Thursday, January 21, 2021

About Talented Kim Cattrall

 Actress Kim Cattrall became more popular than ever in her extensive career when she played lusty Samantha on HBO's hit series, SEX AND THECITY. Whether we baby boomers realize or not, we've been Kim Cattrall fans for a long time. It's not mentioned much today, but remember what a big hit the raunchy teen comedy, PORKY'S, was back in 1981? She was in that as Coach Honeywell, the lady who made sounds like Lassie when she was making love. She also starred in 1987's MANNEQUIN as the store mannequin come to life. We played the music video for MANNEQUIN on VH1. After a lot of film and TV work, the role of Samantha Jones in SEX AND THE CITY came her way -- and she made the role her own when the series premiered in 1998. Two feature films were spun off from the series which ended in 2004. Recently, entertainment news reported that Sarah Jessica Parker will return as Carrie in a reboot with her two co-stars. Not three. Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis have signed on to reprise their roles in the reboot that will focus on the characters now in their 50s. Kim Cattrall is not in the reboot.. Of course, there was online speculation as to whether of not she got along with her former cast members. Well, my opinion is that Kim Cattrall outgrew the role of Samantha Jones.

 In 2014, Kim Cattrall starred on a series for HBO Canada. It should've aired here in the U.S. too for it showed Cattrall slamming across some of the best acting of her career. She played a more dimensional character in a witty, wise and mature series. It was called SENSITIVE SKIN.   


 
Cattrall played Davina, a 50 year old former model who is a wife and mother. She and her husband have a grown son. Davina is dealing with the changes, humiliations and revelations of middle-age. She deals with her bodily changes, her fractured relationship with her sister (played terrifically by Joanna Gleason) her husband's writing career and his being the recent victim of a street crime, and her hospital-bound mother. There's humor in the episodes but it never eclipses the dramatic situations. I'm a gay man and it seemed that, for my community, watching SEX AND THE CITY every week was the law. And I lived in the Chelsea section of New York City which was like West Hollywood on the Hudson. But I didn't watch every week. For one thing, I constantly wondered if the four female friends had relatives. We never saw siblings, aunts or uncles, mothers or fathers. And did they have friends of color in the extremely racially diverse New York City? SENSITIVE SKIN is pleasantly different. By the time you get to the third episode, called THE THREE SISTERS, you see that it's more complex and, for an actress, more of a challenge that SEX AND THE CITY. Cattrall met that challenge with flying colors. She gave an Emmy and Golden Globe nomination worthy performance. Here's a trailer for the show that you can now stream on Acorn TV with Amazon Prime video channels.

SENSITIVE SKIN concluded in 2016. Since then, Kim Cattrall has moved on to play America's first female President of the United States in the dramatic TV series, MODUS, seen on PBS stations.

With the acting depth and intelligence Kim Cattrall displayed in SENSITIVE SKIN and MODUS, going back to play oversexed Samantha Jones on SEX AND THE CITY would be like asking Sally Field to consider starring in a reboot of GIDGET after her performance in Spielberg's LINCOLN brought her a third Oscar nomination. That's my opinion.


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

About HERSELF

 This is a new foreign film that, at the end, made me say "Wow." It's foreign, but not subtitled. The story takes place in modern-day Dublin, Ireland. Considering the homes and city locations you see in the film, Dublin resembles Los Angeles or San Francisco. Dublin is sophisticated and contemporary. There are Black people in Dublin. The film is called HERSELF and it was directed by Phyllida Lloyd. She directed the musical MAMMA MIA! starring Meryl Streep. That was a huge international money-maker. Then Lloyd directed Streep to a Best Actress Oscar victory for THE IRON LADY in which the star played Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. I liked both movies. However, of the three, HERSELF is now my favorite. The production is from Amazon Studios and the actors are not known here in the States. But you'll remember some names after you see it -- especially the name of the stunning lead actress. 


 Clare Dunne plays Sandra. Sandra lives in a nice suburban home. She's a playful, devoted mother with two smart, dependable, lovable little girls. But Sandra has an abusive husband who beats her and leaves her with an injured hand. It was injured when she was on the floor and he forcefully stepped on it. She takes the girls and gets out of that marriage. It's on court records that the husband beat her. Sandra now works as a cleaner to provide for the girls. She cleans the home of a female doctor who had a hip injury that caused mobility issues. Sandra also cleans a pub. When she takes the girls to see their dad on weekends, he pulls Sandra aside one day and says "I'm seeing a counselor." Nevertheless, he's still verbally abusive. Sandra misses him -- not the abusive man, but the man he was before he went dark. She's still determined to raise the girls on her own but society doesn't exactly help the physically abused woman who is now a responsible yet financially struggling single mother. She cannot find decent housing. The social system works against her. The abusive ex-husband still has a comfortable home.

Then Sandra sees an online ad for a certain architectural opportunity that grabs her interest. Sandra declares, "I want to build a house."

She does. With the help of the doctor whose home she cleans. As Sandra builds the little house and goes up against a social system that constantly tells her "No," she is rebuilding herself. The powerful, passionate Claire Dunne performance got the "Wow" from me at the end. She's outstanding as the resilient Sandra. I also loved the performance from Harriet Walter as the supportive doctor. Here's a trailer.



HERSELF is a very good film, 
Phyllida Lloyd's best film to date. Check it out on Amazon Prime.


 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

About WHAT WOULD SOPHIA LOREN DO?

 This documentary is a little 30-minute gem on Netflix. Basically, it's a longtime, ardent Sophia Loren fan in New Jersey talking about her love for the work of actress Sophia Loren. But it's a surprisingly touching half-hour. As she describes scenes we see from classic Sophia Loren foreign films, this lady in New Jersey, the daughter of Italian immigrants, she illuminates in plain words why we love movies and certain movie stars. Loren's work and life reflected joys and sorrows in the New Jersey fan's own life. Her explanation of scenes my not sound sophisticated like the reviews of film critics on national TV, but you know exactly what she means and you connect to her words. You understand why she loves the legendary star. There were times in the lady's life when she was faced with having to make a decision in a certain situation. She would think to herself something that became the title of this documentary -- WHAT WOULD SOPHIA LOREN DO?


 
I've written before that loving Sophia Loren in our household was practically a law. I was born on September 20th, the same day as Loren. Mom blissfully reminded me of that on every birthday. We saw her movies at the drive-in. I have the sweet memory of sitting in the backseat of the family Plymouth and hearing my parents in the front seat guffaw at the Italian star doing a personal striptease for Marcello Mastroianni in YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW. Before that, we went to the drive-in movies one night to see her in EL CID, a historical epic co-starring Charlton Heston. Yes, I acquired the love for Loren from my parents in South Central Los Angeles. Sophia Loren took to bed for 8 months because she'd had trouble maintaining a pregnancy and she was determined to be a mother. Before we went to Sunday mass at Mother of Sorrows one morning, our Black Catholic mother said, "When we get to church, we're lighting a novena candle and praying that Sophia Loren can have a baby." I am not kidding. Our novena prayers must have worked because Sophia Loren and her great love, producer Carlo Ponti, became the parents of two children.


Nowadays when I read newspaper and magazine film reviews -- especially on Twitter -- I wonder if the critics are writing to bring people into the art of film or if the predominantly Caucasian critics are writing for other Caucasian critics. The writing is so dry and high-tone, it seems as though some are writing to show off their film intellectualism to impress other members in their film critics circle. New Jersey wife and grandmother Nancy Kulik speaks in everyday language, simple and direct, that we can understand. It's earthy -- like characters Sophia Loren played. It's refreshing. Ordinary language can have extraordinary depth.

We learn about Nancy Kulik's immigrant Italian parents, her occupational life, her marriage and her children. Her comments on motherhood in clips from De Sica's TWO WOMEN (1961), the war drama that brought Loren the Oscar for Best Actress, are simple yet wise.  The documentary has clips of classic Loren films and footage of her first screen test. Loren was from a poor post-war family. She had a devoted mother and an irresponsible father. Loren won a beauty contest that led to her screen test. For her, beauty was a Heaven-given gift she utilized to gain employment. At age 15, as you'll see in her screen test, she had the gorgeousness and poise of a 21-year old woman. There's also behind-the-scenes footage of her being directed by her son, Edoardo Ponti, in her new film currently on Netflix. The film is THE LIFE AHEAD -- a film I highly recommend. There's also current interview footage of Sophia Loren, archive clips of her on the Dick Cavett show, and a clip of her being interviewed by her son, Edoardo. Sophia Loren still emits that strong, golden force field of star quality. There's juicy stuff in those clips. The final scene of this half-hour documentary will give your heart wings. I loved it. Here's a trailer for WHAT WOULD SOPHIA LOREN DO?




Monday, January 18, 2021

THE GREAT OLYMPIA DUKAKIS

Watching this new feature was like spending 1 hour and 40 minutes with a fabulous longtime friend who talked openly about everything -- work, art, love, sex, marriage, family, fears and Faye Dunaway.


  "Your life is going down the toilet." That is one of the memorable lines Olympia Dukakis says to Cher in the 1987 romantic comedy, MOONSTRUCK, directed by Norman Jewison. Cher won the Oscar for Best Actress. Olympia Dukakis won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Not long after Olympia won her Oscar, I had the first of two wonderful on-camera experiences with her. She was an earthy, funny, generous guest on my old VH1 talk show. Earthy because she was the first celebrity guest to say the word "shit" in an answer to an interview question, funny in telling us how much a Grateful Dead fan she was, and generous in that she treated me like I was Dick Cavett on his celebrated ABC talk show. Our young studio crew loved her. She loved talking about her Montclair, New Jersey theater company and she was one of the first celebrities to send me a thank-you note after our interview. The next experience I had with her was about 2005 at New York City's LGBTQ Center on W. 13th Street. She was onstage for one of its guest speaker nights and I, fortunately, was asked to be the interviewer. She hadn't changed. She was just as honest and charismatic and lovable as when I'd interviewed her on VH1. In our second interview, the audience learned that she was a background actor in several scenes of LILITH, a 1964 psychological drama starring Warren Beatty. The audience also learned that like Beah Richards opposite Sidney Poitier in GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER (1967), Angela Lansbury opposite Laurence Harvey in THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962), and Beulah Bondi opposite Thomas Mitchell in MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW (1937), she's one of those actresses who played the mother opposite an actor even though they were in the same age category. She played the mother to Dustin Hoffman's character in 1969's JOHN AND MARY. She was only six years older than Hoffman. The crowd also learned that she got her Oscar-winning mother role in MOONSTRUCK after director Norman Jewison noticed her in a Broadway comedy called SOCIAL SECURITY that starred Marlo Thomas.


 The info about Jewison's discovery of her -- and footage of Jewison with Olympia -- are in a new production that each and every Olympia Dukakis fan should see. The gifted actress, fierce feminist and proud Greek is the focus of a wonderful documentary called OLYMPIA, smoothly directed and produced by Harry Mavromichalis. Every quality I loved about her in person and onscreen is in this entertaining, revealing and educational documentary. We get the real Olympia Dukakis, in all her glorious honesty, in a fascinating feature that takes us from California to New York to Greece. The actress has millions of fans who cherish her movie performances in MOONSTRUCK and 1989's STEEL MAGNOLIAS.   


 There's also her groundbreaking lead role as the transgender Anna Madrigal in the 1993 TV series adaptation of Armistead Maupin's TALES OF THE CITY novels. She was amazing in the 2019 closing chapter that I saw on Netflix.

The documentary shows us that the candid and totally cool Olympia Dukakis had a more extensive career that we realized. Onstage, she wowed audiences and fellow actors with her performances in great plays such as THREE SISTERS, LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT, THE SEAGULL, THE CHERRY ORCHARD, THE ROSE TATTOO, WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? and MOTHER COURAGE. The documentary is rich with archive photos, home movies, amateur footage and clips from her films. We hear from fellow actors Laura Linney, Whoopi Goldberg, Diane Ladd and Lainie Kazan. (For you young gay readers, Lainie Kazan was Barbra Streisand's understudy on Broadway in FUNNY GIRL). We see and hear from her actor husband, Lou Zorich, her children, and her cousin Michael Dukakis, the former Democratic presidential candidate.

We see Olympia Dukakis at age 80 in this feature. She seems hipper and wiser than folks half that age. As the doc opens, she's on the phone talking about an offer to do an East Coast stage play. When she hears what the pay is, she tickles you with her droll response "You wonder why actors flee to Hollywood." Her childhood fueled her "rebellious, independent" spirit. She broke through the limiting margins of 1950s social expectations placed on women. She defied her Greek mother -- and ultimately made her proud. Olympia Dukakis was her own woman occupationally, intellectually and sexually. Before she dated and fell in love with Lou Zorich, she described herself as "...the queen of one-night stands" and goes on to explain her reasons for her sexual independence.

Seeing Olympia Dukakis interact with fellow actors, family, friends and even strangers in Greece is pure gold. She is wise and also very witty. There's footage of her in a hotel room getting ready for the Oscars the night she won. Her banter about Faye Dunaway and cosmetic tape broke me up. I also howled with laughter at her trying to get an answer from Siri on her cellphone to a geographical question. Siri worked Olympia's last good nerve. Another sweet highlight is footage of her as the celebrity grand marshal one year at the San Francisco Gay Pride parade. While there in San Francisco, she gets a surprise visit from TALES OF THE CITY author, Armistead Maupin. 

Dukakis' marriage to Lou Zorich looks like it was absolute fun. They were married from 1962 to his passing in 2018. If you see OLYMPIA and keep thinking he looks familiar as you watch, he played the dad to Paul Reiser's character on the NBC sitcom, MAD ABOUT YOU.

There's not one dull, dishonest moment in OLYMPIA. Thank you, director Harry Mavromichalis. You made me fall in love with the unique, authentic Olympia Dukakis all over again. And I agree with what Ed Asner says in your captivating documentary. She's a "magnificent actress."

One more thing -- that "You're life is going down the toilet"  line from MOONSTRUCK? Olympia improvised it. OLYMPIA will be available on demand come March 23rd. I'll definitely be watching it again. To see a trailer and read other info about it, click onto this website:

www.OlympiaTheFilm.com.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Mexico's I CARRY YOU WITH ME

 I lived in New York for 25 years. I hope to return one day. Something occurred to me while I was watching I CARRY YOU WITH ME, the tale of two gay men in Mexico who fall in love and, with great difficulty, eventually wind up in New York City. I had probably eaten many excellent restaurant meals prepared by a chef who has a life story similar to one of the men we follow in the film. This subtitled, Spanish-speaking drama is the first narrative film from director and co-writer Heidi Ewing. She's mostly done documentaries.

In flashbacks, we go to Puebla, Mexico in 1994. We're going back in the memory of Ivan, a Mexican chef on a Manhattan subway train. In Mexico, he's single and closeted. He has a little boy to whom he's devoted. He gives the mother money from his job as a restaurant dishwasher and janitor. Ivan would rather be cooking as he's a graduate of a culinary institute. We see him cook. He doesn't make mainstream Mexican food like we'd get in a franchise food joint here in the U.S. He uses cilantro instead of the overused parsley and adds pomegranate seeds in some dishes for extra flavor. Sandra, his longtime friend who knows the truth of him, takes him to a gay bar where he meets Gerardo. Gerardo is a teacher. He's more outgoing and confident than the shy Ivan. They engage in small talk that leads to their first kiss. The attraction is not just physical. 


 But they're in Mexico which has the stifling, humid air of machismo. Growing up to be a macho, heterosexual male there seems to be a law. Gay men cannot walk down the streets of Mexico and hold hands without the possibility of being bashed by straight men. If Ivan comes out to the mother of his son, she'll keep him from seeing his son. Gerardo's family isn't accepting of gay freedom either. How will the two young men have a relationship under all that oppression? One wants to cross over illegally into America where he feels that will be acceptance and the opportunity for him to get a better job enabling him to send more money to his son. To Ivan, New York is like the destination you reach after you've booked passage on the Underground Railroad. But there's a "You Can't Go Home Again" element to this touching story. We follow Ivan and Gerardo for 20 years. Ivan says "The American dream happens in slow motion." It's even slower if you're an immigrant. Soulful-eyed Armando Espitia plays Ivan. Christian Vazquez plays the handsome, sophisticated Gerardo. Both performances are very good.

There's a lot of flashbacks in I CARRY YOU WITH ME. After an hour, they get a tad confusing. I didn't know immediately if I was watching the childhood Ivan or Gerardo. The last half-hour, with the mates living and working in New York, has a more documentary feel that makes you wonder if a documentary on this subject would be stronger than the narrative film. However, that does not detract from the quality. Heidi Ewing has given us a moving and tender film, one that takes us out of the U.S.A. to show us that being gay in the 90s was not fabulous like an episode of WILL & GRACE for people of color outside of America, people who later blended into America.

Today, Ivan definitely would be considered an essential worker. We see how he was just another food delivery person in New York before he really got to utilize his culinary institute skills. His physical and emotional journey through life with Gerardo wasn't easy and he's heartbroken that he can't visit his relatives back in Mexico. But, as a gay man, he did find something better. Ivan says "...life gives us all a surprise."

I said "Wow. The things we do for love." I CARRY YOU WITH ME, from Sony Pictures, opens January 26th.


Friday, January 15, 2021

Stanley Tucci in SUPERNOVA

 I'm sure a lot of us baby boomers have been Stanley Tucci ever since we saw him in a blue jeans commercial on TV back in the 80s. This was before he hit as a popular, talented TV series and film actor. You can always count on Tucci for a good, nuanced performance. Two of my favorite film performances of his show him as a loving spouse who makes marriage look fun. There was his role as the dad/husband in the delightful teen comedy, EASY A, a 2010 release that helped launch Emma Stone to stardom, and Nora Ephron's JULIE & JULIA with Tucci has the husband of famed chef Julia Child opposite Meryl Streep as Julia. He's a loving spouse whom you know has made his 20-year relationship fun in a new drama called SUPERNOVA.

Delroy Lindo of Spike Lee's DA 5 BLOODS and Riz Ahmed of SOUND OF METAL have been mentioned by critics as definite Oscar nominees for the Best Actor Oscar this year. To me, Stanley Tucci also deserves consideration for a Best Actors Oscar nomination for his performance in SUPERNOVA. 


 As the film opens, we see two middle-aged men in bed asleep. One is naked. One cuddles the other. Then we see them on the road in a motorhome. The two men, Tusker and Sam, have been together 20 years. Tusker, played by Tucci, is the American he fell for a Brit, played by Colin Firth. Sam is driving and, as the wheel is on the right side, we know they're motoring overseas. They're in England. Tusker, a writer, has a telescope and loves to look at the stars. Sam is a pianist. You can tell these two have a well-seasoned relationship. The squabble, they laugh, they get a little bored with each other, they embrace and love each other more than anything else in the world. As Sam says, "I want to be with you every moment."

On the road, while making small talk, Tusker is sweetly ignoring Sam and focused on a map. One puts on some music. It's an oldie. Tusker says to Sam, "Where were you in the 70s?" This seems like a warm, ordinary marriage. But it's changed. Tusker has shown signs of the onset of dementia. Tusker has been prescribed medication. He's aware of his condition. So is Sam. So is Sam's family they are motoring to visit. Sam's big, loving family loves Tusker too. Sam is lucky to have such a supportive, welcoming family. 

With that diagnosis, SUPERNOVA never gets maudlin. It doesn't focus on the illness as much as it does on the spouse/caregiver and how the couple will keep a balance for the rest of its time together.  Tusker and Sam have been together loving each other for so long, they're practically one unit. They go through the typical, ordinary things in daily life yet, while doing something ordinary like making dinner, we see the pool of pain in Sam's eyes. 

I lost my partner to AIDS in 1994. While making dinner in the motorhome and making small talk with Tusker, Sam goes into the bathroom. He cries at the fact that those sweetly mundane moments for them are limited because of an alien entity that has invaded his loved one's body. An alien entity that he cannot cast out. He can only deal with it. I had that same kind of moment in my relationship. I knew what Sam was feeling.


 I'm guessing that the two lead actors have been friends for a significant amount of time. They are quite comfortable in their intimacy and very believable as a longtime couple. They way they look at each other, they way the hold each and cuddle is so honest and natural. Stanley Tucci is at the top of his game in this performance. He's moving and memorable. SUPERNOVA opens January 29th and it feels perfectly timed for this pandemic age. More than being the story of a man with a disease, SUPERNOVA reminds us, as Tusker wrote, "...how lucky we are to have each other." This love story of two men reminds us what a blessing it is to have a loving group of family and friends in our lives. Family and friends who stay in touch and make you feel special in their lives. As heartbroken as Sam is, he is not alone in handling his crisis. SUPERNOVA is a tender road movie written and directed by Harry Macqueen.

The film runs 94 minutes. I recommend SUPERNOVA, a love story with beautiful performances from Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci. By the way, here's the jeans TV commercial Tucci did back in the 80s.


Tucci is shirtless in SUPERNOVA for one scene. The man is 60 and he makes 60 look really good.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

More Billie Holiday

 The legendary Billie Holiday, also known as "Lady Day." She was one of the most original and moving voices in jazz.  For decades, when folks thought of Billie Holiday, they thought of her as a uniquely talented but doomed female artist. She was jailed for drugs. Her untimely death at age 44 came when she was drinking too much and in an abusive marriage.


 However, BILLIE, a documentary that I wrote about last year in November, gave us a different look at Billie Holiday. It presented her as a gifted, smart artist who was the master of her own fate. She liked to get high. She was sexually fluid. She was serious about her craft, one that took her from tours throughout the U.S. to tour dates in Europe. Most importantly, it showed us that she truly was a Civil Rights activist with her performance of "Strange Fruit," a late 1930s protest song that slapped White America hard because of its racist history. Black men were still being lynched in the South. In that documentary, you get the feeling that White men in the U.S. government were determined to make Billie Holiday do jail time, not really for drugs, but as punishment for her Black power with "Strange Fruit." Here's the trailer for BILLIE.

BILLIE can be streamed on Amazon Prime and YouTube.

Motown star Diana Ross left The Supremes after several hit records with the girl group and made her film acting debut as Billie Holiday in 1972's LADY SINGS THE BLUES. The biopic was a box office and critical hit -- especially for Diana Ross. It brought her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.

Now director Lee Daniels (PRECIOUS and Lee Daniels' THE BUTLER) brings Lady Day back to the big screen. His new film, opening in February, is THE UNITED STATES vs. BILLIE HOLIDAY. Singer Andra Day makes her on-camera film debut as Billie Holiday. To see a trailer with Andra Day as Lady Day, click onto the link:


I am very eager to see THE UNITED STATES vs. BILLIE HOLIDAY. It's a Hulu film and opens February 26th. The cast includes Trevante Rhodes, seen as the adult Chiron in MOONLIGHT, Evan Ross, son of singer/actress Diana Ross, and Natasha Lyonne. She plays Broadway star Tallulah Bankhead.




About Talented Kim Cattrall

 Actress Kim Cattrall became more popular than ever in her extensive career when she played lusty Samantha on HBO's hit series, SEX AND ...