By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor
I love Long Beach! From its geographic and cultural diversity to its “chill” environment, Long Beach is the place I’ve called home for quite a long time.
It’s surprising to me that the beach city, so rich in stories, is so often eclipsed by the larger metropolis. This is especially true when it comes to Long Beach-centric media content. Most people only know Long Beach for its iconic Queen Mary. Yet, the city offers much more than the big ship.
So, when I received a very well written press release about a webisode series that was to spotlight the gay life in Long Beach, I was ecstatic.
“Finally, someone decided to give Long Beach its due recognition,” I thought.
Mæry Queens (a wordplay on the mispronunciation of Queen Mary) promised to do just that by using the viewpoint of a foreigner to tell the stories of a local gay group. Mæry Queens bills itself as a dramedy, which the director, Henry Corzo, likened to Desperate Housewives.
“It’s a perfect feature for our Pride edition,” I pitched to my editor.
Well, not quite.
The producers and actors had good intentions when it came to this venture, but after reviewing a few of the 6-minute webisodes I came to the conclusion that Mæry Queens sunk the ship before it sailed. In its premise and storyline, character development and cinematography, the Web series fails to produce an authentic reflection of the city.
It does not bring me pleasure to give a bad review, especially when it comes to local independent works from good people. Moreover, when I attended the premiere of the series April 30 at the Silver Fox in Long Beach, I realized that some of the people involved in the project were old friends and acquaintances.
Like many low-budget productions, the cinematography is not exceptional. Some footage is shaky. And, because the director seemed to be using one camera to film footage in one day, scenes such as one by the pool lacked continuity and flow. This could have been circumvented by taking multiple shots. The better shots are in the flashback scenes, which you can tell took more effort. The music, which is reminiscent of 70s porn, also overwhelmed much of the footage. Yet, those details pale in comparison to the storyline’s shortcomings.
The plot, which tries to take on race, surrogacy and relationship issues, is built around a “who dunnit?” kidnapping of … wait for it … a cat! Now, don’t get me wrong, I think of my own pet as family and pet kidnappings have happened in Long Beach. The problem with this premise is that it uses the catnapping as an anchor for the side stories.
Mæry Queens also suffers from amateur bad acting. It’s so bad, I often wondered if it was a purposeful attempt at humor. I imagine that finding actors for an independent venture is not cost effective. One solution would be to seek out acting students from local colleges who would gladly work to primp up their resumes. One filmmaker even suggested finding a casting director.
Beyond the excusable bad acting, the characters are cliché, stereotypical and a plastic representation of other (pardon my bias) communities — not Long Beach. The only way you knew this was a made-in- Long Beach product were the intro scenes with the Queen Mary, a flashback shot of the Silver Fox bar and dialogue in which one of the characters who claims to be born and raised the city mispronounces it, calling it Loonng Beeach. Maybe it’s just me, but I have a hard time grasping that there aren’t original stories that are Long Beach-based. Perhaps it would be best not to not use the cat as an anchor and instead independently theme each webisode.
At the premiere, a couple of drunken attendees, were so angry about the misrepresentation that one of them went about asking each of the actors where they live. While the filmmakers made an honest effort to get an ethnically diverse cast, the characters are culturally homogenous—all in their mid 20s to early 30s, looking pretty in their tight-fitting clothing, spewing the bitchy attitudes of diva queens.
Take the first scene: a pool party. Alex Correa, who plays Jose, walks toward the host with an entourage, while loud music plays in the background and guests obviously pretend to converse and dance to the un-rhythmic sound. Jose apologizes for being late because he says, “business has been picking up.” The birthday boy responds by sardonically asking, “The pet-sitting thing? So, you’re calling it a business now?”
I don’t know any of my Long Beach friends— if I truly would call them friends and go to their parties—who would viciously put me down and think it was funny. When I permanently moved to the city in my late 20s, I met a group of people who shared with me their friendships and experiences. We laughed and cried in the midst of school, careers, relationships and even such issues dealing with self-image and HIV in a kind way. I believe the biggest failure of the writers involved is not drawing on their own experiences.
“This is not Long Beach; this (pointing at the actors) is West Hollywood,” said the drunken man at the premiere.
As inappropriate as his remarks may have been, he had a point. In fact, his survey resulted in finding that only one of the actors called Long Beach home.
While the ship seems to have sunk, there still is a chance to rescue the crew and let the boat float back to the surface. It just may require going back to the drawing board, recognizing and reassessing Mæry Queens’ pitfalls, starting with the script and editing, and ending with the critical eyes of non-friends to give producers an honest assessment of the venture.
Long Beach is still worth featuring and this venture can give it the spotlight it deserves. Yet, it honestly needs attention to details.
Watch the Season 1 of Mæry Queens at http://tinyurl.com/M-ry-Queens-Season-1