Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Hurricane Bianca 2, or: I Will Kut-ya

As one hurricane approaches the US, another storms Russia in the form of a small-town science teacher by day, ferocious drag queen by night.  That’s right–since we covered the first film and we’re all about being thorough on the blog collab, we’re tackling the Hurricane Bianca sequel this week.

The Film:

Hurricane Bianca 2: From Russia with Hate

The Premise:

Richard Martinez, AKA Bianca Del Rio, travels to Russia with insults, false eyelashes, and the kind of glitter you still find under your fingernails months later.

The Ramble:

As a quick recap, the original film in the franchise(?) saw Debbie (Rachel Dratch), homophobic teacher determined to rid Texas of Bianca Del Rio, land in prison for an inappropriate relationship with a minor.  Now that she has been released, Debbie is consumed by her revenge fantasies and ready to carry them out.

A woman holding a bag with her possessions speaks to another woman in an office.

Starting out a cringeworthy plot that just gets cringier is Debbie’s, er, brilliant plan to lure Bianca to Russia, where she will surely be locked up for life.  With the newly appointed Minister of Homosexual Propaganda on the case, prospects for any openly LGBTQ+ person aren’t wonderful.

After Bianca receives an invitation to Russia to accept a science prize, she is skeptical but accepts anyway.  Tagging along is her friend Rex, who isn’t always the brightest.  Little do they know Debbie and her daughter Carly are watching their every move.

It’s not long before Bianca and Rex draw the attention of the Russian police, who interrogate the two about all of the women’s clothing and accessories in their possession.  After these items are confiscated, how can Bianca even exist to collect her prize?

When Bianca and Rex find a gay bar, they meet the witty and fierce owner of the bar, Katya.  Before Bianca can get to know Katya as well as she’d like, police raid the bar, arresting Rex and Carly, who has been spying.  Now it looks as though Bianca and Debbie will have to work together to bust their loved ones out of Russian prison.

A man talks to a blonde drag queen at a bar.

Meanwhile, Rex is in no hurry to be free from prison because of a surprise drag show and unexpected bonding with Carly.  Maybe Carly will even see the error of her ways and begin to change her opinion of the LGBTQ community?  (Also there’s a drag queen in prison called Vicki Leaks…perhaps the one joke in the film that actually lands.)

Bianca is nevertheless determined to bust Rex out of prison, and develops an elaborate plan involving her friend Stephen, help from Debbie, and of course impossibly voluminous wigs.  Can they pull off their plan, defeat the homophobes, and make the world a better place?

A drag queen wearing a sparkly turban laughs, a cloudy cityscape behind her.

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

I expected this to be a fun romp like the first film, but it was honestly…kind of a drag to get through.  Bah dum tsssssssssssss.

The jokes were predictable for a trashy comedy, and I was actually somewhat disappointed that, despite the message of LGBTQ rights and empowerment, it seemed to throw so many groups under the bus.  There were jokes about sex workers, STDs, fat shaming, and prison rape.  Call me a feminist killjoy, but I just don’t find that kind of comedy funny.

Another disappointment was the plot–which I acknowledge was really just a vehicle for the film’s message and vicious Bianca insults.  Even so, we kept hearing about the Minister of Homosexual Propaganda and got so little payoff on that storyline.  Dot Jones is completely wasted in this role and given almost nothing to do except stand around in a uniform looking disdainful.

Based on the title, I was also on some level hoping for a From Russia with Love parody but without the mud wrestling.  Keep your expectations low on this one or you might get your heart trampled on by glittery stilettos.

What did the drag queen of my heart think of this one–would she declare it the winner of an imaginary prize or banish it to Siberia?  Find out in her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Hurricane Bianca, or: It’s a Poncho, Bitch

This week’s film is brought to you by false eyelashes, skin-tight sequined dresses, and enough concealer to recolor the walls of a small apartment.  Drag queens, ok?  It’s about drag queens–and one rather renowned in particular.

The Film:

Hurricane Bianca

The Premise:

I mean, technically there’s a plot, but mostly this is a vehicle for Bianca Del Rio to throw shade at homophobes.

The Ramble:

Richard is a long-suffering science teacher who genuinely cares about learning–if only his students felt the same way.  Meanwhile, his interest in stand-up comedy seems to be horribly misguided as he persistently gets a cringeworthy number of laughs.

Feeling completely disheartened, Richard finally gets some good news in the form of a call from the head of a teaching ambassador program (played by a fantastically sinister Alan Cumming).  The catch?  The position is in Milford, a small Texas town into football, nepotism, and traditional gender roles.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Richard is a bit of a fish out of water as a gay man whose masculinity doesn’t jive with the gun-toting football fanatics.  Richard fails to make it through the first day of class when his students blow up the chemistry lab.  While the principal may have overlooked this incident, when he discovers Richard’s sexuality, it’s all over.

A man in the bleachers of a football game wears blue and yellow face paint and holds a foam spirit finger up.
In Texas, this is the only acceptable makeup for men.

In an attempt to drink away his sorrows, Richard ends up at a bar only to discover he now lives in a dry county.  However, he does manage to befriend a trans woman named Karma, who invites him to a drag show that evening.  After Richard has one too many drinks, he performs in drag and finds inspiration to return to Milford…as Bianca.  Not only could Bianca win $25,000 if she wins Teacher of the Year, but perhaps more importantly could whip the smart but unmotivated students into shape and seek revenge on those responsible for ending Richard’s career (including Rachel Dratch?!).

A woman in a floral dress stands in a kitchen, hand on hip.
This is not the face of approval.

With no small amount of scathing sarcasm, Bianca gets to work.  She shames the students into being nicer to the closeted gay kid while also giving him some fighting tips.  When the students fail to complete their chemistry reading, they’re in for a nasty surprise that would definitely get a teacher fired IRL.  Bianca also gives hilariously harsh nicknames to all of the students, including labeling one of the cheerleaders “Bathmat.”

Meanwhile, the school’s football coach Chuck takes a shine to Bianca.  When she discovers Chuck is Karma’s estranged brother, Bianca can’t resist doing some meddling…which has some unexpected consequences.  After learning of Bianca’s scheming, Karma is furious and insists she leave.

A man in a cowboy hat roller skates with a drag queen who is holding a bottle of beer.
Nothing says romance like beer and roller skating.

Perhaps not so surprisingly, Bianca is nominated for Teacher of the Year.  When her drag queen besties arrive in town from New York, a rival teacher makes one last bid to earn the title for her daughter, and rumors of Lady Gaga’s appearance at the ceremony abound, shenanigans ensue.  Of course, it’s all going down at the Teacher of the Year Awards.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

This is a sweet and irresistibly bubbly film that still manages to touch on real issues LGBT people contend with.  At times, the lightness of the film does undermine the message somewhat–the ending is all a bit after-school special.  While I wasn’t going in expecting Dallas Buyers Club, there were still times when I wanted the film to embrace its serious themes more fully.

Also minor bone to pick:  some of Bianca’s insults come from a fat-shaming/body-shaming place that I just can’t get behind.  It seemed to send a message that it’s ok to body shame people who are fat or have had plastic surgery as long as they’re assholes.  I did find most of Bianca’s sassy quips delightful, but IDK if I can really get behind fat-shaming anyone.

There are some excellent cameos to be seen, and even if the cast may not be getting any Oscars, they are charming and charismatic enough to make up for it.  Overall, the message is positive and does shine a light on some of the BS laws making it even more difficult for people to identify as LGBT at work, school, and in their private lives.

Would Queen Christa cheer for this one in all its glittery glory or don her finest pair of stilettos and show it who’s boss?  Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Feminist February: Paris Is Burning

Feminist February is going out with a bang.  We’re crossing off classics from our movie bucket lists, unintentionally synchronizing our film choices when we’re not even trying, and posting on 2 films for the price of 1.

The Film:

Paris Is Burning

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Uncondensed Version:

This is a classic documentary now, filmed 30ish years ago and giving a mainstream audience the inside story of drag balls in NYC.  Classically for drag queens to dress up in a Vegas showgirl style complete with feathers and sequins, ‘80s balls expanded to many categories giving attendees the chance to strut their stuff in military uniform, business suits, school girls, jockeys, realness…there’s virtually no limit to the number of possibilities.

Our first introduction is through Pepper LaBeija, who considers herself reigning queen of Harlem balls (even though not everyone would agree with this characterization).  In her own words, “I never felt comfortable being poor, and being middle class doesn’t suit me.”  Balls give participants a taste of glamour and fame they otherwise wouldn’t get.  One participant calls it a high that won’t hurt you.

An African-American drag queen wearing a shiny gold dress and elaborate hat poses dramatically in front of a crowd.
I really feel my captions can add nothing of value to this moment.

Another theme that weaves throughout this film is the family found in ball culture—and the houses that pop up and feud with each other.  Many of those interviewed share their stories of being loved but not accepted—or completely rejected by their families.  Each house has a mother who leads the family and takes care of them, while unapologetically calling bullshit.

Feuds between houses means a LOT of shade gets thrown, and really aggressive voguing takes place.  Willi Ninja is an absolute master of voguing—a dance-off involving moves and poses inspired by fashion magazines like Vogue.  His take-down of his opponent revolves around pantomiming applying his own makeup, holding up an invisible mirror, and pretending to apply makeup to his competitor.  If you watch nothing else of this, watch that clip.  Later, Willi ends doing really well for himself, popping up in music videos, modelling, and doing choreography left and right.

A young African-American man with a moustache and oversized sweater leans next to a tree, one hand to his face.

Venus Xtravaganza is a transwoman who participates in balls and desperately wants to earn enough money for sex reassignment surgery.  She works as an escort and seems to enjoy the sweetness of some of her clients.  Devastatingly, however, we find out Venus was later strangled and found 4 days after the fact.  I couldn’t help thinking immediately of the number of transwomen who have already been murdered this year and wonder how much has really changed.

Dorian Corey is one of my favorites—an older and somewhat more cynical drag queen who wanted to be Lena Horne when she was younger.  She wraps things up for us with her aloof realism.  She had so many dreams when she was younger, but eventually aimed lower.  You may want to make a mark on the world when you’re young—but you’ve left a mark if you just get through it.  (This is especially badass if you Google Dorian Corey and the MUMMIFIED body found in her apartment after her death.  WHERE is the Lifetime movie version of this.)

A drag queen sits in a bar, wearing a glittery silver dress and a fur coat.

The Rating:

5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I wasn’t going to go with 5 b/c I feel that’s almost the equivalent of saying “Casablanca is a really good movie,” but there’s no other option.  This is a fascinating but balanced glimpse into a culture discriminated against by race, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status.  Even as balls bring them together, they feud and toss insults at each other.  Those interviewed are deeply sympathetic but don’t shy away from their flaws and disagreements.  Some want sex reassignment surgery, while others speculate those who opt for it may regret it later.

There are lines throughout that are incredibly poignant, especially in light of many featured in this film dying quite young.  The subjects of this film are extremely socially aware as well, since most are black, LGBT, and economically disadvantaged in a system that wants to keep it that way.

I don’t think I can review this without at least mentioning that several of the participants felt they were owed money by the filmmakers.

Is this the mother of my blog wife’s house or would she throw some serious shade at it?  Read her review here to find out!

BONUS ROUND:  I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore

Since we both watched (and loved) this film over the weekend too, a few words about it.

There’s something slightly Coen brothers-esque about this one–it’s very funny with hints of violence beneath the surface that suddenly bubble up and spiral out of control.  So many bodies pile up for a movie about a depressed woman finding her grandmother’s stolen silverware with the help of a neighbor who overestimates his martial arts skills (Elijah Wood [with a beard and rat tail?!?!?!]).  Though, of course, that’s not what this movie is really about at all.

This film captures how confusing and deeply disturbing it is to be alive, especially if you are seeking either reason or compassion from your fellow humans.  Ruth doesn’t realize how quickly her life can become a (wo)man vs man vs nature struggle, and how easily the lizard part of our brains can take over.  I related so hard to Ruth’s feelings of despair about humanity and the world we live in, and her determination to find meaning in the face of really horrible existential questions.

That being said, it really is very fun to watch and has some great comedic moments.  Melanie Lynskey is perfect in this role–she looks and acts the way a normal human woman would rather than suddenly absorbing assassin skills while wearing 6 inch stilettos (though I’d watch that movie too).  IOU a longer review, IDFAHITWA.

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Kinky Boots, or: I Personally Find No Fault with Burgundy

Blog free or die hard?  That is the essential question that drives this blog to search for meaning (or nonsense).  Let us continue, then, with a film about making shoes for drag queens.  You know Christa has thoughts about this, esp. as she’s seen this one before, whereas I’ve been slacking on my To Be Watched list lately.  And by lately I mean for the past 10+ years.

The Film:

Kinky Boots

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Lola, a drag queen who helps a struggling Northampton shoe factory find its niche:  high-heeled shoes (kinky boots, if you will) for drag queens.

The Uncondensed Version:

Both Lola and Charlie know from a young age what they will be doing.  For Lola, it will be performing in drag.  Charlie will inherit his family’s shoe factory, a prospect that doesn’t thrill him.  In an attempt to dodge his fate, Charlie moves to London with his fiancé to study marketing.  Shortly after, he receives the news that his father has passed away and the family business is his.

1.png
“When do get a solo?!”

Charlie is unable to shirk his responsibilities but still feels strange about playing the role of his father in terms of being an authority and role model.  The factory has not kept up with the times and seems to (a) have reasonable working conditions, (b) make a fairly high quality product, and (c) care about tradition.  This leads to pretty heavy layoffs and low morale in general.  As Lauren, one of Charlie’s former employees, points out, what the factory needs is a niche, but what could it be?  Spoiler:  you already know.  If you don’t, please pay at least a little attention.

Charlie’s inspiration comes in the form of Lola, a drag queen he steps in to help when she’s being harassed on the street.  Though clearly uncomfortable in her presence, Charlie has a drink with her and realizes her heeled boots have broken because they weren’t designed to support her frame.

6.png
To be fair, that is a lot of fabulous to hold up.

For somewhat forced plot reasons, Charlie enlists Lauren’s help in recruiting Lola as a shoe model and designer.  Charlie’s fiancé hates the factory and thinks drag queens are unnatural?  You don’t say.  I wonder if Lauren has a more progressive perspective.

Initially Charlie plans to simply take Lola’s measurements and design a pair of red boots.  He really doesn’t want her to visit the factory because he feels his workers won’t be welcoming and he is a bit embarrassed by Lola.  Sensing his discomfort, Lola immediately heads to the factory.

Once there, Charlie dramatically reveals the rather sensible boots he’s made, which is quite impressive considering they are burgundy thigh-highs.  Lola hates them and insists on a sexy heel.  Predictably, many of the factory workers are uncomfortable with Lola’s presence, especially ultra-masculine Don (played by Nick Frost!).

7.png
Whatevs, I’d wear them.  They look comfy.

Charlie manages to talk to Lola when she locks herself in the bathroom (which feels incredibly relevant in light of recent awful American legislation [looking at you, North Carolina]).  They bond over their broken dreams and shared weight of their fathers’ disapproval.

Lola extends an olive branch to Don by asking him to write things she can do to make her more of a man in his eyes; in exchange, he will do the same for Lola.  Additionally, Lola and Charlie regroup and plan to go to Milan with their designs to do some kind of fashion thing (I TRIED really hard to care about shoes/fashion while watching this with varying levels of success).

Everything seems to be going swimmingly.  That is, until Charlie gets really insecure and calls Lola the worst of both sexes.  Suddenly the team is down a model just before their big premiere in Milan.

Also Charlie’s fiancé dumps him.  It’s rather a low point for him, but that’s what happens when you act like a dick.

11.png
Yeah, Nick Frost and Chiwetel Ejiofor arm wrestle in this.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I really enjoyed the beginning of this film but feel it lost steam somewhere along the way.  Partly because it was a bit too Charlie-centric when Lola was the more interesting character.  Chiwetel Ejiofor is absolutely amazing in this.  Joel Edgerton, isn’t bad, esp. when you consider how scary he was in The Great Gatsby.  However, he has much less to work with as he plays the sort of stuffy British everyman who is attractive in a reliable sort of way.

As someone who isn’t overly keen about shoes/fashion, I feel a bit of it was lost on me.  Definitely worth a watch and I can see how this would make a fucking fabulous musical.  Holy shit, I really want to see the musical now.

Does Christa think this film would be a sexy shoe or a sensible sneaker?  Find out here!