Stage Mother (2020)

Release Date: August 21, 2020

A Texas Choir Mistress (Jacki Weaver) inherits a San Francisco drag club from her late son, Rickey, (Eldon Thiele) with whom she hadn’t been in touch since he came out.

 

 

I’m going to be 100% honest with this review and tell you that I equal parts loved and hated Stage Mother. A mother loses her only child with whom she was very close in his early years to a drug addiction. The audience sees him indulge in his drug of choice, go out on stage and pretty much drop dead. His mother, Maybelline, who is the epitome of fabulous is notified of her son’s death and is determined to attend the funeral, disregarding the objections of her husband (Hugh Thompson). Once in San Francisco she seeks to build bridges with the family she feels she has left which are her son’s partner and the people he valued in his life. 

Stage Mother is a wonderfully acted movie with weak storytelling. There are number of storylines and if just one or two had been followed and developed it would have been a much stronger piece but the actual focus seemed to be an almost masturbatory “You’re going to miss me when I’m gone/ fabulous straight mother figure saving the motherless.” I wondered what scenes had been deleted that would help the weaker story threads come together. Rickey is addicted to drugs; people tell Maybelline there’s a lot of drugs in the drag community; Maybelline intervenes when she sees one of Rickey’s drag sisters taking drugs basically verbally smacking her hand and staying up with her and all is good? It’s took simple. I’m not saying that this would have been a better movie with a focus on that storyline but with a better focus on any storyline. 

Now, let me just say, I wept when Maybelline honored Rickey toward the end of the movie. It was beautiful and, if nothing else, a connection was made with the characters. I would have loved to know more of Cherry Poppins’ (Mya Taylor) story. We meet Cherry and the other queens with a superficial overview and when Cherry goes to speak with her estranged wife, Maybelline tags along but the depth of Cherry’s struggle is unknown to the viewer other than that brief moment. Its the filling in the blanks moment that we often see in fiction that because the audience maybe knows a transgender person, they’ll assign that struggle to Cherry.

Stage Mother also too easily course corrects for the mother of this late gay man. Jacki Weaver is a wonderful actress and the emotion with which she plays the role convinces the audience that the “loss” of her son has weighed on her for many years and she mostly crumbled to the pressure of her husband. We’re supposed to believe the husband is a villain but Hugh Thompson plays that role unconvincingly. We don’t really get a history of why, for so many years, Maybelline didn’t reach out because if we know nothing else about her from this movie it’s that she’s a woman that does what she wants to do. 

I had mixed feelings about Stage Mother but overall it’s a very watchable movie and one that people should see. Jackie Beat is great as Dusty Muffin even if she is in the piece too little. Allistair MacDonald as Joan of Arkansas and Oscar Moreno as Tequila Mockingbird are wonderful in their roles. I would love to see movies following each of them and expanding on who they are and where they came from.

Watch it and let me know. Am I offbase in this review? Did you cry as I did during the honorary musical piece?

Watch Stage Mother (Thom Fitzgerald) on

Amazon U.S.   Amazon U.K.   Amazon CA

Paris is Burning by Jennie Livingston

DVD Publication Date: February 22, 2012

 

On December 31, 2018, Hector Xtravaganza, Grandfather of the House of Xtravaganza (one of the early Latino drag families), died at the age of 60. Hector was featured in Paris is Burning and served as a consultant on the Ryan Murphy show about the New York gay ballroom scene of the 1980s. Pose.

Paris is Burning was filmed in the mid to late 1980s and chronicles the ball culture of New York City’s Black, Latino, Gay and Transgender community.

Paris is Burning follows the largely African-American Ball scene in New York City. Livingston became interested in the scene when she met a group of young gay men doing what they called “voguing” in Washington Square Park. Thinking the ball scene would make an interesting university project, the men suggested she contact the creator of the vogue moves, Will Ninja, who introduced her to the ball scene where contestants would have walk-off competitions in a variety of categories. Contestants would be scored on a number of categories including realness of drag whether it be boy drag (banjee — or passing as straight), girl drag or androgyny. In exploring the ball scene, Livingston connected with many individuals and highlighted their stories.

Continue reading Paris is Burning by Jennie Livingston

American Horror Story: Asylum

Aired: October 17, 2012 – January 23, 2013

 

American Horror Story: Asylum is set mostly in 1964, Kit Walker (Evan Peters) is accused of killing his wife (Britne Oldford) and locked up in Briarcliff Manor, an asylum that houses the criminally insane. Court-appointed psychiatrist, Dr. Oliver Threadson (Zachary Quinto) is assigned to assess Walker’s ability to stand trial. Reporter Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) requests access to the asylum as she sees exposing the mistreatment of the patients as the making of her career. Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) denies her access so Lana sneaks in and is injured. Jude initially uses the injury and then Lana’s homosexuality to keep her locked away. Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell) is using the patients to make the ultimate human beings. Dark forces are at work. In modern-day in the ruins of Briarcliff will history repeat itself?

Asylum is the second show in the American Horror Story series.

Continue reading American Horror Story: Asylum

American Horror Story: Murder House

Aired: October 5 – December 21, 2011
DVD Release:  September 25, 2012

 

American Horror Story: Murder HouseIn American Horror Story: Murder House, on the precipice of divorce, Ben (Dylan McDermott) and Vivian (Connie Britton) relocate from Boston to a renovated mansion in Los Angeles with their daughter Violet (Tassia Farmiga) in order to start again. Little do they know that the great price that they got on the mansion is due to its dark history of violence. Will they become eternal tenants to be the rare people to leave the house alive? Continue reading American Horror Story: Murder House

Eloise (2017)

Release Date: February 3, 2017

Jacob Martin (Chace Crawford) is a mechanic who has been estranged from his father for many years when a lawyer contacts him to say that his father has died. Jacob travels to his hometown of Detroit for the reading of the will and discovers that his father had a sister he never knew about but who was a patient for many years at Eloise Hospital in Westland, Michigan and is assumed to have died there. The only thing standing between Jacob and the immediate transfer of his father’s wealth is proof of the sister’s death. Jacob and his friend Dell (Brandon T. Jackson), make the trip to Eloise where the administrator tells them that the file is in the “Annex” and will take time to locate. Jacob and Dell make a plan to slip into the Annex at night to find the file themselves with the help of Eloise expert and oddity collector Scott (P.J. Byrne) and his very reluctant sister, bartender Pia (Eliza Dushku). What they encounter may not be worth the money they stand to gain.

 

I had high hopes for Eloise. I grew up about 20 minutes away from the hospital. There was a teacher supply store very near that my mom liked to frequent and when I’d see the cemetery, even at a very young age, it seemed creepy and mysterious. Many years later (mid-90s) while working at the Ann Arbor library a photographer exhibited pictures he’d taken in one of the abandoned buildings and whenever I had the chance I’d look at them envisioning when they were full of life and activity and, in a sense, that’s what Eloise brings us.

The story opens with Pia, a lone survivor, sitting on a bed while she’s questioned by an investigator who tells her that the three men have been confirmed dead and Scott could only be identified with dental records. What happened during what seems like it should be a quite straightforward night in the abandoned hospital? Eloise, as a story, raises a few questions. Are we supposed to be afraid? The evil doctor H.H. Greiss (Robert Patrick) rules the hospital like a sadistic tyrant and according to the movie is well known for his “fear therapy.” The idea is that in order to conquer ones fears a person must be placed in an extreme confrontation with them. If a person is claustrophobic an appropriate “cure” is to stuff them in a body bag and then a locker in the morgue. There are several examples of the fear therapy shown and as awful and misguided as they are, they read as a distraction from the real story-line which involves parallel timelines existing in Eloise. The hospital comes to life little by little. Pia walks down a hallway and sees babies in newborn cots and then looks down a hallway to see a little girl holding a box. Jacob sees patients, doctors and nurses bustling around. While there are several “idiot viewer” signs (LOOK AT THIS! This is going to be IMPORTANT), ultimately the story is a very simple one that is neither frightening or thrilling. Jacob is taken to the day his aunt (played by Nicole Forrester) dies and, coincidentally, a devastating (wholly fictional) fire that destroyed several of the buildings on the Eloise campus happened.

The actors weren’t given much to work with but their acting can’t be faulted. Jacob is the stereotypical brooding anti-hero, Dell is a wild child mixed up in drugs and hard living, Pia is a sardonic bartender with a hard life and a heart of gold who has sacrificed her life for her developmentally disabled brother. Griess is psychotic and seems to half believe in fear therapy and half get a kick out of how horrible it can be. He’s the standout in the cast leading a public display like a cult leader selling his followers on their own demise.

So did I like this movie. No. It had a lot of promise but never really carried through. Everything seemed disconnected and leading to a predetermined result without really giving any thought to making sense or engaging the viewer. I turned off Eloise several times during it’s 89 minute run. Ultimately I was left disappointed because given the promise of the location, I’d expected so much more.

To cap this review, I’d like to highlight the danger of a good story. Looking online I see a lot of people who claim Greiss as fact. From what I’ve read, he’s entirely fictional and the actual Eloise in its day was a lovely and progressive place to live out your remaining years. Elijah McCoy, the African-Canadian inventor and engineer, spent the last year of his life there. There were community gardens and bakeries and by all account, Eloise was a lively and lovely place. Recently the Friends of Eloise led ghost tours that sold out in a matter of minutes from ticket release. The cemetery is said to be haunted and the former asylum did experience deaths credited to medications of the day like opium but there was no Greiss and quite the contrary to the assertion that patients never left, they did and they lived happy lives.

If you’d like to see a movie about Eloise, this is the only one I’ve heard of and if you’re interested, check it out. Let me know what you thought.

Eloise is available as a DVD, Blu-ray and on Amazon Instant Video.

Amazon U.S.   Amazon U.K.   Amazon CA

Title Eloise
Director Robert Legato
Actors Chace Crawford, Brandon T. Jackson, Eliza Dushku
Length 89 minutes
Rating R
DVD Release March 21, 2017

 

 

Cult of Chucky (2017)

Release Date: October 3, 2017

Cult of Chucky movie

In Cult of Chucky, Nica Pierce (Fiona Dourif) has been sent to a medium security asylum for the criminally insane after extensive therapy to accept the idea that she killed her family and not a Good Guy doll named Chucky, as she’d claimed. When people at the asylum start dying, is she to blame or is Chucky back? Continue reading Cult of Chucky (2017)

Doctor Who Special: Christmas 2017

Release Date: February 13, 2018

 

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

Twice Upon a Time (Doctor Who Special: Christmas 2017)

In an episode entitled Twice Upon a Time (Doctor Who Special: Christmas 2017), the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) encounters the First (David Bradley) who is fighting regeneration. The Doctor duo encounters a World War I soldier (Mark Gatiss), who was temporarily saved from death by the disruption of the timeline when the Doctors met, but who is being pursued by a new threat known as Testimony.    Continue reading Doctor Who Special: Christmas 2017

A Wish For Christmas (2016)

Release Date: October 26, 2016 | DVD Release Date:  January 3, 2017

 

A Wish For Christmas (2016)In A Wish For Christmas (2016), Sara Thomas (Party of Five’s and Mean Girl’s Lacey Chabert) is the workplace doormat. Everyone from her boss to her best friend takes advantage of her and she never stands up for herself. When a man she assumes to be the office Santa gives her a wish lasting 48 hours for Christmas, she wishes to be able to stand up for herself. The results make for a business trip away with the young and handsome CEO of the company for which she works for a pitch that just might save the company. Will her Christmas wish better or ruin Sara’s life?    Continue reading A Wish For Christmas (2016)