60-Second Reviews and Quick Takes on Television, Film and Popular Culture.
All the Buzz
WHAT I'M WATCHING AND YOUR SHOULD TOO
This movie got a bum rap. To be honest, I never would have bothered to watch if it wasn't for all the off-screen drama among the actors, not to mention the May-December romance between Harry Styles and Olivia Wilde. But having now watched the movie ... it's pretty good, y'all! And if you want to get deep with it, says a lot about what the world expects of us, and what we expect of ourselves. And if you don't want to get deep, it's a decent psychological thriller. Recommended.
Watch on HBOMax.
I'm definitely not breaking any new ground here. But The White Lotus Season 1 blew me away. I binged it on HBOMax over the course of a single weekend because I was looking for something lighthearted. And it was ... but it was way more than that. It was a really smart look at race, class, gender ... all the things. So naturally, I was prepared to be disappointed in Season 2. But nope. Just as good and in some ways better. This one focuses more on the politics of sex than the last. Oh ... and Jennifer Coolidge is a comic genius, in case you never knew. Highly Recommended.
It didn't take long for me to get pulled in by the prospect of having a question answered that many of us of a certain generation keep asking: 'what's up with kids these days?' The series follows a group of creative, new adults in New York City, striving to make their mark on the party planning, fashion design, photography, modeling and acting scenes. Most of them are gender-queer or gender-fluid, and apart from their stunning creativity, you'll find yourself at how accepting and non-judgmental they all are toward each other. This is entertaining modern TV, but there's also a lot to learn here as well. Recommended.
Watch on Hulu.
If you think of yourself as a foodie, or just plain ol' love to eat, you have to check this series out. Not only does it have amazing visuals of scrumptious food of every kind you might imagine (and some you haven't), it tells the stories of chefs and the journey they took to get to the place where they have made it their life's work to satisfy the appetites of others. I think what I like most about this series is that it has—thus far at least—steered well clear of the more hoity-toity chefs whose names are plastered on buildings and restaurant groups. Instead, we get to learn the lives of those who seem to love not only food, but the people they serve it to. Highly Recommended.
Watch on Netflix.
A New Guilty Pleasure
Neil Patrick Harris (who will always be Doogie Howswer, MD to me) is back with an engaging new sitcom produced by Darren Starr, he who brought us Sex & The City. This is in some ways the same formula--singles in Manhattan finding love, friendship and trouble. Except this time the singles are gay men, knocking on 50s' door. Super fun dialogue, and situations that tickle your funny bone just as much as they touch your heart. Highly recommended.
Look out for: A charming Tisha Campbell, and self-involved but endearing Emerson Brooks
Where to Watch: Netflix.
MOVIE REVIEW: 'Good Luck to You, Leo Grande'
We say we want to see more content about middle-aged women as women (not just wives or mothers, or supportive colleagues) but do we mean it? This movie really tests us on that. In it, "Nancy" a widow has hired "Leo" a sex-worker to help her check off it few items on her sex bucket list. She has only had one lover, her dead husband, and never had an orgasm. Leo is tasked with helping her get there.
Instead of being a couple of hours of us wondering when we get to see this super-handsome young man, and the equally handsome older woman do the deed, 'Leo Grande' turns out to be a long conversation between two people working out their shit in between some naughty time. The sex is mostly playful, but the conversations are not. "Leo" defies the stereotypes of the exploited (either by himself or others) sex worker, and "Nancy" is a lot more than a repressed woman approaching older age. I enjoyed it, not only for the great dialogue, but because it definitely forced me to challenge my own prejudices about sex work and the people who engage in it. Recommended.
I didn't hate it. I thought it was horror, but it's actually psychological suspense and could have been a good one, but for the fact that even the movie didn't seem to know what it wanted to be. I think the filmmaker crammed too many goals into what could have been a very interesting film about the price Black people pay when they try to thrive in predominantly white spaces.
Ben Affleck, Ana De Armas
I recommend this one. It's not high art, but when I tell you this couple defines "toxic relationship", believe me. Watching it was like watching a slow motion car crash--horrified fascination. Having said that, I can see why it didn't make it to a theatrical release.
I Watched 'Love is Blind Season 2' and Liked It.
In my defense, I have a colleague—someone whose opinion I respect—who kept badgering me in meetings: "Have you watched it yet? I told you to watch it!" So, literally in anticipation of her asking me again, I started watching LIB Season 2 in the background while I did other stuff. Just so I could plausibly discuss it with her when we met, during the pre-meeting banter. Anyway, I barely cared what happened in the first few episodes and then the blind-dating-pod couples met and I got super-invested (predictably) in the Black couple (Iyanna & Jarette-so adorable!) and then secondarily in the South Asian couple, and then in the Latinx couple and the interracial (Asian chick and white dude) couple.
What can I tell you in just another few sentences? (Because these are Quick Bites, after all) Well, basically, that dating on a reality show, no matter how gimmicky the beginning eventually sees relationships become pretty much what they would be in real life. And watching relationships unfold is always fascinating and hard not to get invested in. So I guess that's it. I watched it, and I liked it. Because deconstructing relationships is my stock in trade, and this show is a really interesting way of watching them unfold. And I can't lie. In real life, more so than in books, HEAs and watching people yearn for and work for them can be pretty cool.
Love Life Season 2
Watch this show, y'all. Highly recommended. It's not often you get such a well-developed portrayal of Black men like this one. A book editor, conflicted and at a crossroads, trying to figure out marriage, love and who he wants to be when he grows up. If he ever does.
HBO Max made the first episode free on YouTube so lucky you!
YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO ...
No shame in my game. I love B-movies about nutty people. So this one was on my definitely-will-be-watching list. Watch the trailer, and I defy you to tell these two women apart. One of the most enjoyable things about this wild ride was the sense that no one acting in it took it any more seriously than those of us watching. It's a popcorn and glass of chardonnay rollicking good time. Check it out!
Fast-Paced, Propulsive Read
I won't write a full review of this one since I did 'Razorblade Tears', except to say, 'read it!' Both books have been optioned for film and I am hell-excited. But honestly, this writer is so visual it's tough to see how these stories will be improved in a movie. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
We're going to have to wait until July for the new Leesa Cross-Smith, but I am sooo excited. I loved her first book 'Whiskey & Ribbons', and her second one, 'Too Close to Okay' a little less, but something about her writing is so emotionally resonant and accessible that not reading it isn't an option.
When you feel like an immersive reading experience, this is probably a book to get into. Confession: I haven't read it all yet. Not because I didn't like what I've read so far, but because it feels like a book I need to focus on. Not a casual read at all. I predict this one is going into the new Black literary canon along with Jesmyn Ward's work.
The Gilded Age, HBO
This one is from the creators of Downton Abbey, a series I never expected to enjoy but not only enjoyed but learned a lot from. Definitely looking forward to this one for the same reasons. Whenever I visit old cities like New York (I guess it may have been New Amsterdam in this era?) I wonder what the same streets looked like back then. And of course, I wonder about people who looked like me. So psyched that this series may be the answer to both those curiosities. Started January 24th on HBO.
Do We Need to Talk About Cosby?
Maybe so. Or, at a minimum, it would be really cathartic if we did. Not that we want to, but I think afterwards we'll be better off. W. Kamau Bell, who has an extraordinary talent for maintaining a pokerface while talking about the most difficult things, and talking to the most challenging people about super uncomfortable topics couldn't be a better guy to manage this project. A lot of us just wish the subject would disappear, but yeah ... it won't.
I don't need to talk about Cosby, but I will be watching this documentary on SHOWTIME, January 30th at 10 PM ET.