In lockdown, I appreciate my TV more than ever. I’m also grateful to the publicists who allow me to preview films before they hit the theatres or the streaming services. However, I’m a little behind schedule, so I’ll review a few movies you can see/stream/watch on-demand right now.
MUCHO MUCHO AMOR: THE LEGEND OF WALTER MERCADO
I had no idea who Walter Mercado was but hundreds of millions of others did – he was the Liberace of the astrology world, a boy who demonstrated healing powers at a young age, even though he felt “different.” Walter became world renowned, and seriously as popular as The Pope, with people kissing his hands, touching his clothes, waiting for a pat on their heads or a wave as he passed by.
Born in Puerto Rico, this Latinx icon became a dancer and an actor who happened upon his career as a TV astrologer (and Psychic Hot Line creator) when he was vamping about the subject during a TV news interview. The rest is history, and as his fame grew, so did his flamboyance.
Renowned for his overtly feminine persona and lavish, sequined, and wildly designed costumes, but also for a lack of transparency about his sexuality, he ended each broadcast with flowery hand gestures and the words “Mucho Mucho Amor.”
Was he gay? Was he really an astrologer? No to the second question and we’ll never know about the first, for despite never revealing his own sexuality, he lived his feminine side and became a role model to gay and trans people in a macho society.
But the big mystery was why he stepped out of the limelight at the height of his success; that story, sad and ugly as it is, is recounted here. The documentary includes interviews with the aged Walter just before his death in 2019, so at least he had a chance to relive his glory years.
The documentary streams on Netflix. I think you’ll find his character as intriguing and frustrating as I did. Watch it. You won’t be sorry. https://www.netflix.com/title/81200204
Did you fall in love with the poignant movie, “Shoplifters” when it was released in 2018, and deservedly won Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or? It was about a family—constructed, not born—who tackle their poverty by shoplifting.
In Hirokazu Kore-eda’s newest film, “The Truth,” we witness a completely different family dynamic, in another country, at the opposite end of the economic spectrum and featuring characters related by blood.
French film stars Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche play mother and daughter. Deneuve doesn’t have to stretch far to find her character. She plays Fabienne, a legendary screen actress, who is aging and not getting the kinds of roles that made her famous. But she’s written a memoir that completely fictionalizes her relationship with daughter Lumir (Binoche).
To describe Fabienne as an ice queen would be an understatement. Lumir, a screenwriter, is still working through the damage from their relationship. She has come to France to celebrate the memoir’s publication, bringing her “minor actor” husband (Ethan Hawke) with her, and introducing Charlotte (Clémentine Grenier), their daughter, to her grandmother for the first time.
What follows isn’t deeply moving but rather quietly expressive about the way families relate, connect, fight and try to heal past wounds. It’s a deceptively simple story and the star power of the two leads makes it worth your time. Here’s how to watch it at home: https://www.thetruth.movie
As the Black Lives Matter protests remind us, ALL Black Lives Matter – including LGBTQ lives. More than just a cultural issue, the recent Supreme Court ruling about LGBTQ employee discrimination puts trans people front and center in the headlines.
More visibility brings more potential danger and a need for better understanding to counter it. But stereotypical media depictions make caricatures of real people’s lives. Many a trans person has been beaten or murdered in real life due to the way Hollywood portrays them.
The Netflix documentary “Disclosure” focuses on how trans lives are misrepresented. Film, TV and other entertainments create indelible images that burn themselves into the collective imagination, but what audiences see is not how trans people view themselves.
This well-constructed documentary uses humor, lots of film and TV clips and a smart set of interviewees to address the serious issues and challenges they face, and taking us through the history of how gay and trans people have been seen on screen. The community doesn’t just consist of “fairies,” “queens” or “street prostitutes,” but just as entertainment emphasizes those stereotypes, so do well-known talk shows hosts, who focus their questions on body parts, and make us cringe for the “otherness” they’re being made to feel. Would you ask a straight woman questions about her vagina? Or a cisgender male about his penis?
Laverne Cox, the Emmy Award-winning trans actress from “Orange is the New Black,” is both a producer and one of our guides in the film. We’re also led by uber-articulate actress Jen Richards, who is great at clarifying complexities for the uninformed, something I admit to being before watching “Disclosure.”
Now in addition to educating myself about how to be an effective anti-racist, and learning about the history of our nation related to Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), I’m opening myself up to understanding LGBTQ lives and their struggles.
If your mind has been closed, I encourage you to see “Disclosure.” https://www.netflix.com/title/81284247
Sarah A. Spitz is an award-winning public radio producer, retired from KCRW, where she also produced arts stories for NPR. She writes features and reviews for various print and online publications.