Review: The Boys in the Band
Well-acted and thoroughly poignant — The Boys in the Band revives the classic stage play back onto the small screen, showcasing modern relevance on the LGBTQ community.
The Boys in the Band is based on the 1968 off-Broadway play by playwright Mart Crowley. The play then ended up being turned into a 1970 movie with the same cast as the original production. What was so groundbreaking with Crowley's play, was his ability to evoke a deeply personal journey in the lives of gay men. In 2018, director Joe Mantello revived the play on Broadway, comprising a versatile cast of exclusively openly-gay actors. This cast included Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer, Andrew Rannells, Charlie Carver, Robin de Jesús, Brian Hutchison, Michael Benjamin Washington, and Tuc Watkins. All of the actors decided to reprise their roles, giving us a feast to behold of grade 'A' acting. Just like the 1968 original, Mantello constructed his crew from stage to film, giving us a deeply moving picture of what it means to be gay in America during the '60s. Mantello smoothly constructs his craft as we watch this spectacular cast of men bursting at the seams with anxiety, self-loathing, melancholy, and pride. Each character is deeply layered, guarding themselves against pitfalls of vulnerabilities that could lead to pain.
The plot follows a group of friends reuniting on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, who are throwing one of the members of their group, Harold (a condescending Zachary Quinto), a birthday party. Harold loathes each day as he grows farther away from his youth. In his character's own words, Harold is an "ugly, pock-marked Jew fairy." Michael (a cunning Jim Parsons), a recovering alcoholic and Roman Catholic, is the member of 'the band' who has opened up his apartment for the birthday. Michael is well-groomed, polite when he needs to be, and then will attack you like a snake if he disagrees with you. As the host and the frenemy, Michael will always have the last word, no matter the stakes. Michael and Harold often lash at each other, with cutting dialogue and patronizing remarks. The more Michael drinks, the more the night intensifies. Matt Bomer plays Donald, Michael's conflicted boyfriend who is gliding along with his own baggage.
Actors Andrew Rannells and Tuc Watkins portray Larry and Hank — a couple who have been fighting about what it means to be in a monogamous relationship. Larry is the free-spirited thinker of the relationship, often having multiple sex partners at a time. Larry's lack of commitment to the relationship; is why Hank is upset with him. Hank is a recently outed gay, who's in the middle of getting a divorce from his wife and is currently living with Larry. Robin de Jesús plays Emory, the most flamboyant and most prideful of the group. Emory is there to have a good time and to party with his fellow Queens on the rooftop of a hot summer night. No matter the pain, Emory can keep a smile from eye-to-eye, along with his good friend, Bernard (Michael Benjamin Washington). Not only is Bernard gay, but he's also Black — dealing with both racism and homophobia in the '60s. Bernard is also grappling with the regret of a lost love that comes up during a shift in tone during the night when Michael introduces "the game." A series of calls made by each character to call up their long-lost love by telephone.
Charlie Carver plays the Cowboy, Harold's birthday hustler for the evening. Carver's character is often described as "too pretty" and "not too bright." Lastly, we are left with Alan (Brian Hutchison), Michael's friend from college, who makes an uninvited appearance at the party, stirring up conflict. Alan does not know that Michael is gay, but there's suspicion that Alan (who is married) has a dark secret of his past relationships. Alan's sexual orientation is never fully disclosed, leaving the audience to interpret the events of the night and to decide on their own. The Boys in the Band is one of the most bruising movies of the year, leaving our viewers to feel like they have been dragged through the mud. There's plenty of heavy material unveiled throughout the film's runtime — opening wounds and soothing tears. This perfect ensemble reaches for the stars as we grapple with heartache and the affliction of love waiting to come. We've come along way in America for inclusion to the LGBTQ community, yet we have a long way to go — making progress one step at a time. The Boys in the Band is an emotional whirlwind and literary dance waiting to be heard.
The Boys in the Band is rated R (Restricted). Sexual Content, Drug Use, Language, and Graphic Nudity.
Directed by Joe Mantello
Starring Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer, Andrew Rannells, Charlie Carver, Robin de Jesús, Brian Hutchison, Michael Benjamin Washington, and Tuc Watkins.
Review: Enola Holmes
Enola Holmes is a charming little movie that brings a refreshing perspective to Baker Street. Actor Millie Bobby Brown also helps elevate the film with a more progressive message and image.
Enola Holmes is a breath of fresh air one can enjoy from the comfort of their home on a Saturday afternoon. This new film narrows down its focus from the expanding Holmes family and universe — giving us the point-of-view from the youngest sibling in the Holmes family, Enola (a wonderful Millie Bobby Brown). 'Alone' — spell this word backwards, and you get Enola. Yet, her mother (Helena Bonham Carter) has taught her not to be defined by that meaning, teaching her everything from chess to jujitsu. Brown gives us a lively, spirited, and intelligent performance as the youngest of the Holmes. While she constantly breaks the fourth wall throughout the picture, we see a coming-of-age story of a young woman searching to find her place in the world. Brown's committed performance continues to prove that she has a bright future ahead of her. Enola Holmes is based on a series of Young Adult novels by Nancy Springer and was originally set to make a theatrical release by Warner Bros. Pictures but was, instead, sold to Netflix due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our story follows Enola as she awakens on her 16th birthday to discover that her mother is missing.
Eudoria Holmes (Carter) is an eccentric but brilliant intellect and suffragist; who has left a series of clues for Enola to follow. Enola follows this sequence of clues involving anagrams and ciphers as she sets off to London to find her. During this journey, Enola is also attempting to escape her older brothers Mycroft (a stern Sam Claflin) and Sherlock (a brawn Henry Cavill) from carting her off to a finishing school. A finishing school is "a school for young women that focuses on teaching social graces and upper-class cultural rites as a preparation for entry into society" — hindering her independence, Enola wants nothing to do with that life style and I don't blame her. Along the way, Enola runs into a boy named Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge), who engulfs his own family badge onto her. Enola Holmes was a pleasure to watch and an easy film to pass the time on — there were some luscious shots, extravagant costumes, and a lighthearted story at the center of this film. Enola Holmes is an enjoyable feature digging deep into familial bonds and shows us the opportunities waiting a changing world that's determined to stay the same. It's a fun and warm movie anyone could cozy up to, bubbling over for a franchise eager to be told.
Enola Holmes is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). Some Violence.
Directed by Harry Bradbeer
Starring Millie Bobby Brown, Sam Claflin, Helena Bonham Carter, Fiona Shaw, Adeel Akhtar, and Frances de la Tour.
Watching director Chloé Zhao's (2018's The Rider) Nomadland was a poetic experience. Nomadland is a gem full of beauty and hardship, perfectly captured by Zhao's natural craft and actor Frances McDormand's raw talent. It's a richly textured portrait of life drifting through the American Midwest. One of 2020's best films.
Though my traveling days have been put on hold, right now, due to this global pandemic — I felt like I was able to virtually travel through the comfort of my home; while watching Chloé Zhao's beautiful work of art. Seeing Frances McDormand's character consistently on the road throughout the American Midwest was a gift to my soul and may have even brought a tear to my eye. Zhao masterfully captures the natural beauty of America through its vivid landscapes, roaming plains, and majestic horizons. Furthermore, Zhao does not forget to match this lively-shot film with a gut-punching storyline. After losing everything in the Great Recession, our film follows Fern (a powerful McDormand), a woman in her sixties who embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad. Nomadland is a haunting portrayal of the hardships that life throws at us and an aching heart to heal that pain through travel. McDormand's character is a widow from a small mining town in Nevada that recently closed due to the Great Recession.
Fern is resistant to settling down, as we drift with her fighting spirit for the open-air and the longing for connection. McDormand authentically blended into the nomadic community so well that one of the local Targets offered her an application for a job during filming. McDormand's experience of living in a van took four months and covered seven states during production. She was also able to adopt a nomadic lifestyle of being constantly on the move to make the movie seem and feel more genuine. Nomadland plays out to be like a mini-documentary — showcasing other real-life nomads throughout the picture as fictionalized versions of themselves. This powerful character study will seep into your brain, leaving an enteral footprint on your mind. Zhao's newest craft was inspired by a recent 2017 nonfiction book (Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century) by the journalist Jessica Bruder. Zhao's third feature (2015's Songs My Brothers Taught Me, and The Rider) also won the 2020 Golden Lion Award at this year's Venice Film Festival, making it an early front-runner for the 2021 Oscars.
If Zhao gets nominated for Best Director (I think she should), then that would make her the first Asian woman director to be nominated in that category. Cinematographer Joshua James Richards' (2017's God Own Country, and The Rider) expansive outdoor scenery molds the wondrous and lonely structure of the American West. Nomadland jungles complexity, as we see a vast-open America and the forgotten people wondering around the dusty plains. The heavy-handedness of Zhao's film will sneak up on you until you are overwhelmed with emotions. Zhao masterfully weaves together this delicate balance of tone and story, while McDormand delivers another Oscar-worthy performance for the books. Nomadland embodies a vision of hope through progression, as Fern yearns for a day where she won't languish in the pain by this capitalistic country that's weighing down on her. Through emotional readiness drifting throughout the wide-open spaces, Nomadland embarks on a journey waiting to be told. I had the privilege of watching this perfect picture virtually in the comfort of my home during the 58th New York Film Festival. Nomadland receives a five-star review from me, as Zhao's latest feature symbolizes the 2020 message everyone is longing for ... hope. Until then, “See you down the road.”
Nomadland is rated R (Restricted). Some Full Nudity.
This masterpiece is directed by Chloé Zhao
Starring Frances McDormand and David Strathairn.
Review: On the Trail
Understanding the small form of bias of a news organization documenting its own journalist — On the Trail: Inside the 2020 Primaries is still an intimate viewpoint of journalist behind-the-scenes; that is also well polished and thoroughly told.
On the Trail captures the flashiness, grit, and hectic nature of journalism following political campaigns during an election year. This HBO Max and CNN Film documentary follows a group of female CNN political reporters as they cover the 2020 Democratic primaries on the campaign trail, back when there was one. This documentary came out in August, and the Democratic primaries were back in March — nevertheless — this primary season feels like ancient history, due to COVID. At times, On the Trail might feel like a small infomercial for HBO Max and CNN — however — I enjoyed watching the behind-the-scenes nature of longtime and up-and-coming female journalists. We see and hear from journalists like Dana Bash, Kyung Lah, and Kaitlan Collins as they report from the campaign trails. These reporters travel from one state to the next (often on short notice), fighting to stay on top of the relentless 24/7 news cycle. "There is nothing like the rush of covering a presidential campaign," chief political correspondent Dana Bash says in the documentary. "We get a front-row seat to history." We also get to see an in-depth look at the lives of 'embeds' — Daniella Diaz and Jasmine Wright. It's important and encouraging to see so many women and women of color in the field of journalism, continuing to demonstrate why representation matters.
Embedded journalists are assigned to different candidates during the primary season, like Democratic candidates Joe Biden (now the Democratic nominee), Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg. Some also covered the Trump campaign rallies that happened as these primaries were taking place. We see the chaotic and always on the move lifestyles these embeds are going through on a daily basis. Here, they travel from state-to-state, covering a candidate's every move and the 24/7 news cycle that can change on a dime. Example: Joe Biden's comeback win at the South Carolina primary that propelled him back into the spotlight, ultimately carving a path for victory to seal the 2020 Democratic nomination. Even with its minor flaws, On the Trail, is an important documentary for anyone interested in journalism should watch. For far too long, we have been seeing a White House whose priority has been to discredit the very bedrock of journalism — shouting 'Fake News' out of their megaphones. We have a president who is trying to erode the very pillar of journalism, dismaying daily misinformation to the public. This is a dangerous precedent set before our country, as the future of democracy is on the ballot come this November.
The journalist's job is to hold public figures accountable and to keep the public informed on the truth. No public figure or politician should ever shy away from hard-hitting questions. Questions are only perceived to be hard-hitting if it makes a public figure and or politician feel uncomfortable. We, the people, have a right to know. So, in this way, journalists become our voice by proxy and help us uncover the truth. That is why we need them to keep asking the hard questions. It's a very ethical approach to the structure of journalism, and it is something that we do not want to see be taken away. I'll leave you with this quote by my favorite modern politician, the late John McCain: “If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That's how dictators get started.” Right now, you have the opportunity to be on the right side of history and to vote for a candidate who believes in the fundamentals of preserving our democracy, upholding the oath of the office, and will help unite our polarized country as one. Or, you can choose an incumbent who has spent the last 4-years eroding the very pillars of our government, has attacked our democratic norms, has weakened our alliances across the world, and has further wedged a divide between our already hurting country for his personal gain. I know which direction I want our country to head towards, do you?
Every vote counts! Go to iwillvote.com
On the Trail is Note Rated NR
Unthinkable is a low-budget Indie thriller that showcases first-time directors George Loomis and Elias Talbot's creative craft.
Though I could not experience Loomis and Talbot's film on a big screen or at a film festival this year, it was still a privilege to watch Unthinkable on a small screen. Unthinkable is wonderfully crafted by first-time directors Loomis and Talbot — while the film is also meticulously polished and cut throughout every scene. First pinned as Caretakers, Unthinkable follows the story of a young medical student (Loomis) who finds himself infringed in an international conspiracy after being sent to care for a hospitalized former U.S. Ambassador to Syria (Christopher Cousins). Unthinkable's scenes are crisp and sharply cut by editors Andrew Kadikian and Mike Lowther — making for a suspenseful treat. Actor Vivica A. Fox plays Dr. Sherry Cooper, and actor Angell Conwell plays Dr. Leigh Waters, who both give off some questionable vibes about the hospital's motives. Leading one to ask who should really be trusted? Unthinkable builds tension throughout each scene and then pivots to an unannounced twist at the end. One critique I would have about Loomis and Talbot's film was, at times, the dialogue came off a bit stiff and or wooden, making some of the scenes not feel as believable.
Nevertheless, Loomis and Talbot's creative vision in this low-budget Indie thriller shines a bright spotlight on both of their talents as directors. I am looking forward to seeing more of their work in the near future. Unthinkable was also awarded Best Film at the 2019 Santa Fe Film Festival. If Loomis and Talbot were able to direct a film this gripping, imagine what they could make on a full-scale budget. I will continue to say this, Independent films are vital to the natures of cinema and need our help and support on getting them out to the masses. Another aspect of Unthinkable was its impressive opening title sequence and its wonderfully dramatic score. The score was by composer Bobby Villarreal, who did a remarkable job at creating drama and tension scene after scene. Unthinkable is a promising first feature for Loomis and Talbot, who have produced a rousing film that leaves you wanting to know what will happen next — leading our main character (Loomis) down a rabbit hole. Unthinkable will be available worldwide on 10/9/20. You can rent Unthinkable through Video On Demand on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, FandagoNow, Redbox TVOD, Movie Spree, and it's also accessible via Comcast and Charter cable companies.
Unthinkable is rated not rated NR.
Directed by George Loomis and Elias Talbot
Starring George Loomis, Christopher Cousins, Vivica A. Fox, Angell Conwell, Natalija Nogulich, Nick Airus, Katalina Viteri, and Missi Pyle.
For Your Consideration:
Cup Of Soul Show
In Their Own League
Mashley at the Movies
Mike, Mike, and Oscar
The Movie Oracle
Next Best Picture
Reos Positive POV
The SoBros Network
Untitled Cinema Gals Project