Review and Recap of the 89th Academy Awards

If there is any TV event that I have to watch, it is the Academy Awards every year. I guess because I am a filmmaker or rather an aspiring filmmaker who likes to live vicariously through something I hope to experience one day.

Jimmy Kimmel hosted the 89 Academy Awards this year. I’m not too familiar with him, as I’ve never been a fan of late night talk show. He did have some where he told Justin Timberlake that maybe he will be allowed back in NSYNC.

Admittedly, I don’t feel that I watch awards shows for entertainment.  I really only care about the winners and victory speeches.

Highlights for me included:

  1. When Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae, the main cast of Hidden Figures, introduced on stage, Katherine Johnson (whom Henson played) right before presenting the documentary film.  I loved that moment, and it is great that now the whole world knows Johnson’s  story.
  2. Viola Davis’s victory speech.  I respect her so much because throughout her career, she takes the time speak out in favor of diversity and making sure that the people.
  3. The tourists who were surprised with getting to walk into the ceremony.  It was nice to see Denzel Washington “marrying” an engaged couple.  And overall, it was great that they got a chance to see the Oscars up close.
  4. It’s still kind of hard for me to process the very end of the show. La La Land as the winner of the picture, as has been widely expected throughout all of our season. Turned out a mistake was made. It was actually Moonlight that won Best Picture. I was definitely shocked to see that. It is rather unfortunate that there was one group of people who were told that they won when reality they did not, and it is also unfortunate that people who actually did win, had to be awkwardly told a mistake was made and that they did actually win.  Nonetheless, Moonlight’s win is a great moment since not too many films centering on the black experience (or the experience of people of color in general) win Oscars.  It makes me cautiously optimistic for greater diversity in Hollywood.


Commemoration of the Fifteenth Anniversary of Aaliyah’s Death: Recap and Review of Her Final Public Television Interview on BET’s 106 & Park

This was Aaliyah’s final public interview.

On August 21, 2001, Aaliyah appeared on this show to give away the grand prize of her “Get Paid in the Escalade Contest.”  Every day for the past month, an audience member received a one thousand dollar cash prize, and was entered to win the grand prize of twenty thousand dollars in cash, and a black 2002 Cadillac Escalade SUV.

Aaliyah also announced that her next single would be “Rock the Boat” and that she would begin filming the video the next day.  A video for “More than a Woman,” which was originally intended to be her the second single from her self-titled album, had already been filmed, but she confirmed that it would be released after “Rock the Boat.”

We learn some personal information about Aaliyah.  She says that she has never owned a vehicle because living in New York means there is no point, since New York is not a car-friendly city, but she would like to have a truck if she did have her own automobile.  Her video for “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number” was shown as the episode’s “old school joint,” an older music video, and Aaliyah explained that this was the only video she did in Detroit, which was where she grew up (Aaliyah was born in New York City).  Several of her friends appeared in the video.  Other of her favorite videos that she did included “One in a Million” and “Are You That Somebody?” because the latter consisted entirely of one of her favorite things: dancing.

Aaliyah also got the chance to interview some of the finalists.  She asked one young woman what she would do if she won the car.  She said she would drive to beach.  When Aaliyah asked what she would do with the money, she said that she would help her family and then  go on a shopping spree.

Eventually, the winner was chosen: a young man named Julian Hawkins.

This was really nice.  Aaliyah showed how relatable she was, and how much she loved to give back.  Of course, in hindsight, it seems bittersweet, but we saw how in her final days, she was still doing what she loved and reaching out to others.

Commemoration of the Fifteenth Anniversary of Aaliyah’s Death: Recap and Review of A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Her Final Music Video “Rock the Boat” on BET’s Access Granted

This was the last footage of Aaliyah, other than the music video for “Rock the Boat.”

On August 22, 2001, Aaliyah began filming the music video in Miami.  The video was directed by Hype Williams, who has directed other videos for many hip-hop and R&B artists.

Aaliyah is in a studio filming a dance routine in front of a green screen.  The green screen would later be replaced by tidal waves in post-production.  We meet her “sister,” her very close friend, Fatimah Robinson, who created the routine.  Robinson stated that the dance moves were based on African and Caribbean (specifically Jamaican reggae and dancehall) influences.  The two also joke about how they try to please Aaliyah’s mother in making sure that the routine is not too sexy.  We also meet Aaliyah’s hair stylist and makeup artist, who wold also perish in the plane crash that happened three days later.

That night, Aaliyah films scenes underwater in a swimming pool.  The illusion is created to make it look as though she is wimming in the ocean.  She struggles to use the breathing machine, and so she holds her breath, and later, she states that it was hard, but worth the beautiful footage, they captured.

On August 24, 2001, production had since moved to Marsh Harbour, Abaco Islands, The Bahamsa.  Aaliyah is up early in the morning to film scenes on the shore of the beach.  She says that it is painful to wake up so early to get ready for filming, but she will do anything to make a great video.

Later she films scenes under what appears to be a hut, and the next day, she films scenes on a boat.  We also see footage of some free time, where she lunges by a pool with her makeup artist.  She asks her clothing stylist to explain how he is inspired to dress her as he does.

This episode is nice, but sad, as Aaliyah and her entourage are having so much fun (despite working very hard) on this video, and yet, they have no idea that this would be the last major thing they ever do.  Filming in a tropical paradise location, and having not a care in the world, except for the work they are doing, and not knowing they would die soon, makes the tragedy all the more heartbreaking.


Commemoration of the Fifteenth Anniversary of Aaliyah’s Death: Recap and Review of Her Episode of MTV’s Stripped

MTV’s  Stripped was a series where celebrities were interviewed in a unique way.  Instead of a person asking them questions, they would pick their own questions to answer.  The questions would be split into various categories.  And the guest would pick up a piece of paper and talk about what is written.

The episode featuring Aaliyah is seemingly the most well-known episode, and has apparently gone viral in the years following her tragic death.  When you google  “MTV Stripped,” many of the search results are related to her episode.  On Tumblr, all of the search results are related to her episode.

The episode is nice because it shows who Aaliyah the person is.  She talks about lots of things, and she shows that she is just like any non-celebrity person.

For example, Aaliyah talks about what she does to chill.  She likes to take bubble baths, or alternately, she will read a book; she said that she was currently obsessed with Harry Potter and that she is on the second book.

Aaliyah talks about musicians she admires.  She praises a not so popular, but talented singer named Lewis Taylor.  She got starstruck when she attended a public MTV for Janet Jackson, and Stevie Wonder, a singer she is a huge fan of, asked to meet her.  And her “soul sister” Sade, who shares the same birthday, and whom she praises for never compromising who she is as an artist, even if she were to take a long hiatus.  She also expresses admiration for Britney Spears and NSYNC, especially Justin Timberlake.

Aaliyah talks about being a celebrity.  She says that she doesn’t talk about her relationships because although being a celebrity means you give up lots of privacy, she feels the need to keep at least one thing out of the public eye, and that thing is her love life.  Another thing she mentions is rumors.  Aaliyah found it funny that people claim that she has a glass eye, and that that is why she constantly wears sunglasses and covers her left eye with her hair.  But she seems annoyed when she recalled how one person asked her to her face if she has a glass eye.  The person could clearly see that she does not.

Aaliyah is not afraid be a little negative.  She expresses a fear of motorbikes.  And she refuses to talk about an embarrassing date.  She also confesses to having changed a grade on her report card from a C to an A.

Celebrity interviews can be very intersting, and it is especially nice to seem them lead the way, and to give them a chance tell us about them.  Aaliyah, because she was very relatbale made this very enjoyable.


Review and Recap of Heavenly Creatures: One of Peter Jackson’s Early Films Before The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit Trilogy

This movie is based on a true story, a story that happened in director Peter Jackson’s native New Zealand in 1952-1954.

The film begins with a newsreel of Christchurch, New Zealand. It then segways to two teenage girls, Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme running through the woods, screaming hysterically at the tops of their lungs. They make it out of the woods, covered in blood, and they reveal that Pauline’s mother Honora is dead.

The movie then flashbacks to sometime in 1952.  Pauline Parker (Melanie Lynskey) is a fourteen-year-old girl.  She is very sullen, and she dis-satisfied with her life, often spending time alone.  She meets Juliet Hulme (Kate Winslet), a wealthy girl from England, whose family has just moved to New Zealand, and they become fast friends.  They are both excused from physical education class because of their respective health issues.  Pauline was diagnosed with osteomyelitis when she was a child, and she had to get multiple surgeries on her legs; Juliet suffered from tuberculosis, and her parents, Henry and Hilda, sent her to the Bahamas for five years during World War II in order for her to recuperate.

As the two girls grow closer and closer, they come up with their own fantasy world, Borovnia, which is inhabited by what appear to be life-sized gray plasticine sculptures that are sentient and can move around like humans.  They begin writing novels about the world together, and they plan to publish them and have them made into a series of Hollywood movies.  Juliet also tells Pauline about “the Fourth World” which she says is better than heaven and contains an appreciation of art and music.  The two girls very regularly escape from the real world into Borovnia and once into the Fourth World.

Pauline and Juliet are inseparable.  However, things start to go south.  First of all, Juliet falls ill with tuberculosis.  Her parents send her to a hospital for four months, and they leave the country.  Pauline only has limited opportunities to see Juliet in person.  Juliet feels that her hospitalization is proof that her parents don’t really care about her, as they sent her away to the Bahamas during World War II “for the good of [her] health,” as they put it, and apparently, they had no contact with her.  Pauline’s relationship with her mother also begins to deteriorate.  This is compounded when she is caught in bed with a young man who was lodging with her family.

Pauline’s parents become concerned with their daughter’s obsessive friendship with Juliet.  Honora takes her to the doctor who tells her that she may be homosexual (at the time, of course, homosexuality was considered to be a mental illness), but that it’s only a “phase” that will go away.

One night, Juliet catches her mother, Hilda having sex with another man.  She tries to blackmail her mother, but Hilda reveals that her father already knows, and that her lover, one of her clients, will be staying in their home temporarily.  Henry reveals that he and Hilda are getting divorced.  Pauline is there to comfort Juliet when she hears the news.  Henry also reveals that he is leaving the family home.  Juliet is unwilling stay with her mother, and Henry reveals that Juliet will be moving to South Africa to live with an aunt so that the warmer South African client will be “for the good of [her] health.”

Pauline and Juliet are devastated about being separated.  They both want go to South Africa together, but they are told that that’s impossible.  None of their parents will allow it.  They conclude that Honora is the obstacle standing in their way, and they make plans to murder her.

One day, Honora invites Pauline and Juliet on a picnic in the woods.  While Honora is distracted, they hit her on the head with a brick, and continue doing so until she is dead.  The two girls are charged with murder.  Since they are minors, they can’t be sentenced to death.  Instead, they are sentenced to an indefinite term in prison or as the court put it “ at Her Majesty’s pleasure.”  After five years, Juliet and Pauline are released from prison on the condition that they never contact each other ever again.

This is where the movies ends; however, in real life, they moved on with their lives…without each other.  According to Wikipedia:

Trial and aftermath[edit]

The trial was a sensational affair, with speculation about their possible lesbianism and insanity. The girls were convicted on 28 August 1954, and each of them spent five years in prison as they were too young to be considered for the death penalty. Some sources say they were released with the condition that they never contact each other again,[3] but Sam Barnett, then Secretary for Justice, told journalists there was no such condition.[4]

The murder was touched upon as strong evidence of moral decline less than four months later by the Special Committee on Moral Delinquency in Children and Adolescents in what became known as the Mazengarb Report, named after its chair, Ossie Mazengarb.

After her release from prison, Juliet Hulme spent time in the United States and later began a successful career as a historical detective novelist under her new name, Anne Perry. She has been a Mormon since about 1968.[5] The fact that Perry and Hulme were the same person was not well-known until 1994. In March 2006, Perry argued that while her relationship with Pauline Parker was obsessive, they were not lesbians.[6]

Pauline Parker spent some time in New Zealand under close surveillance before being allowed to leave for England. As of 1997, she was living in the small village of Hoo near Strood, Kent, and running a children’s riding school.[7] As an adult, she became a Roman Catholic. She expressed strong remorse for having killed her mother and for many years refused to give interviews about the murder.[7]

I learned about the case a few years ago.  I thought that it would make an excellent movie.  Then I found out that it was made into a movie.  I found it on Netflix, and I watched it.

I found it fascinating to watch the story of a close friendship unfold.  As I said in a few previous posts, I find it very enjoyable to see movies that are about close, intimate relationships between two people, whether familial, platonic, or romantic.

The story really pulls you into the world that the girls created for themselves.  It is fascinating to see the depictions of Borovnia, and how real it was to them.  The film also shows how friendship can go wrong, and how unhealthy and destructive it can be.

I think what I can take from the movie is that it is wonderful to feel close to someone, to have to one true, close, deep friend.  But you can’t let a friendship allow you to harm others.




Recap and Review of The Fault in Our Stars (The Film Adaptation of the Book)

The Book About the Teens With Cancer.  That’s what people may think of The Fault in Our Stars, but it’s really not.  It’s a story about life, love, and loss.  It’s a story about how we deal with bad, unfair circumstances.

I was introduced to the book by my sister, and I only read the first chapter.  This spring, I saw the film adaptation.  It was quite enjoyable.

Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) is a teenage girl was diagnosed with thyroid cancer that spread to her lungs, rendering unable to breath without oxygen tanks.  She takes experimental medication that has helped to prolong her life.  Her parents force her to attend a support group for teens with cancer, and she meets the free-spirited Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), who lost his lower right leg to bone cancer, and has a prosthesis.

As the two become close, they bond over Hazel’s favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, which is about a a young girl who dies from cancer.  Confused over the abrupt ending, Augustus convinces Hazel to email the author Peter Van Houten (Willem Dafoe), who lives in Amsterdam, to inquire about the meaning of the ending.  He emails back and invites Hazel to come to visit him.  Augustus is able to obtain tickets from a charity, and things are all set.

Hazel is excited, but then she gets hospitalized.  Her doctors are unwilling to let her travel, but they are soon convinced.  While in Amsterdam, Hazel and Augustus have a romantic dinner, paid for by Van Houten, and the the next they meet Van Houten, but he rudely dismisses them.  His assistant (who arranged everything that Hazel and Augustus did) makes up for it by taking them to the Anne Frank House, and while there, inspired by a recording of Frank’s words, they kiss.  That night, they have sex for the first time, but the following morning Augustus reveals that his cancer has returned and is terminal, having spread throughout his body.  He is going to die.

Back at home, Augustus and Hazel struggle to cope with Augustus’s impending death, as his health deteriorates.  With his best friend Isaac (Nat Wolff), who lost both of his eyes to cancer, Hazel throws a pre-funeral for him.  Shortly afterwards, Augustus dies after the cancer spreads to his heart, stopping it in the process.  Naturally, Hazel is devastated.

At Augustus’s funeral, she sees Van Houten.  It tuns out that Augustus insisted that he attend his funeral as a way to make amends for how he treated him and Hazel.  He  explains that the main character of his book was based on his own daughter who died from cancer.  He also gives her a piece of paper.  Hazel balls the piece of paper up, but later she learns from Isaac that Van Houten helped Augustus write a eulogy for her.  She finds the paper and reads it.  She is moved by his words and is happy that she knew him.

I saw this movie because it was assigned by my my professor in my Interpersonal Communication class as an example of how relationships unfold and develop.

What I liked about the film was that it was full of purely honest emotion.  It was not sappy or melodramatic like lots of films concerning such subject matter.  Cancer was an important part of the characters’ development, but it did not define them, and it did not seek to make them perfect or saintly or the like.  What made the movie special was that it was realistic, it was not saccharine, and it was about living life in spite of its difficulties.


Recap and Review of Four Moons (Original Title: Cuatro Lunas)

Cuatro lunas is a Mexican film focusing on four different generations of gay men and boys in Mexico City, each represented by one of the four main phases of the moon.


Hugo and Andres are introduced first.  They have been together for ten years, but Hugo is not a fan of Andres’s feminine mannerisms,  andespecially, their refrigerator which is completely covered with magnets.

Things grow more complicated when Hugo confesses to having an affair with Sebastian.  Andres is devastated, and he begs Hugo not to leave him.  The two men agree to stay together if Hugo stays away from Sebastian for two weeks.  However, Hugo breaks his promise, and he sees Sebastian again.

He manages to break things off with Sebastian, and he and Andres make plans together to see a play.  However, Hugo decides to see Sebastian at a sex club.  When Sebastian says no to a man in the club, and the man continues to make advances towards him, Hugo intervenes, and the man smashes a bottle on his head.

Hugo leaves, and he calls Andres.  Andres takes him to the hospital, where Hugo gets his wounds treated.  Hugo returns home to see that Andres is gone.  Andres has moved into a new home, and looks forward to his new life alone.  Hugo decides to decorate the refrigerator with magnets, as a sign that he will always remember his time with Andres.


The next story that is introduced is that of a timid eleven-year-old Mauricio.  Mauricio has a crush on his cousin Oliver.  The two bond over video games, but Mauricio deep down wants more than just a platonic or familial relationship.  This is shown when Oliver sleeps over one night, and Mauricio watches him sleeping, while closing his eyes quickly when he thinks that Oliver is waking up, and when the next morning, Mauricio touches his lips onto Oliver’s cup of milk when no one is watching, so that he could “indirectly kiss” Oliver.

Mauricio’s relationship with his parents.  At one point, Mauricio asks them for the new Street Fighter video game.  They object because they just bought him one, but Mauricio did not know that the new one was coming out.  Hector snaps at Mauricio when he pleads for the game.  But Laura is more gentle and suggests that Mauricio sell the old game, and help him with chores around the house.  Hector intercedes, insisting that Mauricio do a more “masculine” chore to help earn the money for the game.

Some time later, Mauricio goes to his priest.  He asks the priest if being gay is sin.  The priest tells him not to worry because there is no way that he could be gay.

Later on, Oliver and his parents show up for dinner one night.  Mauricio takes Oliver to his bedroom so that they can play the new Street Fighter game.  After Mauricio beats Oliver, Mauricio tries to make small talk; what happened next really shocked me, and the conversation turns sexual.  Mauricio asks Oliver if he knows what circumcision is.  Oliver responds that he does.  Mauricio asks Oliver if he is circumcised; Oliver says yes, and Mauricio says that he is not.  Mauricio asks Oliver if he has ever seen an uncircumcised penis, and Oliver responds that he has at the showers of the club (I’m assuming a health club, or maybe a country club); Mauricio says that he’s never seen a circumcised penis, and he asks Oliver to show him his penis.  Oliver balks, saying “Don’t be a faggot.”  Mauricio offers to show his penis to Oliver, and Oliver agrees.  After that, Oliver does the same, and Mauricio remarks on how circumcised penises look better, though Mauricio claims that their the same.  Mauricio asks to touch it, and Oliver once again, rejects his advance in a homophobic manner.  Mauricio points out to Oliver that he is erect; Mauricio reaches over, and he begins to manually stimulate Oliver.  Oliver finds this pleasurable, but then makes another homophobic remark, stops the encounter and goes back downstairs to the living room, leaving Mauricio feeling hurt over how their relationship has been destroyed. (It needs to be pointed out that this scene has no nudity, and the sexual content is only imply and NEVER depicted directly.)  This scene really shocked me because it is unusual for children of this age to be depicted in a sexual act, even if the act is only implied; it also somewhat rare for young gay children to be depicted on screen.

Shortly afterwards at school, Oliver and a group of two boys taunt Mauricio for being gay and Oliver accuses him of wanting to grab boys in their crotches.  Mauricio tries to ignore them, but Oliver and the two boys begin a fight with Mauricio.  In the principal’s office, along with Mauricio’s parents, and Oliver’s parents, Oliver admits, readily and without remorse, to hitting Mauricio, and says that Mauricio should tell them why.  Mauricio does not want to tell them, and so Oliver says (in a derogatory and homophobic manner) that Mauricio is gay, and that’s why they hit him.  The principal asks why he’s saying that.  And Oliver tells Mauricio to tell them what he did to him in his house.  Oliver and Mauricio’s mothers suggest that they end the meeting right now, but Hector demands that Mauricio tell the truth.  Oliver then tells them that Mauricio grabbed him down there, but Mauricio insists that it was consensual.  Hector leaves the office in disgust, and the meeting is ended.

Back at home, things are tense.  Mauricio comes downstairs for dinner, and Hector leaves.  Later that night, Laura tells Hector about their son’s headache, that still hasn’t gone away.  Hector doesn’t want to do anything about because it is not a big deal to him.  He also blames Laura for Mauricio being gay, saying that she is way too soft towards him.  Later on, Laura calls the doctor, and Hector picks up medicine for Mauricio.

Fortunately, things start to look up.  Laura tells Mauricio that she loves him no matter what and Hector isn’t angry at him, but angry at the entire ordeal.  Soon afterwards, Hector sets up a punching bag for Mauricio to teach him self-defense in case he gets into a another physical confrontation.  We last see Mauricio cooking pancakes for Hector and Laura and decorating them with strawberries.


The third story introduced is that of Joaquin.  Joaquin is married and is a father and grandfather.  Nonetheless he goes to gay saunas.  He sees Gilberto, a male prostitute, and and asks him how much for sex.  Gilberto demands 1500 pesos, but Joaquin balks at such a price.

Later on, we see more of what appears to be a mid-life crisis.  Joaquin is a published poet, and a local university is planning a ceremony to honor his achievements.  He feels a sense of disconnection from his family.

Finally, Joaquin convinces Gilberto to sexually service him.  After that, Joaquin asks for one more thing: He wants Gilberto to attend his ceremony.  Gilberto agrees.  And at the ceremony, they share a brief private kiss, as Gilberto prepares to reunite with his wife and child in America, and Joaquin looks forward to the .


Finally, we meet Adolfo (known as Fito) and Leo who are college students.  Leo approaches Fito, who does not recognize him at first, and Leo tells him that they were friends when they were young.  Fito suddenly remembers, and they embrace each other.  They are both originally from Tepic, Nayarit, but they lost touch with each other when Leo and his family moved to Mexico City.

As Leo and Fito get re-acquainted, Fito tells Leo that his father died, and that he and his mother, Aurora, who is still distraught over her husband’s death, and who spends most of her free time watching telenovelas, moved to Mexico City where his aunt helped Aurora get a job, as his  late father was the family’s breadwinner.

One night, Leo spends the night at Fito’s home, sharing the same bed, and the next morning they kiss each other.  Leo asks Fito if he is gay, but Fito says he doesn’t now.  Leo denies being gay when Fito asks him.  The two young men get closer and closer, and they have sex for the first time, which is an awkward experience for the both of them, but despite that, it is still very enjoyable for the two young men, and afterwards, Fito tells Leo that he is falling in love with him.

One day, a classmate asks if Leo and Fito are a couple.  Leo angrily denies such and thing, and later, he tells Fito that he doesn’t want anybody to know that he’s gay because he doesn’t want the public at large to mistreat him because of that.  Fito tries to come out to Aurora, but she stops him, because she feels incapable of dealing with it without her late husband.

Leo’s desire to stay closeted results in them missing out on a date at a theater where Leo sees his aunts.  Leo states that he does not want his family to know or even suspect that he is gay.  He says that his family has given too much to him and sacrificed too much for him, and he does not want to disappoint them.

Another night, Fito prepares to be picked up by Leo on a date, but Leo never shows up.  He is consoled by Aurora, whom he came out to offscreen, and who tells him that the right man will not be ashamed to be with him.

Shortly afterwards, Fito moves on.  Leo learns from one of their mutual friends that Fito is out of the closet and that he has a boyfriend and goes to gay bars and such.  Fito soon realizes that he still has feelings for Leo.  This happens when Aurora mentions that a character on her favorite telenovela  is marrying a certain man even though she really, truly loves another man.

Leo decides to go to a sex club, but his plans are thwarted when everyone in the club runs out due the fact that a man was injured with glass bottle.  The man happens to be Hugo.  They briefly look at each other, and Hugo leaves.

After this, Leo approaches Fito at his home.  Leo has come out to his family, and they want to meet Fito, on the condition that he introduce Leo as his boyfriend.  Leo agrees, and they embrace.  Their story ends with the two of them sleeping in the same bed.


This was a nice movie for a lot of different reasons.

This was not a traditional narrative.  Netflix described it as an anthology film.  Rather than being one primary narrative, it has four. However, unlike anthology films that have each story self-contained, Cuatro lunas switches between the two stories in the same way that films with ensemble casts do.  Also, despite telling four different stories, none of them intersect except for a brief moment when Leo encounters Hugo; such intersections happen in movies that are part of a type of genre that is called hyperlink cinema.

A couple of years ago at least, I’d been interested in anthology films.  I’d seen one: Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her (which will be the subject of a future post after I re-watch it).  They  are different from the traditional way of depicting a narrative on films, and I wish there were more mainstream ones.

The four stories in this film were all very interesting to see.

The story of Andres and Hugo was a good portrait of a long term relationship that went south.  I liked how to depicted some conflicts within the gay community, specifically that between masculine gay men and feminine gay men.  It was rather intense, when Hugo outright tells Andres that he prefers masculine men.  It seems as though Hugo does not totally love Andres, and it is easy to understand to why he cheated.  Andres tries to make the relationship work, but of course, eventually, he moves on.  This shows how you should not be with someone you cannot completely accept, and that you should not be with someone who is ashamed and embarrassed to be with you.

Mauricio’s story was most interesting.  It is still rare for children of this age to come out at gay.  It is also rare gay children to depicted on the screen.  What I liked about Mauricio was how despite his age, he knew who he was and what he wanted, and he knew that he couldn’t fight it.  It would be great if all children could as self-assured as he was.

Joaquin’s story was kind of odd to me.  Perhaps because of his age, it was hard to understand his midlife crisis.  There is not much information as to why he pursued gay sex.  Perhaps he is bisexual and didn’t want fight his feeling for men, anymore?  There is ambiguity in the end of his story, as he clearly has a sense of closure, and he treasures his encounter with Gilberto.  It does not seem like he is gay.  Maybe this is a one time thing?  Maybe Joaquin was only going to the gay saunas because he grew up in a time where being gay was not accepted (Mexico is more gay-friendly than before, but there is still a long way to gay, as everywhere else in the world, to varying extents)   Still, it was a depiction of how some people spend their entire lives fighting a part of themselves.

Fito and Leo’s story was fun to see.  It’s nice to see friends reunite after a long time, and even, to see them realize that they want more than just a friendship.  However, it was important to see how it can be hard for a relationship to grow if one person wants to keep it a secret, and one person does not.  Fortunately, everything all worked out in the best.  Fito learned to follow his heart.  Leo learned to embrace his identity.

This movie was really good.  Some things happened off screen, when they should have happened on screen (Fito coming out to his mother), but this was a great movie that showed very many examples of the gay experience.

Review and Recap of Notes on a Scandal

This movie is really relatable to me due to its themes of friendship, obsession, loneliness, abandonment forbidden desires, not feeling fulfilled, and betrayal.

Notes on a Scandal was based on the novel of the same name by Zoë Heller (which was published in America under the title of What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal).

Barbara Covett  (Judi Dench) is a sixty-something history teacher who teaches at the St. George’s which is a  comprehensive school in London. She lives a very solitary life; she’s never been married, and she has no children. The only real friend she has is her diary, which she uses to express all of her thoughts. She is a very jaded individual, and she has lots of contempt for most people, but above all, she is searching for a person to be her one true friend.

On the first day of the new term, Barbara meets Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett), an art teacher. Barbara is immediately entranced by Sheba and concluded that “She’s the one I’ve been waiting for.”

One day, Sheba tries to break up a fight between a boy named Steven Connolly (Andrew Simpson) and another boy. She struggles, but Barbara, who is much more experienced in teaching and dealing with students than Sheba is, manages to quickly shut down the fight. Sheba wholeheartedly shakes Barbara’s hand in appreciation, and the two women become close, spending a lot of time together in the school when not in the classroom.  This culminates in Sheba inviting Barbara to her house for lunch on a Sunday afternoon.  Barbara prepares for the lunch, making sure that she looks her best, and shows up.

The door is opened by Sheba’s husband Richard (Bill Nighy), and Barbara is shocked by how old he is; she thinks that she has the wrong house, but then she sees Sheba.  Sheba has two children: Polly (Juno Temple), a sullen teenager, and Ben (Max Lewis) who is free-spirited and friendly and who has Down syndrome.

After lunch, Barbara joins Sheba in Sheba’s art studio.  Sheba confesses that she feels so dissatisfied with her life, despite having a loving family.  Barbara expresses complete empathy.  The two women become closer than ever.

Sometime later, during Guy Fawkes Night celebrations at St. George’s, Barbara witnesses Sheba engaging in sexual intercourse with Steven Connolly who is only fifteen years old.  She is horrified, but she soon realizes that she can very well use this situation to her advantage.

The next day, Barbara calls Sheba to confront her over what she saw.  They later meet at a pub, and Sheba tells the whole story.  After helping Steven with with his art project alone, he began to follow her wherever she went.  She initially ignored him, but she began to be intrigued.  Combined with feeling little satisfaction with her life, and feeling the temptation to do something that is highly taboo and wrong, she began to accept Steven’s advances, and this culminated with the beginning of an inappropriate sexual relationship.  The fight Steven had with another boy was Steven defending Sheba against the boy’s inappropriate remarks about her.  When Barbara helped break up the fight, and she and Sheba became friends  immediately afterwards, Sheba had already been having sex with Steven.

Sheba is afraid that Barbara will tell, but Barbara agrees to keep it a secret on the condition that Sheba ends the affair with Steven. Sheba agrees, but shortly afterwards, on Christmas Day, Steven, who had been constantly texting Sheba, despite her not responding, shows up to her house; Sheba has a tryst with him in secret, away from her family.

In the meantime, things seem to be going well, but when Barbara learns that Sheba and Steven are still having sex, she gets angry and expresses feeling of betrayal.  Sheba finally ends all contact with Steven except in school.  Barbara is there to comfort Sheba in her devastation.

The two women grow closer and closer.  Barbara begins spending more and more time at Sheba’s house, and practically becomes a member of the family.  This leads to tensions.  On the day that Ben is perform in a school play as a wizard, Barbara shows up, asking for Sheba to accompany her to the vet so that her cat can be euthanized. Richard is angry to see Barbara, having gotten tired of seeing her at their house all the time.  Sheba refuses to accompany Barbara.

Some time after Barbara buries her cat, a colleague shows up asking if Sheba may be romantically interested in him.  Barbara replies by saying that she’s heard rumors of Sheba having sex with a student.  Before long, the school is informed.  Sheba is fired, and charged with statutory rape.  News journalists begin harassing Sheba.  Steven’s mother shows up and physically attacks Sheba.  Her husband kicks her out of the house.  Her son is sad to see his mother go.   Her daughter is disgusted that her own mother would have sex with a boy around her age.

Barbara takes Sheba in, feeling happy that Sheba is now isolated.  Sheba soon finds Barbara’s diaries, which reveal that Barbara was the one who exposed her affair with Sheba to the public.  This leads to a fight between the two of them, and culminates with Sheba reconciling with her family and returning home.

When the headmaster learns that Barbara knew about the affair, and that she waited months to tell someone about it, he forces her to retire early.  The headmaster also notes that Barbara has a track record of poor friendships.   She was once friends with a former colleague named Jennifer Dodd, but the relationship was very unhealthy on Barbara’s end; Jennifer eventually moved away, and she threatened legal action against Barbara if she tried to reach out to her again.

Eventually, Sheba is sentenced to eight months.  Barbara sees a woman sitting on a park bench, reading a newspaper that has a headline about Sheba’s sentence.  Barbara says that she knew Sheba, albeit not very well.  The woman introduces herself as Annabel, and Barbara invites her to a classical music concert.

I’d been interested in this movie ever since I heard of it through researching Cate Blanchett.  I finally saw it a few years ago.  I was surprised by how much I could relate to Barbara.  Like her, I’ve been alone for the majority of my life, and I’ve never really had any close friends.  I suppose that no matter what makes us different, we can all agree that the majority of us want somebody that we can be close to.  In addition to being alone, I’ve had those friendships where things did not work out, due to all sorts of reasons.  At times, I’ve gotten too close, and I have driven people away due to apparently wanting more than the other person was able to or willing to give.

I think what this film says is that boundaries in relationships are important.  One must be sure to never cross them otherwise things just won’t end well.

Review and Recap of Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B

Aaliyah is one of those singers who defines “Gone Too Soon.” At the time of her untimely death in 2001 at the age of 22, she had achieved so very much, and it seemed as though the sky was the limit for her.

As is the case of any famous person, it is inevitable that a biopic will be considered. However, biopics are a interesting thing. They can be done well. And they can be done horribly. Also, when it comes to comes to biopics, it must be emphasized that one can never please everybody. People will take issue with casting, artistic license, and so on.  Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B is one such biopic that failed at its goal.

The film begins with Aaliyah performing “My Funny Valentine” on Star Search at the age of ten, which was her first public performance.  She performs with her aunt Gladys Knight (who at the time was married to her uncle Barry Hankerson)  She is signed to a record deal, but she is not yet given the chance to prove herself.  Eventually, she creates her public persona, and starts recording her first albumAge Ain’t Nothing but a Number with the help of R. Kelly.  When R. Kelly gets too close to her, and they get married, despite her being under the age of 18, her parents force Aaliyah to end all contact with him, in both a professional and personal context, and they annul the marriage.

Aaliyah is reluctant to move on with her career without R. Kelly’s influence.  But she recognizes her own inner strength.  She collaborates with Timbaland and Missy Elliott, who give her second album, One in a Million  a new sound.  Aaliayah moves on to more things. She sings the song “Journey to the Past” from the movie Anastasia, and when it is nominated for an Academy Award, she performs it at the Oscars.

Aaliyah makes her film debut in Romeo Must Die, and later, she films The Queen of the Damned and releases her third album  Also, she becomes close with rapper Damon Dash, and the two become romantically involved.  The record label is concerned about the album’s performance, and they suggest that the song “Rock the Boat” be her next single.  She goes off to film it in the Bahamas, but not before she and Dash promise to each other, despite their careers, they will find time for each other.  There is then a post-script that says that Aaliyah died in a plane crash on the way back to America.

Last summer, Lifetime announced that they were planning a movie about the life and career of Aaliyah; it was called Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B.  They cast the actress and singer Zendaya (best known for her role on the Disney Channel sitcom Shake It Up) as Aaliyah.  The announcement of the casting received lots of criticism over the casting because many people felt that Zendaya did not look enough like Aaliyah, and that she was too light-skinned to play Aaliyah.  Aaliyah’s family, however, asked the public to not attack Zendaya.  Also, due to her family disapproving of the production entirely, and due to the fact that they controlled the rights to the majority of her music, Lifetime had to rely on the covers that Aaliyah sang, as well as the original songs that her family did not control.  Zendaya would depart from the role, citing the various issues with getting the rights to the music, among other complication of the production, and she was replaced by Alexandra Shipp.

The film finally premiered on November 15, 2014.  It was universally panned by critics and viewers.

According to Wikipedia:

Critical reception to Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B has been predominantly negative.[10][11][12][13] The New York Times heavily panned the film, criticizing it as “ham-handed” and “underwhelming” and writing “Condensing the singer’s life into such a short space requires a cruel knife and, in this case, a wildly imprecise one. A good film doesn’t show its seams. This one — based on “Aaliyah: More Than a Woman,” a biography by Christopher John Farley — is mostly seams. Much of the acting has dull edges, and the screenplay is aggravatingly stilted.”[14] The Wall Street Journal also criticized the film, commenting that the “overuse of the three and four-way split screen montages only enhanced the lack of material.”[15]

Viewer reaction for the film has been extremely negative and fans mocked the film on social media sites like Twitter,[1][16] using the hashtags #LifetimeBiopics and #LifetimeBeLike.[17][18][19] Viewers felt that Shipp was miscast as Aaliyah, that the late singer’s controversial relationship with R. Kelly was overly romanticized, and that the music covers did not properly do justice to the original songs.[20][21] Fans further commented on the film’s casting as a whole and many created pictures that overly exaggerated what they felt was extreme miscasting of many of the celebrities depicted in the film.[22][23][24]

All I can say is that, this biopic had numerous problems.  In my own words:

Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B is one that fans of the late singer would rather forget.  So many things just did not go right.

  1. Many of the figures in Aaliyah’s life were played by people who hardly even look like them.  The actors portraying, R. Kelly, Missy Elliott, and Timbaland, look like fake versions of the the people they are playing.
  2. Since Aaliyah’s uncle Barry Hankerson owned her now defunct label, Blackground Records, and since he disapproved of the movie from the beginning (along with the rest of Aaliyah’s family), Lifetime did not get the rights to use Aaliyah’s music, and all they could do is use two of her cover songs, and two of her original songs that her family did not own; according to Wikipedia: “Four of her songs (two covers) were used in the film: the Isley Brothers‘ “At Your Best (You Are Love),” Marvin Gaye‘s “Got to Give It Up,” “Journey to the Past” and “The One I Gave My Heart To.”  If you do a biopic on a singer, you need to use their songs, and most of Aaliyah’s most famous song such as “Try Again,” “One in a Million,” and “Are You That Somebody?” are completely absent.
  3. The film is poorly written and put together.  There is a lot of telling and too little showing.  We are often briefly told things that Aaliyah did, and it seemed like the screenwriter was doing that because of having little to work with.
  4. The ending is anti-climactic.  It shows Aaliyah and her romantic partner, Damon Dash talking about how their careers leave them little time to be together, and they promise to spend more time with each other when Aaliyah returns from filming the music video for “Rock the Boat.”  We see her get into a car that drives off into the distance.  Then we see words on screen stating that Aaliyah died in a plane crash in the Bahama shortly after filming the video.  Seeing that made me feel like this was such a cheap ending.  I get that they did not want to depict the plane crash or even have it happen off screen, but it’s not a good ending to show two people making plans for the future, and then be told that one of them would die.

Review and Recap of Move Over, Darling

As I mentioned briefly about in a previous blog post, this movie was a second attempt at a production, as the first attempt was troubled, and it ultimately failed and was forced by a variety of circumstances to shut down.  Twentieth Century Fox wanted to make a remake of 1940 comedy My Favorite Wife called Something’s Got to Give. Marilyn MonroeDean Martin, and Cyd Charisse were to take the roles that were originally played by Irene Dunne Cary Grant,  and Gail Patrick.  However, filming was troubled due to Monroe’s frequent absences.  Monroe was fired from the film, but she was rehired because Martin refused to do the film without her.  However, she died before filming could resume.

Since Fox had already put a lot of money into the film, which was over budget, the decision was made to start over form scratch.  There was a new director, Michael Gordon, who replaced Jean Negulesco, who originally replaced George Cukor.  The new leads were Doris Day, James Garner, and Polly Bergen, taking over from Monroe, Martin, and Charisse.  The new title was Move Over, Darling.

Nick Arden is a lawyer whose wife Ellen Wagstaff Arden was lost at sea following an airplane crash in the Pacific.  It’s been five years since her disappearance, and Nick is in court.  He petitions a judge to have her declared legally dead; the judge is quite absent-minded, but grants the petition.  Immediately afterwards, Nick asks the judge to marry him and his fiancee, Bianca Steele, much to the judge’s surprise.

At the same time, Ellen returns to America.  A Navy submarine ship found her on a deserted island and rescued her.  Ellen wants nothing more than to call her family and let them know that she is alive and well, but when she is unable to make a call, she instead accepts a ride home.

Ellen gets home and she sees her two daughters who were only babies when she disappeared.  They don’t remember her, and Ellen does not tell them who she is.  Ellen later goes inside the house and shocks her mother-in-law Grace.  After Grace gets over the shock, she reluctantly tells Ellen that Nick has gotten re-married; Ellen is devastated by this news, but since he is on his way to Monterey, California, to the same hotel where he and Ellen had their honeymoon, she and Grace realizes that it’s not too late.

Ellen flies to Monterey.  Shortly  after she arrives, Nick and Bianca check into the hotel; the clerk offers him Suite A, but Nick and he insists upon any suite other than the suite where he and Ellen spent their honeymoon, and they are given Suite B.  As he and Bianca get into the elevator, he sees Ellen in the lobby, and he is quite shocked.  Nick makes an excuse to leave Bianca in their hotel room, he finds Ellen, and they embrace each other.  Ellen expresses disappointment with Nick, but he defends himself saying that they couldn’t search for her forever, and he tells her that they held a beautiful memorial service for her.  This touches Ellen’s heart, but she still insists that Nick tell Bianca about her.  Nick checks Ellen into the same suite where they had their honeymoon, which happens to be  next door to the suite Nick got with Bianca.

Nick tries to tell Bianca the truth about Ellen, all while Bianca is trying to consummate their marriage, but there are a variety of complications, including Bianca thinking Nick is rejecting her and acting hysterically.  Ellen loses her patience, and returns home.  Nick fakes a back injury so that he and Bianca will be forced to return home.  Back at home, Grace suggests that she tuck in her daughters into bed.  Ellen still does not tell them that she is their mother, but she sings them a song that she sang for them when they were very young.  They remember it, but they don’t remember where they heard it from.

The next day while the girls are at school, Nick and Bianca return home to see Ellen who is posing as a Swedish nurse.  After Ellen “miraculously” cures Nick’s “broken” back, she offers to give Bianca a massage, but the massage breaks out into a physical altercation, that Nick breaks up only to be distracted by the door bell ringing.

An insurance adjuster comes by, and he mentions in passing that Ellen was stranded on the island with a man named Stephen Burkett, and that they called each other Adam and Eve.  Nick is immediately jealous, and when he tells Ellen that he knows about Stephen, she tries to convince him that nothing happened, but he still refuses to believe her.  Ellen decides to go to a department store where she finds a meek and plain-looking man, and she asks him to pose at Stephen.  At the same time, Nick finds Stephen, a very attractive man, swimming a local hotel’s swimming pool and flirting with women.

Ellen introduces Nick to the fake Stephen; Nick asks them questions about their time on the island, and the fake Stephen states that they spent practically no time together.   After that, Nick and Ellen go out to lunch.  Nick suggests going to a hotel for lunch, knowing that the real Stephen is there.  Ellen confesses that she lied to Nick about the fake Stephen.  Nick starts to feel guilty about his plan to expose Ellen’s lies, and he insists they leave immediately.  Stephen then approaches them.  Angry at Nick’s deception, Ellen leaves and a wacky car chase ensues.

Back at home, Nick and Ellen are bickering when the police come.  They arrest Nick for bigamy.  Grace had called the police since he refused to settle the dispute on his own.  In court, Ellen is declared legally alive, Bianca and Nick’s marriage is annulled, and Ellen decides to sever all ties with Nick.  Stephen shows up in court proclaiming his love for Ellen, but Ellen attacks him, stating that he did nothing but harass her during the five years they spent on the island, and that she tried to spend the past five years staying away from him.

Back at home, Ellen is feeling dejected about the entire ordeal, but she is greeted by her daughters in the swimming pool, who call her “Mom.”  Nick is also swimming, and he invites her to join them.  Despite being fully clothed, Ellen enthusiastically jumps into the pool, embracing Nick and fully reuniting with her family.

I’ve been obsessed with this movie since last fall, though I saw it maybe in 2013.  It’s the just the dilemma.  You lose your spouse at sea.  You find love with somebody else.  You declare your spouse legally dead so that you can get re-married.  Then your spouse is is rescued and returns home.  What do you do?  This theme is so timely that this movie could be perfect for a remake today in 2015.

Another appealing thing to me is the theme of “coming back to life” (so to speak) and having a second chance with with your family who previously thought you were dead.  It has to be extremely hard to be away from your family for five years, to miss seeing your children grow up, and so on.  Also, it must be hard on your family to lose their loved one, and to not even be able to give them a proper burial, and to be a child who lost their parent as a baby, and who has to grow up never knowing their mother.

Despite these themes and the entertaining factor of the movie, there are some plot holes.   When Ellen returns to her home, and she sees her two daughters in the swimming pool, they, at the time of her disappearance, were babies, and they were too young to remember her.  Ellen greets her daughters, but they don’t recognize her.  I can’t believe that.  I mean, the only way this would be possible is if Nick had removed all photos of Ellen in their home, and never showed them to their two daughters.  It seems selfish for a father to never show his daughters any  photos of their presumably deceased mother.  Even if they don’t remember her, they could still feel the pain of the fact that (as far as they knew) their mother was dead, and that they would never know her.  Then again, the beginning shows Nick to be somewhat insensitive, in that he had Ellen declared legally dead, and married Bianca immediately afterwards; the judge was right to be shocked that a man would have his first wife declared legally dead and without waiting at all, marry his second wife.  Also, when Ellen poses as Helga, the Swedish nurse, Bianca does not recognize her either.  So, we are expected to believe that Nick removed all photos of Ellen, and never showed his new wife photos of his first wife whom he lost?

Despite these plot holes, I enjoy the film simply because of its humor and the themes it addresses.