Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

Author Archive

Tuesday

16

June 2020

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COMMENTS

Sam Feder, Director of Disclosure

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Pride coverage continues! Today we are joined by Sam Feder, director of the documentary Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen, which Ian had the pleasure of seeing at Sundance. Sam talks about the importance of visibility, the challenges of presenting a history in real time, and the responsibility of filmmakers to depict trans people accurately. 

Disclosure premieres on Netflix on June 19th.

You can follow Sam on Twitter @SamFederfilm and Disclosure @Disclosure_Doc

Be sure to check out Ian’s review of Disclosure for FanSided: https://fansided.com/2020/01/28/disclosure-trans-lives-on-screen-sundance-review/

Photo credit: Alex Schmider

 

 

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Monday

15

June 2020

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COMMENTS

Legal Analysis of the Supreme Court LGBTQ Ruling

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Big day for LGBTQ rights! The Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that employers cannot fire LGBTQ workers simply for being gay or transgender. The landmark decision, authored by Trump appointee Justice Neil Gorsuch, represents a major milestone in the fight for LGBTQ equality.

We are delighted to have legal analyst & journalist Colin Kalmbacher on the show to break down the case for us. Colin authored an excellent piece for Law & Crime explaining the importance of the decision. In a brief breaking-news episode, Colin supplies some superb analysis of the significance of today’s ruling.

Be sure to read Colin’s article for a very thorough explainer. https://lawandcrime.com/supreme-court/liberal-and-conservative-justices-in-6-3-decision-agree-that-sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity-are-protected-by-civil-rights-act/

You can follow Colin on Twitter @colinkalmbacher

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Friday

12

June 2020

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COMMENTS

Teraj – Singer, Travel Host, & Entertainer

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Our Pride coverage begins! Join host Ian Thomas Malone and special guest Teraj for a fascinating conversation about the protests against police brutality happening across the country and Teraj’s career. Teraj is the host “Gay Travel Today” on Amazon’s Alexa and recently put out his debut album “Defy.” Ian & Teraj also talk about the role of Pride as an outlet for protest.

For more of Teraj, check out his social media and be sure to tune in to “Gay Travel Today.”

Twitter: https://twitter.com/IAmTeraj
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IAmTeraj/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/teraj08/
Alexa Flash Briefing: https://amzn.to/2WMUJ3j
Website: https://www.terajmusic.com/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpHce1qpmSQZ4eGy-c0pXXg

Teraj’s music video for “Let Yourself Soar” that was referenced in the episode can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghhBjpp7YiI

 

We at Estradiol Illusions would like to affirm our support for Black Lives Matter and the movements across the globe. 

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Thursday

11

June 2020

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COMMENTS

13 Reasons Why Season 4

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What a mess. Join Ian Thomas Malone as she breaks down 13 Reasons Why’s terrible fourth and final season. From the bad writing, underwhelming narrative, and totally checked out actors who all looked way too old to be in high school, this season was a mess for just about every reason imaginable. Ian also provides a brief overview of the series as a whole and what drew her to it initially.

Be sure to check out Ian’s review of the season for FanSided: https://fansided.com/2020/06/07/13-reasons-season-4-review/

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Tuesday

9

June 2020

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COMMENTS

Seahorse Handles Transgender Pregnancy with Grace and Dignity

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It would be nice to live in a world where news like Freddy McConnell’s pregnancy wouldn’t make international headlines, leading to a cascade of unfortunate headlines seeking to sensationalize his person life. McConnell, a British transgender man who gave birth to a son in 2018, is an affable individual who understandably shies away from the kind of cringeworthy tabloid coverage that follows him around. Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth seeks to tell his intimate story.

Director Jeanie Finlay captures extensive footage from McConnell’s entire pregnancy. The film does a great job explaining the unique challenges the process presents to trans men. Being off of hormones for any extended period of time is an incredibly taxing endeavor, something that McConnell handles with grace.

The artificial insemination procedures aren’t very different for trans men as for cisgender women, a reality that Finlay highlights quite well. Seahorse presents a refreshingly sober look at pregnancy, a soft-spoken effort to tone down the rhetoric surrounding transgender issues. Much of the film is pretty mundane stuff, but that’s also kind of the point. McConnell isn’t a radical figure. He’s a man who wants a family.

Seahorse does at times struggle with presenting a narrative. Much of the film’s first act centers around McConnell’s relationship with CJ, a masculine-presenting non-binary person, who was initially supposed to co-parent McConnell’s child. CJ exits the narrative early on, leaving Freddy on his own, though with support from his mother among other people.

At a certain point, Finlay stops trying to organize the steps of McConnell’s pregnancy into a cohesive story. The third act suffers from a few meandering sequences that don’t serve any broader narrative. Mundane might be the point, but it’s gets a bit tedious after a while.

Seahorse would likely have benefited from Finlay taking a broader approach to the subject. A quick Google search shows the especially toxic media environment in the UK toward transgender people. None of this is covered in the film, perhaps a missed opportunity to provide some broader context to the audience.

For his part, McConnell expresses a desire to be away from the media spotlight late in the film, a peculiar position for the subject of a documentary to be in. Finlay keeps some understandable distance toward a subject going through an emotionally taxing journey with minimal external support. It is McConnell’s journey more than than that of pregnant transgender men as a whole, a tricky tightrope that many narratives focused on marginalized groups must walk.

Seahorse is a very good film that handles its sensitive subject material with great care. There is the sense that there is plenty left on the table with regard to the subject matter. Perhaps another documentary with broader intentions to capture transphobia in Britain can expand on these themes, but if Seahorse succeeds in its primary objective, the thought might not be there to make another film on this topic.

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Thursday

4

June 2020

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COMMENTS

The Donut King Explores the Origins of a SoCal Institution

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There are plenty of parts of Los Angeles where it’s hard to drive more than five feet without passing a donut shop. SoCal is home to thousands of independent stores selling the iconic American treat. LA’s Cambodian population dominates the donut market, with over 90% market share across the region. The new film The Donut King explores the man who made much of this possible.

The life of Ted Ngoy is a classic example of the American dream. Escaping Cambodia as a young refugee, Ted arrived in SoCal in the mid 70s, seeking a better life for himself and his family. Recognizing the difficulties of raising a large family on a church janitor’s salary, Ted was drawn to the donut trade, which offered high traffic, long operation hours, and good margins.

After a three-month apprenticeship working for the legendary Winchell’s Donuts, Ted went out of his own, opening his own shop. Quickly learning the trade, Ted expanded rapidly through the region, in the process employing hundreds of his Cambodian countrymen. Ted’s deep-fried empire grew so massive that it severely cut into Winchell’s own market share, in the process keeping east-coast leviathan Dunkin Donuts from expanding westward.

Ngoy makes for a compelling subject, a complex man who squandered much of his empire after developing an unhealthy affection for neighboring Las Vegas. He’s very open about his life’s story, giving a personal touch to director Alice Gu’s broader narrative about how the Cambodian population came to dominate the LA donut market. Gu thoroughly unpacks the material, interviewing executives from Winchell’s and Dunkin Donuts to provide a very digestible explainer on all things donuts.

The film’s biggest struggle lies with its runtime. The Donut King almost justifies spending more than ninety minutes on Ngoy and the SoCal donut market, but the film drags pretty hard for a long stretch in the middle. A solid twenty minutes should have been cut to ease the burden on the narrative.

Gu also includes several animated sequences from films and cartoon references donuts. These cutaways help ease the burden on the repetitive landscape for a while, but they grow stale and tiresome as the narrative progresses.. There’s a very good story in The Donut King, but Gu would’ve done well to trim it down a bit.

The Donut King is a touching love letter to an important slice of SoCal culture and a man who lived the American dream. Ngoy has had his ups and downs in life, but he singlehandedly changed the landscape of a vital LA market. Be sure to grab a pink box full of everyone’s favorite treat before watching.

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Saturday

16

May 2020

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COMMENTS

Dead Still Is a Well-Crafted Period Drama with Plenty of Humor

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Pictures carry a degree of disposability in the modern era. Selfies on Instagram or Snapchat can disappear into the void not long after they’re taken. Set in Ireland during the 1880s, Acorn TV’s new drama Dead Still captures an era back when photographs were still a valuable commodity, a luxury that few could afford.

The show follows Brock Blennerhasset (Michael Smiley), a memorial photographer who makes his living taking pictures of the recently deceased. A practitioner of the daguerreotype process, which uses steel plates to capture photographs, Blennerhasset finds himself in an era that is rapidly evolving, with cheaper and easier methods hitting the market. Accompanied by his niece, Nancy Vickers (Eileen O’Higgins), and gravedigger-turned-assistant, Conall Molloy (Kerr Logan), Brock goes about his business as a broader conspiracy involving the illicit photograph trade begins to ensnare him.

Dead Still owes its success to the delightful chemistry between Smiley, O’Higgins, and Logan. The three are absolutely marvelous to watch, elevating each other in practically every scene. Smiley brings an understated dry wit to Blennerhasset that’s well complemented by the more affectionate Nancy and Conall. The show makes a compelling case for why they’re drawn to each other, outcasts who find community in their rather peculiar line of work.

O’Higgins often sets the tone for the narrative, working wonders as the show’s sole primary female character. Nancy is maybe a bit more modern than period drama purists might like, but O’Higgins exudes such emotion in each scene that it’s practically impossible not to like the character. Dead Still looks like the kind of show that’s a lot of fun to work on, with a sense of joy that permeates through the screen.

The show finds a good balance between drama and comedy, frequently using humor to lighten the dark aesthetics. Blennerhasset’s coachman Cecil (Jimmy Smallhorne) is quite amusing, though Smallhorne brings a surprising amount of depth to the character. Dead Still makes great use of the Irish landscape, frequently giving the eyes plenty to feast on with its emphasis on old architecture.

The six-episode season mostly utilizes serialized storytelling, though the front half is a bit more self-contained. The narrative bites off a bit more than it can reasonably chew in six episodes, emphasizing world-building and character development over pacing of the narrative. This approach works pretty well, endearing the characters to the audience while leaving plenty of hunger for more. The season could’ve easily gone on for another four episodes.

Dead Still is way more fun than you’d expect from a period drama about photographing the recently deceased. The acting is superb and the production values are top notch. Acorn TV has a gem on its hands, hopefully one that has a second season in the works.

The entire six episode first season was screened for review.

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Friday

15

May 2020

0

COMMENTS

Dummy Is a Self-Indulgent Slog That’s Never as Funny as It Wants to Be

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There are countless shows about people who make shows. Hollywood’s longstanding fascination with itself occasionally produces a gem, but the self-indulgence often comes at a cost. For a show like Quibi’s Dummy, based on creator Cody Heller’s real-life relationship with Dan Harmon, narrative is often substituted for an endless parade of winks at its audience.

Dummy follows the adventures of a fictionalized Heller, played by Anna Kendrick, as she develops a budding friendship with Harmon’s (Donal Logue) sex doll, voiced by Meredith Hagner. The sex doll, which Cody names Barbara, serves as a kind of motivational force for her middling career as a writer. Most of the shortform episodes center around the rapport between Cody and Barbara, functioning kind of like a buddy comedy.

The humor is pretty lazy. There are a few scattered laughs to be had from listening to Barbara’s vulgar antics, but the routine wears thin after the first couple of episodes. Heller writes plenty of surface-level jokes about feminism and the MeToo movement that play too hard for shock value. Absent is any sense of deeper truths uncovered from this line of thinking.

Heller displays a weird fascination with the Bechdel test, producing several painfully pedantic takes on the concept. It’s fairly unclear what she’s trying to say about any of this other than the rather obvious point that women can in fact be bad feminists. These revelations are neither insightful nor amusing.

The Quibi format hardly does Dummy any favors. The first few episodes contain way too many conversations that feel like they’re playing at 1.5 times the normal speed. This might be more forgivable if it wasn’t an artificial mandate for a show that could in theory be as long as it wanted. The back half of the season does mostly rectify this problem.

The episode runtimes don’t exactly provide much time for character development. Kendrick does a satisfactory job as a foil to the zany sex doll, but Heller as a character lacks any sense of depth. She’s an unmotivated writer in LA who never loses sight of the good fortune that’s been handed to her as a result of her romantic partner. It is unclear why anyone would think that this is a good formula for a protagonist.

Dummy grinds its superficial meta humor into the ground, a shallow inside joke packaged as a television series. Even for devoted Harmon fans, it’s unclear who the target demographic for this show really is, besides maybe their extended families. The fact that Heller does seem fairly self-aware only makes the whole experience even more disappointing.

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Friday

15

May 2020

0

COMMENTS

Classic Film: For Ever Mozart

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Jean-Luc Godard spent much of the 60s crafting experimental films with limited mainstream appeal. Part of the fun of sitting down to watch a Godard is the feeling of experiencing the director grappling with his thoughts in real time. That kind of directorial approach doesn’t always work, but it’s often very entertaining to watch.

Godard’s 60s output possesses the added advantage of being crafted against the backdrop of its era, full of vibrant color schemes and fashion. There’s always plenty for the eyes, even if the mind has no idea what’s going on. In 1997’s For Ever Mozart, Godard returns to his earlier themes, albeit without the joys that buoyed his art at indecipherable moments.

The film is broken up into four parts, each introduced with its own name. One sequence sees actors auditioning for a film, frequently discarded after only uttering a few words. Another shows a hostage situation during the Bosnian war. There is some continuity in the sense that several of the actors appear in multiple parts, but the film hardly possesses anything resembling a narrative. One’s ability to describe things that look like a plot should not be mistaken to imply that there actually is a narrative.

The acting is stifled and bland. None of this can be blamed on the talent themselves, as it is fairly hard to imagine anyone making good work out of a painfully obtuse script with no obvious sense of purpose. There is nowhere for a performer to direct their energy.

Godard is rarely accessible, but For Ever Mozart is little more than foolish ramblings by a director who seems oddly bored by his musings. At some points, it looks like he’s trying to provide a commentary on the value of art. It could be true that art can’t save the world, but to draw that from this film is to give it credit that it woefully does not deserve.

The scenery in the second sequence is pleasant to look at, something to remember. The complete absence of narrative leaves little for the mind to latch onto it after the credits roll. Godard takes a couple swings at philosophical one-liners here and there, but nothing leaves a lasting impression.

For Ever Mozart is a big waste of time for anyone other than diehard Godard fans eager to complete his filmography. Even then, it hardly holds much value. There is no way this film would have been made if it weren’t for the name recognition of its director, a sad reflection on the medium.

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Thursday

14

May 2020

0

COMMENTS

Upload Is a Fun Binge with an Underwhelming Story

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Humanity has been telling tales of the after-life for as long as storytelling has existed. Amazon’s Upload builds on the seemingly all-encompassing nature of the Internet to provide an alternative form of heaven than the pearly gates. As one might imagine, its depiction of life after death is hardly full of angels and endless happiness.

After a tragic accident, Kevin (Robbie Amell) finds himself “uploaded” to the Lakeview community, the afterlife in the form of a digital upscale hotel and spa. The scenery is beautiful, but most of the amenities come with a charge, with real-life “angels” working on hand to make sure residents are happy, and spending plenty of money. Kevin’s purse strings are closely guarded by his still-living girlfriend Ingrid (Allegra Edwards), but he finds comfort in the company of his angel Nora (Andy Allo), toward whom he begins to develop ill-advised feelings.

Upload has fun with its premise, presenting a haunting yet amusing take on the afterlife. Set in 2033, the world-building is pretty solid, rarely letting the narrative get bogged down in exposition. There isn’t a ton of suspension of disbelief required to get on board with its take on the not-so distant future.

Capitalism is the show’s real villain, tormenting the deceased by tying their fortunes to the purse strings of the living. The show has a lot of fun with this concept, though it’s one of the areas where the broader logistical concerns tend to surface. A few episodes handle this dynamic quite well, but it’s an issue that’s always present even when the narrative tries to kick it under the rug.

The first season does waste a fair bit of time on generic romantic plotlines that follow predictable paths. Kevin is a pretty bland protagonist, with Amell doing relatively little to endear his character to the audience. Allo fares better with Nora, the show’s most compelling character, especially when she’s out in the real world.

Refreshingly absent for the most part is the broader moral dilemma of a place like Lakeview. It’s hardly the kind of place one would want to see themselves confined to until the end of time, yet it’s easy to see the surface level appeal. The show never tries to sell its concept to the audience while also not exactly condemning its hellish version of “heaven.”

Upload leaves a lot to be desired on the storytelling front, but the acting and world-building make for a pleasant experience. With the show renewed for a second season, there are issues that will hopefully be addressed in its sophomore effort. While hardly revolutionary, Upload is an easy binge in these chaotic times.

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