by Debra Sutherland
UCV GSA (Genders and Sexualities Alliance) Film Discussion Group
You are invited to our next Zoom meeting on the first Wednesday of each month at 7:15 pm on zoom
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Our UCV GSA met via Zoom earlier this month and enjoyed a lively, interesting and informative session reviewing and recommending wide-ranging films and Netflix series. I have summarized the films mentioned with the hope that at least one of the series or films will intrigue or interest you, and that you will join us at our next meeting.
Please Like Me is a very clever, well-acted, highly-rated, award-winning Australian comedy/dramedy series that premiered on Netflix in 2013 and continued on for four seasons. Please Like Me follows Josh, a twenty-something student who’s just been dumped by his girlfriend because he’s gay but hasn’t realized it until then. It is also about so much more than gay relationships – it is about family and friend relationships – and their relationships in turn, and mental health too (it’s not who you might think). The series was created by stand-up comic Josh Thomas who has mined his own life experiences to full advantage. Some GSA members were already enthusiastic, happy fans while some like me, had never heard of the show. I am happy to report that I too am now an enthusiastic and happy fan and also that it is possible to binge watch the whole series in fairly brisk fashion as the number and length of the episodes are relatively short. I laughed out loud a lot – up until the end of Season 3 anyway, but interestingly the appeal of the series waned for me in Season 4. So I think Thomas was wise to end the series even as his most loyal and die-hard fans clamoured for more.
Happily, we fans of Please Like Me now have Season One of the new series Feel Good (Netflix, 2020) to enjoy. It too is a very clever, well-acted, highly-rated, brisk semi-autobiographical comedy-drama set in Britain but featuring Canadian stand-up comic Mae Martin as she/they navigate her/their relationship with a previously straight British woman whose inability to come out of the closet causes deep pain; and then there are the complications of Mae’s addiction struggles. Think it can’t possibly be funny, think again! Here is just one of the many stellar reviews, this one from the New Zealand Herald: “Feel Good’s six episodes (still the perfect series length) strike an extremely watchable balance between intensity and levity, the two often blurring together to create some sublime moments of television”. Needless to say, I am really enjoying the series!
A film we discussed, that couldn’t possibly be more different than the Please Like Me and Feel Good series, is the Spanish film, Elisa & Marcela (2019), also available on Netflix. It is the fictionalized account of the fascinating and remarkable true story of a very determined Spanish lesbian couple, who, having been lovers for fifteen years, fooled (out of necessity) a priest into marrying them in 1901. The marriage was never annulled and thus remains in the record books as Spain’s first-ever same-sex marriage! Written and directed by the famed and prolific Isabel Coixet and shot in black and white with some lovely and beautiful art house touches (a bit of a unfortunate flop though, when applied to the sex scenes) the film was nominated for several European awards. The critics, however, have not been kind to this movie and I reluctantly concur. I did feel drawn in for the first third of the movie and then less so along the way (except for brief moments) although the ending did pull me back in as well. I think the movie is worth a watch in spite of its flaws and shortcomings – I may even watch it again! It is a tough and tender story that, as noted by one critic, “deserves an audience but also, and sadly, a story that deserves a stronger film”.
Other films were also briefly introduced and likely to come up for discussion at our upcoming meeting. Unorthodox (2020) is a new Netflix four-part mini-series that follows Esty, a young woman who flees her marriage and her ultra-Orthodox Hasidic New York community for Berlin. The series, based on Deborah Feldman’s 2012 memoir, then alternates between Esti’s new life in Berlin and the one she left behind, The reviews are very positive and I enjoyed part one and I look forward to watching the rest of the miniseries.
Pain and Glory (2019) is the latest film of highly acclaimed, award-winning and ultra-prolific (37 films) Spanish director and icon Pedro Almodovar. The film follows Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas), a successful director, now in physical decline, as he grapples with his past, and with loss, memory and meaning. Almodovar has gone back and forth over whether or not Pain and Glory is autobiographical but the film is said to be immensely personal and also one of his best works. Pain and Glory is reviewed very highly favourably by a host of critics and I am looking forward to seeing the film – it is not on Netflix as of yet, but likely can be found on a pay for viewing platform…even I may yet find it on itunes if I ever figure out my smart TV!
Professor Marsden and the Wonder Women (2017) is the story of psychologist Marston and his polyamourous relationship with his wife and their mistress, both of whom inspired his creation of the superheroine, Wonder Woman. Sounds interesting to me. It is available on itunes and again, I hope to access it soon!
Carrington (1995) is a biographical film, starring Emma Thompson and Jonathan Pryce, about the life of British painter Dora Carrington and her unusual relationship with writer Lytton Strachey and others in the Bloomsbury group. A member also recommended the book Bloomsbury Pie by Regina Mahler that chronicles the story of the Bloomsbury boom.
Last Tango in Halifax is the much praised BBC One comedy-drama series, started in 2012 with Series 5 just airing this January – they must be doing a lot right! The series is lauded for its focus on and treatment of its two septuagenarian lead characters as well as for the inclusion of LGBT themes. The series is available through iplayer.
Finally, and notably, a few of us were also able to watch the movie Behind the Curtain: Todrick Hall (2017) on Netflix that the Out on Screen organization had set up on Netflix Party (some of us couldn’t quite figure out this digital extension but we watched anyway, without the sidebar chat). It is a joyful, moving (there’s some tough stuff too) and inspiring documentary of an amazing, multi-talented and creative young queer black artist as he launches his first full scale original musical stage tour “Straight Outta Oz”. He had already made a well earned big name for himself as a Youtube artist and American Idol contestant, and he is now a Broadway star as well!
Hope to see you at our next Zoom meeting, first Wednesday at 7:15!