To Wong Foo, thanks for everything! Julie Newmar

109 min.

This had so much more heart than I expected. I was ready to prepare it to Priscilla: Queen of the desert (also drag queens), and had so often seen .gifs of this movie, that I thought it would be a superficial technicolour party. to-wong-foo-thanks-for-everything-julie-newmar poster

All that was present, but then the fish-out-of-water part happens. The three (two queens, once princess, it will be explained to you) get stranded in a very Middle American little town, and here’s where the people come in. Instead of keeping everyone involved an one dimensional cliché, the characters develop into human beings. Drats, even a majority of the bad guys get a clue!

All that while still having fun and not taking itself too seriously. Although it would have been curious to see how Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snipes would have done that.

To Wong Foo, thanks for everything! Julie Newmar, Universal Pictures 1995

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Dear White People

10 x 30 min.

Ik kreeg het niet voor elkaar om de film te kijken, maar gelukkig hielp Netflix (weer eens): nu is er ook een serie.

dear-white-people-netflixMet hetzelfde gegeven: zwarte studenten op overmatig witte campus die in mindere en meerdere mate tegen racisme ingaan. Hoofdpersoon is misschien wel Sam met radioshow Dear White People, maar – heel fijn – anderen krijgen elk ook een aflevering. Iets met ‘verschillende, nodige invalshoeken’ en zo.
Zo leer je waarom sommigen “zo min mogelijk zwart” willen zijn, of hoe het is om waarheid te ontkennen voor je eigen veiligheid.

En door het evenwicht van continu activisme en ‘ik wil gewoon leven, hoe dan ook’ wordt Dear White People geen eenzijdig pamflet. Hoeft ook niet; de ervaring van met de neus op de bittere feiten gedrukt worden gebeurt toch wel.

Dear White People, Netflix 2017

Hidden Figures

127 min.
I think it was pretty clear when there were parts and lines added to make (small-minded) white people feel better, but (or maybe because of that, help?) I enjoyed Hidden Figures a lot. An uplifting movie with unlikely heroines that are smart, funny, well dressed and black.
hidden figures poster

‘Based on true life events’ seems to be a forewarning for sappy, Hallmark-like stories that are described as having heart while not really having or showing it. This story about the black, human computers of NASA could have been much more inspirational, much brighter and louder and beautiful and grating. Now it’s largely a show of how people can learn not to be sexist and racist because they’re confronted with smart black women. This happens in the 1960s, and it ends a bit too much with the unsaid message of how all that is very much in the past. While we know it isn’t, of course.

Didn’t I say this movie was uplifting? It is, kind of. The characters move from okay to better, the bad guys are only the confused guys, there’s pictures and blurbs at the end to show you the real life counterparts. There’s a cute soundtrack and as said before, the heroines are lovely. It could have simply been sharper, more vibrant, more honest.

Until we get that story, Hidden Figures is a cleaned up history lesson worth watching.

Hidden Figures, Levantine Films 2016

De verlossing van Liesbeth Bede

Een lange rechte weg verbindt Luttelgeest met de havenstad.

Well, that wasn’t sort of what I expected. Ik kwam voor een variatie op de Stepford Wives, ik liet ..ja, wat liet ik eigenlijk achter? Want was dit? In hoeveel genres kan ik het inpassen?

Ik word niet vaak verrast door boeken, daar lees ik meestal gewoon te veel voor. En als het dan een verrassing is, is het van de “Gedver nee moest dat nu”-variatie, clues of conclusies die krom en/of onaantrekkelijk zijn.

Bij Liesbeth was ik het niet helemaal eens met de verrassingen, maar bleken ze in the end wel er bij te horen, het verhaal bijzonder te maken.

Het begint redelijk helder: apart (maar leuk, interessant) geval Liesbeth Biede en haar gezin verhuizen naar Luttelgeest. Er zijn wat vreemde dingen, vreemde situaties en vreemde mensen, maar iedereen is/lijkt tevreden en het heeft geen directe negatieve invloed op haar, dus waarom niet?

Wanneer het vreemd wordt, wordt het ook lekker vreemd. Luttelgeest is not the limit, en van genrevast gaat het allemaal heen. Is dit satire, is dit navelstaren? Het ligt in ieder geval niet aan de controle van de auteur, die het verhaal gewoon op de rails houdt, hoeveel het ook zwabbert.

De verlossing van Liesbeth Bede, Sophie Zijlstra, Querido 2016

Beaches

123 min.
Why didn’t I watch this sooner? And why did I had to dig down to the eighties for a Female Friendship Is Awesome kind of movie? How do I get my hair like Bette Midler’s red curls?

beaches-movie-posterBeaches is the story of Hilary Whitney and C.C. Bloom. Two young girls from very different backgrounds start a friendship. Of course, as friendships go, it’s not just roses and happiness. One of them grows up a lot more colourful than the other (Midler’s C.C., who goes all out in outfits and hairdo’s to fit her star studded career path), fights happen and are resolved again. It’s almost completely focused on the two women and how they evolve. Heck, there’s even conversations that aren’t about men, making this a Bechdel-friendly movie.

But? Yes, friendships don’t always end well, even if the people involved don’t want them to. It gives a tad more weight to the happy fluffiness — because it’s so very clear that Hilary and C.C. are the Real Friendship Deal. The movie’s balanced enough to not hurt your teeth, just your heart.  Still, it’s worth the fun and colour of it all. A classic on the softer side of things.
Beaches, Touchstone Pictures 1988

Everything I Never Told You

Lydia is dead.

This is one of those books that you just stare into the distance for a while after finishing it.

Still, that doesn’t necessarily make it easy to review. Because, the bare bones of it, it’s a very simple story. A daughter dies, a family completely unravels. It’s the time (seventies/eighties), the people (a mixed Asian-American family) and the family members (hurt, unwanted, invisible) that make the story.

Ng makes you want to reach out through the pages all the time, simultaneously hugging the family members and giving them a kick in the behind because seriously, how can one human being be so selfish, insecure, loving and hating? And honestly, can small town America stop making a freaking fuss about people that don’t have blond hair and blue eyes?

It’s her so very human touch to these characters that leave you uncomfortable yet appeased.

Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng, Blackfriars 2014