By Gregg Shapiro
The world has changed quite a bit since John Hughes’ `80s portrayals of adolescent angst in movies such as “Sixteen Candles” and “The Breakfast Club”. In the interim, we’ve seen the best and worst of that challenging phase of life represented in films such as “Thirteen”, “School of Rock”, “Heavenly Creatures”, “Boyhood”, “Lady Bird” and even Disney/Pixar’s “Inside Out”.
Comedian turned writer/director Bo Burnham’s feature film debut “Eighth Grade” (A24) is a welcome addition to the genre. Honest, sensitive, genuine and astute, Burnham never trivializes the subject matter, but he’s careful not to celebrate it too much either.
Socially awkward Kayla (Elsie Fisher) lives with her father Mark (Josh Hamilton). He’s a good dad, encouraging and concerned, with an affectionate sense of humor. Kayla is a solitary teen, occasionally sullen, whose entire world revolves around social media. In other words, online she can be whoever she wants to be.
For example, Kayla, who is experiencing her final days as a middle schooler, makes a series of videos on a variety of subjects of interest to those in her age group, such as “Being Yourself”. The thing is, Kayla herself is struggling with all of the issues she posts about with confidence. Painfully shy, Kayla is voted “Most Quiet” during a class superlatives assembly.
There is, however, a ray of light in Kayla’s world. With his bedroom eyes and pouty lips, Aiden (Luke Prael) is Kayla’s unrequited middle school crush. He barely knows she exists, although she does what she can to remind him, including flirting with him during a school-shooting preparedness drill.
But, sadly, there is more darkness than light. Popular girl Kennedy (Catherine Oliviere) barely acknowledges Kayla’s existence, even after Kennedy’s mother insists Kayla attend her birthday/pool party. Following an eighth grade class visit to the high school she’ll attend in the fall, where she shadows sweet upper-class-person Olivia (Emily Robinson), Kayla is nearly sexually assaulted by high schooler Riley (Daniel Zolghadri).
Nevertheless, Kayla prevails, confronting her demons with a maturity and strength she was unaware she even possessed. An initially gawky introduction to Kennedy’s cousin Gabe (Jake Ryan) at the birthday party leads to a hilarious Chicken McNugget dinner date (complete with all of the dipping sauces) where they bond over “Rick and Morty” and their collective geekiness.
Also, it would be remiss not to mention Anna Meredith’s score for “Eighth Grade”, which is fantastic and effective.
All things considered, “Eighth Grade” makes the honor roll.
Rating: 4½ peaches
By Scott King
I love the second verse of that Mariah Carey song, “We Belong Together.” That moment when you’re so enamored of someone, everything on the radio, from Bobby Womack to Babyface, makes you think of him. It’s agony. It’s bliss. It’s sweet music. It makes the people come together. Then it makes them fall apart.
It’s visceral and disturbing, but it’s not narcissism. It’s not nihilism; it’s not self-destruction, it’s not obsession. It is organic, totalitarian passion. And it is not boring.
It’s knowing that pollination is jizz. It’s leaving a lover’s apartment after an argument and having him yell down at you from the balcony something that sounds like Martian, but you know exactly what he means.
It’s refusing to say, “I’m too old for this shit,” because we’re all far, far too young to know any better. It’s knowing that you’re not in love with love. It’s thinking about him all the time. It makes you nervous, but that’s not why your breath is shallow. You can’t breathe because he fucking CONSUMES you.
It’s being dramatic. It’s being reckless, like a drunken teenager behind the wheel in a wet cow field.
Then there’s that Toni Braxton song, “You’re Making Me High.” She’s not talking about drugs gurl. She’s talking about a dude. I never could figure out why Oprah was so mean to her.
If I had a car, I would drive it around listening to that song, getting high on all the hot men. But instead, I’m a pedestrian. And I’m dating. I only Uber to our dates when I’m lazy or it’s gay and raining. The situation is groovy and Pavlovian because I love taking walks and it’s a nice 15 minute one with lots of alternative routes and sinuous sightseeing.
The mind is similarly Byzantine when navigating the terrain where the impulses of imagination and the necessities of the phenomenal world intersect. And if you could follow that last sentence, you should have no problem following your heart. Or mine.
So if you’re down, I’m down. Atlanta is a beautiful and safe space at 1 a.m. on a weeknight, especially in the shimmer of post rainshower bliss. People nod at you because they know you’re not a drug dealer or a junkie. They know you’re just a romantic cliche.
Cliches aren’t cliche, though. They are just, too often, the only method of translating the ineffably profound extremes of consciousness. And daily life.
It’s why white girls can’t wait to post about pumpkin spice lattes upon the first signs of fall. Experiencing the present, the past, and the infinite in one sentient breath of fresh air is overwhelming, it triggers the synapses and fires the dopamine receptors. And why on earth would we not want to express that through language, or a nice visual?
Do you remember the first time you heard Robyn’s music? I bet it was summertime. I bet you were walking in the sunshine, thinking love is not a crime. I bet you were dancing on your own. I bet you were thinking about loving him like you’d never been hurt before like you were indestructible.
I bet you knew that love kills. Like, your entire afternoon. With every heartbeat.
And when it goes that deep, when someone invades you, your every thought, like an echo in your head, and you remember every word they have said …. when the feeling is mutual … it will be the most unbelievable thing, that you have always known is true.
I would die for you. But first, I will live.
By Gregg Shapiro
In the history of modern pop music, certain acts are associated with the songwriters behind their biggest hits. Dionne Warwick will forever be linked with Burt Bacharach and Hal David. While they had hits written by others, the 5th Dimension’s most memorable hit singles were penned by Laura Nyro. Motown divas The Supremes (Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard) are another perfect example. It’s hard to imagine where they would be without the songs composed by the team of Lamont Dozier and Brian and Eddie Holland. Essentially an expanded and rebranded reissue of 1967’s The Supremes Sing Motown, The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland (Motown/UMe) is a double disc set that features both the original mono and stereo LP mixes as well as a dozen bonus tracks on the first disc. Featured are number one hits such as “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” and the dramatic “Love Is Here and Now You’re Gone”, as well as the Supreme’s readings of “(Love is Like a) Heat Wave” “It’s The Same Old Song” and eight more. The extended hit mix and film version of “The Happening” are among the best of the bonus cuts. Disc two features the live At The Coparecording.
Even though it was Joan Baez herself who wrote what is probably her greatest song – “Diamonds and Rust” – it is her long career as an interpreter of others’ songs for which she is probably best-known. In fact, her biggest hit to date, was a cover of The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”. Baez’s 21st century albums found her covering Eliza Gilkyson, Steve Earle, Patty Griffin, Josh Ritter, Gillian Welch and out singer/songwriter Diana Jones, to mention a few. Whistle Down The Wind (Bobolink/Razor & Tie), Baez’s first studio album in 10 years is a welcome return. The titular tune, written by Tom Waits (whom Baez has covered before) is marvelous and her rendition of trans singer/songwriter Anohni’s “Another World” is, well, out of this world. Never one to shy away from political statements, Baez has her say in Zoe Mulford’s “The President Sang Amazing Grace” and Tim Eriksen’s “I Wish The Wars Were All Over”.
An actress whose extensive resume includes Broadway, film and television, Betty Buckley is about to embark on the national tour of the recent stage revival of Hello, Dolly! as Dolly Levi. Throughout her esteemed career, Buckley has had the privilege of singing songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Stephen Schwartz and countless other musical theater legends. However, it’s her pair of recent live albums, 2017’s Story Songs and her latest, the exceptional Hope (Palmetto) that are especially fascinating. Most likely expanding the palates of her longtime fans, Buckley lends her distinctive voice to a number of unexpected covers. Story Songs featured her stellar interpretations of Radiohead’s “High & Dry” (really!), Emmylou Harris’ “Prayer In Open D” and Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up”. Buckley continues to challenge and reward listeners with her versions of Lisa Loeb’s “Falling In Love”, Steely Dan’s “Any Major Dude”, Joni Mitchell’s “Shades of Scarlett Conquering”, Paul Simon’s “Quiet” and T Bone Burnett’s “Dope Island”.
There is little question that most people know the work of Fred Neil via Nilsson’s version of “Everybody’s Talkin’”, featured on both his 1968 album Aerial Ballet and the 1969 soundtrack to the movie Midnight Cowboy. “Everybody’s Talkin’”. Keith Sykes covers the songs on the appropriately titled Everybody’s Talkin’: A Tribute to Fred Neil (Y&T Music). Sykes is among the better-known performers on this various artists compilation which also includes Rodney Crowell (performing “Candyman”), Eric Andersen (singing “The Dolphins”) and Charlie Pickett (doing “The Other Side of This Life”).
Leave it to the Brits to concoct a ridiculous jukebox stage musical such as Mamma Mia! and then unleash it on ABBA-loving Americans. As if that wasn’t bad enough, a truly hateful and horribly miscast movie version landed with a thud in movie theaters in 2008. But wait, now there’s a prequel/sequel, starring Cher, with its own accompanying album Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again: The Movie Soundtrack Featuring the Songs of Abba (Capitol). In addition to new version rehashes of songs featured in the 2008 movie, the soundtrack includes Cher singing “Fernando” (with Andy Garcia) and taking a lead role on “Super Trouper” (featuring the whole cast). The biggest treat is, believe it or not, Meryl Streep singing the 1982 non-LP Abba song “The Day Before You Came”, which features updated lyrics.
As albums by Tony Award-winning Broadway divas go, Take Me To The World (Ghostlight Deluxe) by Sutton Foster is in a league of its own. Just listen to choral renditions of “I’m On My Way/On My Way” (featuring Megan McGinnis, Darcie Roberts, Jodi Cotton, Johnna Allen Tavianini, Elizabeth Truitt and the Ball State Cabaret Class Female Student Singers) and “Every Time We Say Goodbye” (with the Ball State Cabaret Class Student Singers). To say Foster plays well with others is an understatement. Throughout the disc, Foster shares space with other vocalists and a fantastic group of musicians for a marvelous musical journey.
With the exception of two original compositions, the songs on Changes (Concord) by Arianna Neikrug, winner of the 2015 Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition, are covers. The most thrilling among them include her unexpected pairing of Joni Mitchell’s “Help Me” with “Be Cool”, a marvelously jazz-inflected reading of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” and the medley of Nat King Cole’s “Never Let Me Go” and the Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There”.
Join the Human Rights Campaign Atlanta, Barcelona Wine Bar and VinoTeca as they keep the rosé flowing for LGBTQ equality.
This version of Sunday Funday is one we can truly get behind. The HRC Atlanta invites you to a special rosé tasting that will feature four types of rosé curated by VinoTeca sommeliers and a selection of complimentary hors-d’oeuvres from Barcelona Wine Bar.
Tickets are $40 for an afternoon of free-flowing rosé and delicious bites – get them at act.hrc.org. All proceeds from the event go towards supporting the mission of HRC Atlanta.
About HRC Atlanta
HRC envisions an America where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are ensured equality and embraced as full members of the American family at home, at work, and in every community. Throughout the year, HRC Atlanta hosts a number of engaging events that aim to reach a wide and varied a group as possible. Acknowledging the many dimensions of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer population, our Atlanta Steering Committee is diligent in creating diverse and inclusive gatherings for all.
The What, When, and Where
What: Rosé All Day Patio Party hosted by HRC Atlanta, Barcelona Wine Bar, and VinoTeca
When: Sunday, August 19, 2-5 pm
Where: Barcelona Inman Park
By Mikkel Hyldebrandt
The thought-provoking short film and coming of age, Queer and Southern God, is written and directed by MelisseTokic, who wanted to offer a platform to start a discussion with her film. Peach caught up with Melisse to talk about her observation of the Southern rural way of life, community, trauma, and Jesus.
How did you get started making films?
I wrote a feature first, I really wanted it to be a musical with the catchiest of showtunes. I realized that I had no way to finance or knowledge on how to get the film made. I am also not musically inclined, so I would need someone to help me write and choreograph the dance numbers. I condensed the script and turned it on to a quirky dramedy.
In short: What is the film about?
Hank finds himself pregnant and hasn’t had a God to turn to in a minute. He’s got his Mama, but she’s too busy drinking her Budweiser and smoking the Kools. He’s got a boyfriend, but he just can’t take being his boyfriend’s trophy queer for much longer. It just may take the spiritual guidance of his aggressor’s mother to show Hank another way of looking at the world and “God.”
The film deals with some traumatic issues – how do you deal with them as a filmmaker?
This film being a collaborative effort has assisted in healing my own wounds. Creating this film has helped me feel like I am advocating for my communities by offering a platform to increase awareness between cultures and allowing us all to address our own prejudices and privileges. This film also has some humor which lessens the heaviness of the trauma going on.
Queer and Southern God also deals with how religion and faith are ingrained in the south– what do you hope to achieve to change with the film?
I only want to change people’s awareness. There are individuals who don’t even notice that their church doctrine is so ingrained in them. This is a really interesting facet of the south that people from other areas haven’t been exposed to honestly in the media.
The film touches upon ‘universal truths’ – what are those to you?
The big one for me is feeling like an outsider in a community that you have carefully chosen. There is plenty of stories in the media about being the outsider in your own family or hometown. I think many of us have carefully chosen to be part of a specific community, be it the woke LGBTQ community, a church, a bunch of druggies in a trap house, trauma survivors, etc.… and then realized that we still don’t fit in.
Another universal truth is that there are varied experiences of sexual assault survivors. Not everyone follows the prescribed path the media portrays of filing a police report, and the perpetrator is brought to some sort of civic justice. Spirituality is often not found within the rules of a church. It often comes to us in some strange, unexpected way.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
We are taking applications for a non-profit I founded that assists disenfranchised and minority filmmakers in getting their own projects made. Anyone can apply or support the cause at www.dialoguefilms.org. Right now I am in the editing process of a film I co-wrote and directed called “Percy and Bud.” It’s about an African-American heroin addict who gets left with a white 1-year-old. The film shows the first 30 days of him in recovery while having to care for this toddler. It was inspired by the cult classic, “Shogun’s Assassin.” The enemy here is drugs, societal views, and the court system. I’m in pre-production for a film I wrote called “Suicide is a Wonderful Consolation” about multiple suicide attempts. It’s a fun ride with a twist at the end, so that’s all I can give away.
Queer and Southern God is showing on August 4th from 6:00PM-7:15PM at the Southern Shorts Awards. More info and tickets at southernshortsawards.com.
Keewan was born in Columbus, Ohio, but was raised in Georgia. He shares a birthday with Gandhi (you’re going to look that up now, aren’t you?), his all-time favorite TV show is Game of Thrones, he loves to listen to music, and he admits to being able to sing every lyric to pretty much every Taylor Swift song. He currently works for an international printing company, and in his spare time, he likes to socialize and meet new people. Follow his IG @keewan.alexander.
Things are heating up…
A summer romance
A road trip
Exploring something new (in the bedroom)
Dancing in the summer night
A hot date!
By Jamie Kirk
Stop apologizing for what you want. Stop agonizing if what you want will be accepted by your friends and family. Stop pretending that you don’t want what you want. Stop acting like what you want is not a need.
Even though the Young and the Restless was a daytime soap opera, I like the name, or something very similar to it… The Summer of the Aged and Tired. Not that it represents my friends or me, but it really does seem to have a ring to it.
The summer is hot, we are easily agitated, the air conditioners go out, the dogs get more smelly, and we just generally get in a wonky mood. Very similar to how we get when it’s the middle of January. Same things, only in reverse.
We have to be careful not to start getting so irritated that we make quick and bad decisions. We have to exercise patience, and we have to be a little more controlled in the way we behave. And most importantly, we have to remain our authentic selves.
The reason this becomes more difficult in the summer is that we often become competitive, anxious and compare ourselves to our friend groups. The summer is fewer clothes, more drinking, more pool time, more outdoor activities and a chance to be out and about. This can cause us to try and be something we are not. Or even get jealous of what our friends have, the way they look, or perhaps the entire life they are living.
With the summer months winding down, we need to say no when we need too, and yes, when we should. And most importantly, not have any regrets in any direction we choose to pursue. Life is really about choices; we just need to make sure they are our own choices to have. I don’t like just making this a “seasonal” article, because our ability to make sound decisions happens in the other three seasons as well. They only get more pronounced in the summer.
When you are at the pool, or at a BBQ in the next few days, take some time and reflect on the choices you are making, and confirm they are all about you and not about someone or something else. Make sure that you are committed to honoring the direction of your life. Being selfish when necessary and being kind always.
Take a break from doing things because they are right for someone else, and validate that your choices are right for you, and you only. After all, if you don’t make it about you from time-to-time, you can’t expect anyone else to. I know this for sure; folks are watching the way you treat you, and no one will treat you better than they observe you treating yourself.
By Branden Lee
Summer may be in its final month, but there’s still plenty of time to look and feel sexy. Here are some tips.
Summer clothes are cheapest during the end of summer. Capitalize off of the clearance sales by buying some new outfits. Browse online and hit up the outlets to see what new outfits you can add to your wardrobe. One benefit of living in Atlanta is that you can dress for summer even when the rest of the east coast is experiencing fall weather.
There’s still plenty of time for all the August day and pool parties. Labor Day and Black Gay Pride are coming. Don’t wait until September and the regret everything you didn’t get to do this summer. Live it up! Take that vacation. Go to that party. Travel to the beach. Make the most of your summer.
People always want to complain they don’t have their ideal summer body, but aren’t doing anything to get it. Summer isn’t the only time to look good. Invest in that gym membership and start going. The earlier you begin your routine then you’ll be ready for next summer. You should look and feel good about yourself year round, so start working out now.
Liven Up Your Labor Day
Labor Day gives you a three-day weekend to close out your summer. You can celebrate Black Gay Pride in Atlanta. Southern Decadence in New Orleans. Or take a trip anywhere you want. Just do something. Host a barbecue at home for friends and family if you don’t want to travel or be around a crowd. Just make sure to celebrate.
Finish Out Your Slutty Summer
Fall is cuffing season, and technically it’s scouting season. Now is the time to finish up that promiscuity so you’ll be ready to couple up during fall. Fall is the best time to get a boyfriend, so you’ll have someone to stay cuddled up with during the cold months. Plus holidays are better spent with someone special, and Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, etc..are right around the corner. It’s easier to find a mate when you’re putting in an effort to date.
Branden Lee is a writer and actor living in Atlanta. Follow Branden on Instagram and Twitter @Brandeness. Watch Branden on his YouTube channel SexxxPerTease.