury to the instigator.

Icing that cake is the fact that the girl was faking her paralysis at the encouragement of her mother. Patty tries to prove this in a horribly thought out plan and just makes things worse for herself. Even once her claim is validated, she can’t catch a break from the townsfolk. That right there is a – probably unintentional – mirror of the behaviors Trump supporters demonstrate daily: throwing your support behind a terrible human and never wavering in their loyalty.

Because the town can’t see that Patty’s situation is the result of her bullies’ ineptitude, things are required to get worse.

The next shark is exactly that…what could possibly be causing Patty to behave so hatefully?

Teenage pregnancy. Hormones are making her nuts.

Obviously.

Except…not pregnant. It’s just your maybe conjoined twin that you “absorbed” during pregnancy. Yup, she’s such a Fatty Patty that she ate her sibling in utero. This storyline progresses – or devolves into demon possession.

Luckily, the minister’s son – also the erstwhile father to Patty’s baby that isn’t – is there to guide her on a path to controlling the demon within her.

Ok

The last shark that I want to mention – but certainly not even the last in this school of sharks – is the adversarial relationship between the two lawyers/beauty pageant coaches. They loathe one another. The perfectly manicured fey attorney and the shirt off at every opportunity jock district attorney are constantly sabotaging one another and somehow unable to avoid each other on a daily basis.

Yup.

Gay.

But because that’s not a crazy enough scenario, while the district attorney seamlessly divorces his wife our fey lawyer can’t bear to live without his wife, even after Patty our the two lawyers.

The only solution?

Thruple.

Seriously, this is a small town that needs more people to carry these crazy storylines. And I haven’t even mentioned them all. In 12 episodes, these writers serve up a real dog’s breakfast of topical social issues. All of the above, obviously, but also addiction/AA, interracial marriage, app or “swipe” culture, lesbians, stalking, drag queens, drugs, kidnapping…why not top it all off with murder and then – y’know – cover it up.

All of these sharky threads weave into a story that is just chockablock full of my least favorite character trait in America today:

It’s better to look good than to be good.

I’ve been railing against that for almost two decades now, and it hasn’t gotten better. As a matter of fact, I’d say it’s gotten worse by magnitudes. When I first started getting grumpy, we didn’t have a swipe culture. Kardashians were just some celebrity lawyer’s estranged kids.

As time has gone on for me, I’ve accepted that our society seems to be on a non-stop trajectory toward selfishness and a “me culture” that makes the 80s look like a friggin’ nursery. In observing that, I’ve also had to accept that by vocalizing my discontent, I’m gonna be the Patty. Luckily for me, that manifests in accepting that I’m just a grump and I can make that into an enjoyable sur-reality.

Unfortunately for Patty, while she’s trying to find her way past all the blame her town has put on her and embrace that inside she’s a good person, she snaps. While her bad boy stalker boyfriend is trying to nudge her into the bad girl counterpart he wants her to be – dragging her down to his level – her conflicted and tormented self absolutely snaps and while crying “I’m a good person” over and over again, she beats him to death with a tire iron.

Let’s go back now tow what I told you to remember.

In the first episode, Patty is a smart kid. She’s smart enough to know what she doesn’t want, which is the inane pursuit of popularity and celebrity based on looks. She knows she doesn’t want to be that person.

Before that episode ends, she’s folded and uttered the fateful words, “I’d rather have revenge” that take her down an 11-episode arc to her undoing and de-evolution into a murderess.

As a viewer, I can accept that first episode arc. It sets up a season of redemption. How does Patty get through the new adversities associated with beauty, which she’d never had to manage before, to return to the smart girl she was at the beginning of the story who is now fortunate enough to have outsides that match her insides?

How?

It’s totally do-able.

For whatever reason, though, that’s not what was done. We’re left to watch Patty go from being an Ugly Duckling on the outside with a beautiful heart to the polar opposite…a beauty queen that’s a psychopath on the inside.

Is that the takeaway we should settle for and accept? I’m doing so, aren’t we all just Patty?

Wouldn’t we watch a show where someone learns to navigate newfound celebrity with their original intelligence and integrity intact?

Apparently, this show’s producers – and Netflix – think that we wouldn’t. They even seem to go one step further, making popular, beautiful people into unaccountable victims of their own good fortune…because that’s a reflection of itself that society can embrace.

Which is why I walked away from Insatiable asking myself

I gotta get a job…

I Might Be Insatiable

Here We Go…Again!

There are constants in the universe.

Good news, right?

For instance, ABBA music is just good.

Oh, were you expecting something more serious?

Wrong blog.

Ok, how about, “The inter webs are a cold, hilarious place”? I was never not going to see this sequel.

Sidebar: Hey, Donny Trump…that’s how double negatives work!

So, yeah. I had my heart set on seeing this movie. The build up on social media in the days before its release just whet my appetite further. My favorite moment occurred on Twitter as someone let fly the outrageousness and extremely unlikeliness of three women keeping the same hairstyle for 40 years.

So brilliant, but I digress.

Anyway, it is a universal truth. I never hear anyone say the don’t like ABBA music, probably because I simply refuse to hear it.

But sometimes you think something is a constant, like “Pierce Brosnan can’t sing” only to later doubt yourself.

We’ve all seen it.

Endured it.

And if you love Pierce Brosnan, you’ve made excuses for what you saw. “He can sing, it’s just that his character wasn’t supposed to be able to, like Ado Annie in Oklahoma!”

Because, seriously…he’s a big star! Why would he expose himself to the ridicule a poor performance brings?

It’s not a bad bit of logic-slash-rationalization.

By the way

Not bad logic morphs into harsh reality, though, in this prequel to 2008’s Mamma Mia when we meet Pierce’s younger self.

Who.

Can.

Sing.

He can also set your loins afire, too. But that’s a poor offset for the burden of having to accept the universal truth that Pierce just can’t sing.

Seriously, Pierce. Big star, remember? Get Julie Andrews to dub you or something. A ceiling tile dropped out of the theater’s roof during your number.

I can only assume that he broke auto tune, it’s the only reason I can give for why they wouldn’t have used it.

Y’know, on this inaugural post using – testing, really – the new Facebook mandated blog page versus linking to my personal page, I had a choice of topics. I promise, my choices were both feel good options that allowed me to write about something fun or positive.

Mamma Mia! or people doing good things in the world. See? Both positive topics!

I’ll get to them both eventually, but I think people are used to or expect my grumpy old man persona to come out in my writing. With Mamma Mia! I can do both. Let’s face it, ABBA music makes people happy, so that feel good moment is built in. I’ve waited a week to write about seeing this movie, to reasonably respect spoilers, which is also a kindness…so when I knock Pierce Brosnan around for not being able to sing or rip on the story, it’s only to temper your expectations.

Can’t have you thinking that I’ve turned over a new leaf just because I have a blog page on the Facebook now.

PS: I’ve already realized the motivation behind Facebook’s new rules, they are trying to generate income off these new, mandated pages.

Anyhoo.

I tend to temper my expectations with sequels. Especially sequels that come out right away…it’s like the studio is trying to get away with something. A cash grab before we realize that we’re being served up a stinker.

Here We Go Again took a decade to arrive.

Plus, ABBA!

Naturally, I was there for the first show…but still watching with a guarded side eye.

And some popcorn, duh.

I was checking off boxes to confirm this sequel wouldn’t be worthy:

Pierce still can’t sing ✅

They used all the best songs in the last movie ✅

The story suc…wait a minute. What’s wrong with my eyes? Why are they leaking?!?

Yeah. The story is pretty good. Not great by any means. As a stand alone first run story, this would be nothing more than a flop.

But we know these characters.

We come in pre-programmed to care about their struggles and enjoy the highs of their excitement.

Also, ABBA.

I can’t avoid admitting it, the story was just better than the original. Amazing.

We know that Cher pops in to be a great grandma, we are poised to handle Sophie’s pregnancy story. Not so with the early news of Sophie and Sky’s potential estrangement.

Definitely not so of the casual drop in of Donna’s death the prior year.

So – yeah, questions that are never answered. I’m pretty sure that tidbit dropped in the first 90 seconds.

Brace.

Yoself.

We never learn how she died. I dunno…maybe we do but I missed it because I was debating whether or not to leave the theater to verify Meryl Streep was listed with the cast on the movie poster.

But, in Meryl’s absence, we are treated to a significant flashback upgrade. In the original, when Sophie’s potential fathers are referred to in the past, we get Pierce, Stellan and Colin dressed up as ridiculous 70s drag versions of their younger selves. Here, we get the beefcake treatment.

Thank gawd.

Young Pierce.Young Stellan. With peek-a-boo crotch shot.Young Colin.

I mean…yes, please and thank you!

For worrying that most of the “good” ABBA songs were already taken up in the first incarnation, I have to admit that these B-side songs, as it were, did a great job of supporting the story. Not a bad trade off against the original. Plus, they recycled a couple of songs that were used in the first flick…honestly, the revamped Dancing Queen outdid the first movie, and it was good in the original!

The returning cast is great. You can see the truth behind the stories of stars wanting to do a sequel simply because the first was so much fun. And the writing and acting folds the new cast in well.

When Tanya meets the hotel manager, Fernando (played by Andy Garcia), and greets him with a “Be still my beating vagina” as only Christine Baranski can deliver…yeah, welcome to the team, Andy.

The writing delivers plenty of those quotable moments. They are generously spread out amongst the stars and supporting cast, too. Julie Walters gets “I think carbs might be my soul mate”.

But then a supporting player, the owner of the shack that Donna squats in, gets to deliver a real ball buster of a line to young Sam. He’s just returned from breaking off his engagement, looking for Donna – who has taken off on young Bill’s boat to get over him. Our sassy barkeep delivers the news and then follows up his disappointment with, “Its called Karma and it’s pronounced ‘HA!'” in her heavy Greek accent.

These moments of levity – along with great, nostalgic music – balance out the somberness of the underlying story as Sophie stresses about the opening of her mom’s remodeled hotel.

On top of all of that

For good measure, Cher drops in to the final few scenes, just to steal ’em. When I first heard the casting rumors, I though it impossible to cast her as Meryl’s mother with only a few years between them in real life.

Well, problem solved, as I learned.

Realistically, by my calculation, Cher is playing a character around 79. Definitely closer to her real age than playing 50-something’s is to the rest of the original cast.

Not to mention that her singing is just. so. absolutely. Cher! She steps up to the plate and just lets her low, smooth voice loose on Fernando and it’s sublimely amazing.

Seriously, she did such a great job that fireworks went off as she finished.

But watching the choreography both in this number and as she kicked off the end credits, I couldn’t help but be reminded – and filled with awe – of the fact that Cher is old! Not getting old, she’s there…but redefining it. As she sings Fernando, she descends a flight of stairs. I watched as the camerawork cut back and forth between her and her Fernando, her taking a couple of steps down each take. Similarly, during the end credits, she walks up the three or four stairs to a small stage and then dances in place as she sings. She’s very stiff-hipped and fragile looking, but she’s in her mid-70s and still doing it.

Gotta admire that. I’m not the only one, either. You hear it in interviews when her cast mates are asked what was it like working with Cher. You see it in the extras around her as they watch Cher move past them.

It’s amazing.

She spends a short time on screen in the final few scenes, but her story arc covers the entirety of the film. From our first meeting of the hotel manager to the seconds leading up to her first song, you eventually learn how interwoven her story line is. From mother to daughter to granddaughter.

For whatever reason, Fernando doesn’t end up being Donna’s father and Sophie’s grandfather. It’s a weird decision for a Hollywood ending. Sure, it would have been incredibly trite…but we learn from Fernando early that he had his life’s love decades ago and has made peace with its short life. We hear young Donna downplay a fling with a foreigner while traveling abroad because it hasn’t gone well for her family, namely when her mother had traveled to Mexico as a young woman. She tells this story right before her own three back to foreign flings. Why not bring it full circle? It’s kind of the only way to explain Fernando randomly making his way from Mexico to a small island in Greece…and working at a hotel owned by his true love’s granddaughter.

If you’re gonna jump a shark, might as well make it a big shark!

While were transitioning toward my small finish…can I just mention how weird it is to watch Lily James play a young Meryl?

It’s a little jarring, since she looks exactly like a young Jessica Lange!

But don’t take my word for it…

Just me?

Nah…unless I’m the only one right about this!

Not that I’d ever want to work a little Cher magic and turn back time to cast Jessica as Donna just so the looks lined up. Still

You’d think that while I was grabbing those pics off of the Google, I would have bothered to check and see if there was a familial relation.

Lazy.

Not that you’re worried that I’ve given away the whole movie, don’t be. If you haven’t seen it, go. On top of all of this happening, there are little moments strung along the way that sometimes help resolve a plot hole and other times are just fun.

Trust me, keep an eye out for the Greek customs agent at the boat dock. He’s friggin’ hilarious. I think there’s a reason he and Cher don’t appear together in any scenes. He’s totally steal them. Or Cher would kill him on screen for critiquing her look as he does with everyone else that happens by his little customs shack.

Remember him as the movie’s final scene plays out. It might help you not completely lose it as Sophie and Sky’s baby christening takes place and Spirit Donna pops in to sing My Love, My Life with her daughter.

It’s a killer. Never in danger of becoming my favorite ABBA song, but it was the perfect way to end this sequel.

Maybe see this movie at night so it’s dark when you leave the theater and no one notices your “been crying” face.

Pro Tip.

Oh, and if you enjoy my writing, please don’t forget to…

And

some more!

Here We Go…Again!

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The title is the ages of each actress in the promo pic for the movie Book Club above.

I went to see it the other day to escape a harsh reality that had crashed down on my Facebook world. Briefly, a friend and former colleague shared a story of an idyllic vacation day he and his wife had recently shared.

Recently, like within the previous two days.

“This has been the best day of my life”, she said.

24 hours later, she had killed herself.

Needless to say, I was shaken by proxy. I literally could not imagine what this family was experiencing.

A loving relationship.

Kids.

Financial security.

Exotic vacations.

But you just never can tell. That’s what shook me up. Well, that and comparing what she leaves behind to what I have…which is super not healthy.

So, I needed an escape.

Book Club was a pretty good lever to pull for that need.

I surveyed the small theater for a quasi-isolated seat near the middle rows and noticed that there were groups on each end of the middle rows. I didn’t want to crowd anyone, nor risk having to walk over people if I needed a bathroom bug out mid-movie, so I planted myself at the near end of the second row of seats.

You know why I mention this?

Yeah, you know.

The three rows behind me as well as the row in front of me were all empty. The lady that walked in after me decided not to risk isolating herself in that vast wasteland of open seating and dropped her girthiness right behind me. I could sense her presence, but being a giver, she decided to make her presence known and announced herself by kicking the back of my chair a few times.

C’mon, lady.

I decamp to the far end of my row, which I hate doing because it’s so obvious, but having this woman kick my seat every time she repositioned herself was not my idea of a relaxing time. Five minutes after the lights went down, three friends joined her. I understood the why of her choice of seats, but was glad I’d decided to move!

It was a bit challenging at first. The characters are in their mid to late 60s and that is obviously not the reality. The other thing that I thought I noticed – and it distracted me, initially – was the random use of green screen. Maybe I was wrong about it, but some of the vistas just looked more real than the action taking place in the foreground.

Obviously, I was having some trouble getting out of my head.

But before me on the screen were four actresses that I love. It didn’t take me too long to relax into the story. The popcorn helped get me there…

My last thought before really sinking in was particularly amusing. The small crowd had laughed at something, I didn’t remember what…just became aware of the suddenness and cohesiveness of the crowd laughing.

I had not.

The sound I heard was decidedly feminine, prompting me to turn and scan the theater’s crowd.

Women.

100%.

I was the only guy.

This made me laugh.

Out loud.

When no one else was laughing.

Which made me laugh more, and soon I was laughing through tears.

The thing that got me laughing wasn’t the realization that I was the only guy in the theater, rather the juxtaposition of that observation compared to the crowd composition of the last movies I’d seen.

Deadpool 2.

Infinity War.

Very heavily skewed toward a male crowd. This was a refreshing change of energy. Plus, when I’m in a nerd movie crowd, I usually joke to myself about how I might be the only non-virgin person in the crowd. Or, at the very least, the only one currently having sex.

I didn’t experience that same snarky thought about this group of women while I laughed at my realization. Thinking back to that moment, it wasn’t intentional, it’s just that getting laid isn’t the modus operandi for women like it is for men.

Right?

Yeah…I knew what this movie was about. I’d seen the trailer. So, I think my crowd profiling amusement just ended up making the film that much more enjoyable for me.

Soon, my laughter was in sync with the rest of the crowd. My disbelief was suspended and my reality was expelled for the next 90 minutes.

Star Trek or Wars.

Thrillers.

Superhero stories.

Murder mysteries.

Those are the movies I typically go in for.

But I freely admit – when it comes up – that a good chick flick is also a movie experience that I really enjoy.

Under the Tuscan Sun.

When Harry Met Sally.

13 Going on 30 – what? It wS good!

That type of thing. None of those How to Lose a Guy In Ten Days stories fall into the good category for me. They are good popcorn movies, but what’s the real bigger picture message?

This movie was definitely not a classic chick flick. As a matter of fact, the Silver Fox had asked if I wanted to see it and I knew he’d be miffed that I went without him. I dodged that bullet by telling him to wait til it hit Netflix.

That said…I did enjoy this movie. It had a message. Not only was it a chance to see some of my favorite actresses, but a chance to see them together. Also, it gave each of them a fun storyline with a solid arc as they rediscovered their sexuality at a time in life where society tells us it should be retired.

To paraphrase what Candy hilariously observes in the trailer, “If nature wanted us to have sex at this point in our lives she wouldn’t do what she does to our bodies”…smash cut to her crawling out of the backseat of her Mercedes with Richard Dreyfus. If this movie helps redefine sexual equality for supposed sixty-somethings, I’m all in. There’s a movement I can support. I just wish it could have been written with Age Pride intact and had Fonda proudly owning her octogenarian sexuality.

To Candy’s point, our bodies as they age fall further and further from the Hollywood standard of beauty. More openly sex positive seniors could help redefine that norm and hopefully awaken our culture to something more inclusive of all and less divisive across generations.

And maybe, just maybe…that gives us all a little something more to look forward to when things today look impossibly dark.

Think anyone would get mad if they hash tagged this as #UsToo?

Get it, girls!

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