Thursday, December 28, 2017

LGBT Film Review: Breaking Free (2015)

Synopsis (from IMDb):

Filmmaker and gay activist Sridhar Rangayan embarks on a personal journey to expose the human rights violations faced by the LGBTQ community in India due to a draconian law Section 377 and homophobic social mores of a patriarchal society.

My Review:

Filmed over the course of 7 years, Breaking Free (2015) amplifies the voices of LGBTQ people in India. Specifically, it focuses on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, and how it has criminalized a whole community. The heart of this documentary is not only on its brutally honest and graphic look into the harsh treatments that the people face, but on the testimonies on the people themselves who have been subjected to just about every inhumane treatment possible, from rape, blackmail, torture, and so on, that is supported and even encouraged by this law, and who are still here to tell their stories of fear, heartbreak, sorrow, pain, and ultimately, triumph.

Very gritty, an eye-opener, and an emotional roller coaster, Breaking Free tells all, as it emancipates the unsung.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Utopia: My Review

To say that Utopia was overwhelmingly stunning is practically an understatement when you listen to each track deeply, as I did when I listened to it when it immediately dropped on Spotify at midnight:

I listened to the opening track, "Arisen My Senses," with a smile. Admittedly, it's my only least favorite song on the album, but I felt the exuberance and optimism that only makes sense as a way to introduce us to a utopia as how Björk sees it. But it always raises the question: what is Utopia, how do we get there, and does it really exist, or will it, ever?

First: it's about love as it first begins with "Blissing Me" (track 2), and is then very quickly about how when a new love begins, "The Gate" (track 3) explores a deeper world within this thing called love.

From "The Gate," we enter into "Utopia" (track 4): a world of not just light, but birds, and oh, those GORGEOUS orchestra of flutes!

I don't normally like to be too comparative because each Björk album is its own unique world and creation, but I LOVE how Utopia is like a throwback to Vespertine, but, more like, a more forward-thinking version of Vespertine with the essence of Biophilia's love of nature.

"Body Memory" (track 5) is also a slight nod/continuation to Vulnicura, where even though Björk  (or the character of this album) may be looking to a more positive and uplifting future, but without being too polly-anna about it: still have to be grounded in realities too.

"Body Memory" is the "Black Lake" of Utopia. So. Fucking. BEAUTIFUL. Not nearly as heart-wrenching, but oh, the feels: the choir, Arca, the epicness of it all to its darkness and overwhelming depth. It might make you cry. It certainly did for me, it was here where it started since me getting choked up by the flute orchestration, the drums, the beats, the birds, and just...the message of it all.

"Features Creatures" (track 6) is so haunting in the most delicious way. Like a ghost singing in the dark.

As someone who has been taught/playing wind instruments (flute, clarinet, and recorder) for most of my childhood, Utopia is truly a gift and a dream. And on that note along with this aside, the flutes in "Courtship" (track 7) made me swoon. Beats and flutes make a beautiful marriage.

That seamless progression from "Courtship" to "Losss" (track 8) made me teary-eyed. Utopia creeps us through a dream world and a reality world all at once, and both worlds are valid, somehow.

From "The Gate" all the songs after it are my favorite songs, honestly, but of them all, "Losss" is my favorite. The flutes are so haunting and hypnotizing.  With "Sue Me" (track 9) the flutes, beats, and drums alike are a character in this overwhelming, gorgeous, floaty/air-y journey into a vision of utopia. "Sue Me" is definitely a continuation to "Quicksand": not only a warning, but a mission. We must not repeat mistakes and we must break curses. We don't only owe it to ourselves, we owe it to the future to be and do better.

"Tabula Rasa" (track 10) makes it louder and clearer to me that the message of the album is not about a PERFECT world, but a more balanced one. Light and darkness can coincide without one overtaking the other, where they both serve their purpose, in their own way. This song is also telling us to STOP: we have to think about our children and the world we're bringing them up in.

Back to when I mentioned how Utopia has some of Biophilia's essence: "Claimstaker" (track 11) reminds me so much of "Thunderbolt," but with more urgency, in ironically a very gentle, but still defiant, way.

We're back into that seemingly perfect world of Utopia again with "Paradisia" (track 12) with more flutes, bird calls, light, and hope than ever before. It's the shortest song on the album, but is still so chock full of majesty. "Paradisia" takes us into "Saint" (track 13): it's here where it's as if we're basking in this new world, taking the time to stay still and soak it all in.

With the final track, "Future Forever," as cheesy as it will sound, it encompasses how Björk will always be the future and she'll always be forever. Utopia really is about love, so full of it, and blooming with reality, darkness, anxiety, doubt, and pain. But still: it's love.

As to my final thoughts:

Utopia is rooted on a vision that more than likely the hardcore Björk fans will warm up to immediately while leaving the rest of her fanbase cold. But we all know this: Björk music only gets more challenging with every record. And for that, we're blessed.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

LGBT Film Review: How Gay Is Pakistan? (2015)

Synopsis (from Netflix):

This documentary explores the lives of gay people and the challenges they face in Pakistan, a country whose laws explicitly outlaw homosexuality.

My Review:
Oh, this was everything and more. Mawaan Rizwan, born and raised in Pakistan as a kid, takes us back to his homeland where he journeys through what life is like for his fellow Pakistani gay men. Mawaan didn't grow up to know what it is really like to be gay and Pakistani other than having it ingrained in his head by his parents on how wrong it is, so for him, being back home as an adult, he not only is reminded of his roots, but how much has changed, and not changed, since he left. We learn about the gay parties, organized by gay activists, where gay, trans and lesbian people alike are free to be themselves in ways that they can't possibly be outside of the party. We also learn what it's like to be trans in Pakistan, and what it's like when a gay couple wants to get married, but can only dream and hope for it when shopping for bridal gowns and imagining that marriage equality was real. What's most striking is not only us getting to know these wonderful and beautiful people, but how Mawaan navigates through this local and underground world with humor, honesty, respect, and grace even when we're faced with harsh, cold, and deadly realities. There's the hate crimes, the secretive "MSM" (Men who have Sex with Men) sex dens, and Mawaan even dares to go to a clinic where they swear that taking herbal pills will cure the gay away and convert their "patients" to heterosexuality in 2 months. It's as entertaining as it is truly heartbreaking. How Gay Is Pakistan is inspiring. This documentary is only 50 minutes long, but gives us an everlasting impression that will last a lifetime.

* Currently on Netflix *

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Le Concert de Camille

I've gone to a lot of concerts this year, but the highlight of them all had to be Camille.

Camille is hugely popular in France, and has gained some visibility in the USA mostly through her most incredible album, Le Fil, and "Le Festin" from the Ratatouille soundtrack, but more or less she's relatively unknown by most American audiences. I've known and loved her since I first ever started self-teaching French when I was 14. I practically have most of her songs memorized by heart in French, that's how much I have loved her music, her style, her lyrics, and just CAMILLE in general!

She's simply a treasure. She's a pop genius who uses her voice in ways that are as childlike and playful as they're so incredibly smart, witty, brilliant, and something out of this world. With her first time performing in the USA in a LONG time, for her only USA tour date this year and in a venue as intimate and lovely as Le Poisson Rouge, it was an otherworldly experience for me. Unbelievably, Camille was even more amazing in person! I was overwhelmed by how even more incredible her voice is live, how even more fun, playful, and wild she is as a performer, and how an even lovelier person she is. It was an honor to be up so close and personal to one of my most favorite French artists ever.

And after the show...I got to meet her, chat with her a little, and she signed my copies of Le Fil and her new album OUÏ with such a gorgeous, unique and personalized signature to me.

Signed: "Pour Vanessa <3 Camille."

Pour toujours, Camille, xoxo.

Friday, October 6, 2017

LGBT Film Review: The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017)

Synopsis (from IMDB):

This documentary uses never-before-seen footage and rediscovered interviews in a search for the truth behind the mysterious 1992 death of black transgender activist and Stonewall veteran Marsha P. Johnson.

My Review:

This is the documentary that Marsha P. Johnson deserved, and also one that should have happened sooner. But better now than never: here we have her story that is as vibrant, full of life, and colorful like she was as it was also chilling, sad, mysterious, and tragic. Marsha P. Johnson was more than a symbol of a movement. She also represents what is still a sad reality today: trans women of color being murdered, most of their cases being cold, and their memory more or less being forgotten except by those who knew and truly loved and accepted them. Every single person in this documentary knew and truly loved and accepted Marsha in not only trying to still figure out how and why she died, but in keeping her memory alive through their trans voices. It was so touching and moving that it moved me to tears. This documentary isn't only a testament to Marsha P. Johnson. This was a testament to all the trans lives we've lost.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Gate: The Music Video

The wait wasn't too long! The music video for "The Gate" is here, and it's truly breathtaking.

Rightfully so, this video is already getting a lot of praise. It's very sci-fi and video game à la Final Fantasy, but is something special in and of itself, telling a story of a woman's emotional journey to healing. I don't see it as only Björk extending love from herself to her lover through the exchanging of light/prisms, but this song for me is definitely a declaration of self-love, and of hope. I already loved this song from first listen and from reading the lyrics, but it's even better in video form.

Not long now until November....

Friday, September 15, 2017


On NOWNESS with Jefferson Hack for a Facebook live chat, in an interview with her collaborator/director Andrew Huang in promoting the film for "The Gate" that will be open to the public FOR FREE in London, Björk was asked what her new album will be called. She was shy and hesitant to say, but she couldn't contain herself: she announced that her new album will be....


The album cover isn't in print yet, so until it is, she could change her mind, but she seems to have her heart set on this title among the thousands of titles that she considered for this album. As she said, she can't think of a name more perfect, especially for these days when utopia is all we can hope for.


LGBT Film Review: Zenne Dancer (2012)

Synopsis (from Netflix):

In this fact-based tale, gay Ahmet is inspired by a male belly dancer and a naive lover to come out to his conservative family, with tragic consequences.

My Review:

This is one of those movies that will make you pause many times for its brilliance. There's the stunning drag performances and so many hilarious scenes in the beginning that invites you at first sight, and then we have the heart of the movie on what Zenne Dancer is really about: how the Turkish military blatantly degrades gay men. All Turkish men are required to serve in the military. Gay men can be exempt if they prove their homosexuality. In the film, that is depicted by how at the army recruiting center, they demand its main characters to show them photos of them having sex with men, all the while they throw homophobic slurs at them. They can even demand video evidence. I can only imagine how groundbreaking Zenne Dancer was at its frank, honest, and devastating portrayal of what's real life for these people. What's also real in this movie is how one man's life was taken by his own father for being openly gay. It was a death that brought widespread attention in Turkey, putting a spotlight on not only just a hate crime, but on Turkey's patriarchal society and how every LGBT person of Turkey is effected by it. This is the movie that gives attention to their story, their lives, and their struggles. It's as beautiful and triumphant as it is truly heartbreaking. Watch Zenne Dancer when you can: LGBT people of Turkey deserve it.

* Currently on Netflix *


Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Gate

A new Björk era has begun.

"The Gate" is the first single off her still-untitled new album, and it's BEAUTIFUL.

At immediate listen, I could hear two of her songs that jumped right out at me:


"Prayer of the Heart"

I love the "Batabid" and "Prayer of the Heart" vibes. It's nostalgic and yet it's new all its own.

It hasn't yet been announced when the album will be released, but Télérama, somehow, is the first and only source I've seen so far that has it:

C'mon, November!

With how Vulnicura was leaked last year which led Björk to have no choice but to fast-release it, the cryptic-ness of this album makes total sense. No album cover, no album title, no official release date, just one single, and it's "The Gate." It may be "slow," it may even be "boring" to some, but Björk is still healing, and she's still finding nirvana, the one within herself, and the one that's in our world. 

It's the Utopia Now.

Monday, September 11, 2017

LGBT Film Review: Oriented (2015)

Synopsis (from Netflix):

The lives, challenges, and conflicted feelings of three gay Palestinian men are documented in this film shot in 2014 in a divided Tel Aviv, Israel.

My Review:

Going into this, I thought this documentary would focus on what it's like being a gay Palestinian through the candid point-of-view of Khader Abu-Seif, Fadi Daeem, and Naeem Jiryes. Oriented is some about that, but is actually more focused on what it's like for them to be gay Palestinian men dating Israeli Jewish men, and how dating and being in love with them goes against their politic beliefs that they hold as not only opinions or ideologies, but an identity in and of itself, where it's as, if not more, important to them as identifying as gay. It was all sorts of remarkable knowing each of these men and their most heartfelt thoughts about the times they're living in and the conflicts they have beyond the sexual, but politically and geographically, while also focusing on nationality, religion, and migration. It's A LOT in one documentary, and somehow, it's not at all overwhelming. It's eye-opening and soul-searching, so honest and real. Whether it's also about coming out to family, about fitting in with the LGBT club scene in Tel Aviv, or just learning to let go, Oriented is a marvelous documentary that educates as it naturally showcases the beauty of what all these four men do best: mastering the art of being oneself.

* Currently on Netflix *

Friday, September 8, 2017

LGBT Film Review: Game Face (2015)

Synopsis (from Netflix):

This documentary follows the struggle of transgender MMA fighter Fallon Fox and gay basketball player Terrence Clemens for acceptance by their sports.

My Review:

This was everything I wanted it to be and more. It's not often that we see LGBT people of color portrayed in such an honest light that doesn't solely focus on their sexuality, but also on what makes them courageous, powerful, and inspiring outside of that too. The main focus of this documentary is on the lovely Fallon Fox who had to undergo so much scrutiny, transphobia, and turmoil from not only when she was rumored to be trans, and when ultimately she was out, and publicly went through the brutal criticism from her fellow peers, but even in her home life. And then we have Terrence Clemens, who's also transgender, and the two bond in sharing their similar experiences in how they're treated as out trans people in the MMA and basketball world. And then we also have Kye Allums, who I've followed for some time over the years in his transitioning and how he's treated in the basketball world as an out trans man who so often gets misgendered and has to constantly explain his identity. Jason Collins gets a spotlight as the "first active male athlete from one of the four major North American professional team sports to publicly do so." They all have so much in common: as a trans woman in MMA, Fallon's fellow teammates feel that she has "an advantage" over them and where some even feel that there should be a separate trans team all together, and then for athletes like Terrence and Kye, their peers feel that their bodies are "too delicate" to be able to possibly compete. Not that anything in this documentary is shocking or surprising since most sports teams are notoriously misogynistic, homophobic, and transphobic, but to see these experiences in the eyes and through the voice and point of view of actual trans and gay athletes is just so important. This documentary in general is so important. It reminds us that even though LGBT acceptance in sports has improved since 2015, we still have long ways to go, and where until the time comes where being LGBT in sports doesn't have to be a big deal, for now, it is a big deal, and their coming out stories still matter.

* Currently on Netflix *

Monday, August 28, 2017

LGBT Film Review: Loev (2015)

Synopsis (from IMDB):

A weekend trip between friends takes a sudden turn, making them each question what love is and what it means to them.

My Review:

This was so powerful and moving. Even though it may seem like a typical "doomed" love story, Loev was far from being predictable. That this film takes place in India where homosexuality is still criminalized, and where LGBT films from there are so rare in general, is not the only thing that makes this movie so special. It's the authenticity in the acting, in the natural bond that the two characters share. There is an intense rape scene that is almost hard to watch, but how the two pick up the pieces was stunning. It's already a tragic story made all the more tragic by how the actor who plays Sahil passed on from tuberculous at 29 when the film was in post-production. The intensity of the acting and emotions aside, for once, there's a raw and gritty drama that doesn't take us to the exotic imagery or slums of India like most movies of this ilk do. There's no pandering, there are no stereotypes, Loev is about two every-day professional and financially successful Indian men who're in love, where it isn't about them being at odds with religion or even with their country, but them trying to keep their friendship, professional lives, and romantic desires in tact. This was a breath of fresh air, truly, in more ways than one.

* Currently on Netflix *

Saturday, August 19, 2017

LGBT Film Review: Naz & Maalik (2015)

Synopsis (from IMDB):

Two closeted Muslim teens hawk goods across Brooklyn and struggle to come clean about their sexuality, as their secretive behavior leads them unknowingly into the cross-hairs of the War on Terror.

My Review:

Oftentimes, I wasn't sure what this movie was about more: two FBI agents trying to find out if Naz and Maalik are terrorists, or if it was about everyone from those agents, friends, and family members wanting to know for sure if the two are gay and are in a relationship. This movie struggles to find that balance and focus, and ultimately, doesn't quite 100% succeed at either plot-points, but somehow, it doesn't matter: Naz and Maalik have such a tender, sensual, and desperate bond for each other. Even when they struggle to find acceptance in their sexuality and where their religion ultimately keeps the two apart, it's when they're the most intimate and close that they test one another's love and devotion, and it's captured so beautifully. The stakes aren't as high as they should be, but I was still engrossed in these characters and in the movie with its gorgeous cinematography that took place in Brooklyn at Bed-Stuy, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and Crown Heights. What the movie might lack in plot, it's well made up for in the acting and the overall gritty energy. I didn't quite love it as much as I wanted to, but I so admire Naz & Maalik, such a brilliant effort, and seriously, the two lead characters/actors are exquisite.

* Currently on Netflix *


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

LGBT Film Review: On The Grayscale (2015)

Synopsis (from IMDB):

Bruno, an architect with a great life, is hired to build an iconic landmark, and as he works with a gay history teacher named Fer, an unexpected and intense romance starts to blossom.

My Review:

This movie is EXQUISITE from the cinematography, the acting, the dialogue, and the Chilean landscape. It so beautifully sweeps us away into not only the language, sights, sound, and culture of Chile, but also on these two men who are very different from each other, but who form a bond anyway, despite how problematic things are between them. Bruno is bisexual, but doesn't know how to identify with his sexuality. Fer is out and proudly gay, but he's strongly attracted to Bruno. The sparks are definitely there between them, together they're so wonderful. If there's only one downside to In The Grayscale is that while Bruno never truly comes to grip with his bisexuality, I didn't like the execution of the ending, it felt so abrupt, like it lacked something to give this movie the closure that it deserved. Yet, the cinematography and even the music still gave it justice. With so few bisexual movies out there, this was a real joy, even if the ending was typical. Nonetheless, I loved it!

* Currently on Netflix *

LGBT Film Review: Weekend (2011)

Synopsis (from IMDB):

After a drunken house party with his straight mates, Russell heads out to a gay club. Just before closing time he picks up Glen but what's expected to be just a one-night stand becomes something else, something special.

My Review:

I loved this movie so much that I watched it twice. There's so much to love about it: the cast is perfectly suited for the characters, the dialogue is sharp and natural, the sex feels and looks so down to earth and intimate, and most of all, it takes such a simple premise of two men hooking up and spins it to where we slow and gradually learn more about both these men, on what makes them so different and opposite from each other, and what they have in common despite their flaws and shortcomings. It's not a typical hook-up story, nor is it a typical love story either. It explores the age-old question: can a hook-up possibly turn into something more, is love possible when it only begins as sexual? They did such a lovely and beautiful job on Weekend, I can't recommend it highly enough. It's fantastic.

* Current on Netflix *

Sunday, August 13, 2017

LGBT Film Review: Below Her Mouth (2017)

Synopsis (from Rotten Tomatoes):

BELOW HER MOUTH is a bold, uninhibited drama that begins with a passionate weekend affair between two women. Dallas, a roofer and Jasmine, a fashion editor, share a powerful and immediate connection that inevitably derails both of their lives.

My Review:

I see this more as a movie that's reacting to Blue Is The Warmest Color by making their lesbian sex scenes more realistic and trying to show that two women can do more in bed than hardcore scissoring. Sadly, this is really all that this movie is about. There is no plot and there is no character development. There is nothing else that this movie shows other than its surface, which isn't a lot there to begin with even with that. I love that this movie is sexually frank, I love how stylistic it is to where it is basically soft-core porn with a glossy indie-film finish, but I really wanted to know who these characters actually are, and why they're attracted to each other beyond just the physical. While Blue was heavy-handed with the sex, at least we knew exactly why and how its two lead characters were attracted to each other and what broke them apart. With these two, there's nothing but pure, carnal, physical desire, which is fine, but that alone doesn't make a movie worth watching. Not to mention, the acting is a bit funky at times, and the dialogue oftentimes is unintentionally laughable. It's a shame because there IS something to like here, Below Her Mouth has so much potential, but if only they'd have given us something more.

* Currently On Netflix *

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

My Ancestry And Me

I took an ancestry test two weeks ago and got them back the day before Pride! I'm....

West African

South and Central African

British and Irish



South Asian

Southeast Asian

Native American

I knew about the African and South + Southeast Asian side of me that I gathered from family reunions and my grandma, but I was surprised to see a lot of British, Irish, Scandinavian, and Iberian in there! So fascinating! It was worth every penny to do this because the results are pretty priceless!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

An Evening With Jimmy Fallon

Spending an hour this evening with Jimmy Fallon at the Paley Center was soo much fun! He had me in tears laughing over his Prince stories, like how obsessed Prince was over wanting to play ping pong with Jimmy and how crazy and weird that ping pong match was, his rehearsal with Barbra Streisand where she was so nervous that she bumped her nose into the mic and it fell, and how Obama was so cool that other than that they really didn't have time to rehearse, he didn't need a rehearsal because Obama was just that good. I was surprised how much he discussed in just an hour, but I learned so much about The Roots as people (QuestLove and Tarik are such awesome dudes), the whole process of how they make The Tonight Show happen from the writing, theme song, guests, setting the tone, etc. Thank you Jimmy for such a fun, chill, and amazing night, and thank you for the autograph, you're the best! ♥ 

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Man on Top of the World Is A Finalist!


I'm so happy to announce that The Man on Top of the World is a finalist for the 5th annual Bisexual Book Awards

I'll be reading from Man preceding the Awards Ceremony, which is organized by the Bi Writers Association, on Saturday, June 10th, at Westbeth in the West Village (55 Bethune St. just west of Washington St.) There will be a book signing at 6:30 with the Awards itself happening from 7-10 pm, and another book signing at 10:30 pm. I'll be busy, but it sure is gonna be fun!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Ripped Bodice

I'm happy to announce that you can now find The Man on Top of the World at The Ripped Bodice, the only exclusively romance brick-and-mortar store in the USA!

Thank you Ripped Bodice for the love!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Happy Record Store Day 2017

My Record Store Day was a success!!

As some of you may know, I LOVE vinyl, and my favorite New York City record store (the one of few that are still standing in the Big Apple), Generation Records, was hosting theirs today, and it was awesome!

Getting to Generation Records very early was soo worth it for these Record Store Day exclusives, I was thrilled I got them all:

Bowie Cracked Actor

Bow Promo

And lastly:

Deee-Lite "Groove Is In The Heart!!" in pretty pink vinyl!

They all sold out fast, of course!

I hope all of you that participated on Record Store Day today also got to have your limited edition exclusive vinyls! LONG LIVE VINYL!