“Guillermo del Toro stealing my goddamn cookies”: The wonderful world of quarantine horror shorts (with links)

Great horror has come out of extremely limited resources and production values many times over the years; it’s also often fueled by tumultuous time periods.  So it seems fitting that the COVID pandemic and ensuing quarantine have led to multiple, literally homemade horror short films.  Many are engrossing and inventive, and taken together, they’re a powerful reminder of the resilient power of art even in the most trying circumstances.

Felissa Rose and Ben Baur in Unusual Attachment

The first “quarantine horror” short I saw was gay director Michael Varrati’s Unusual Attachment. Handsome Ben Baur stars as Hunter, a guy desperately seeking a missed connection on a Chat Roulette type site.  Along the way he gets video calls from his sassy friend Mateo (Francisco Chacin) and his cheerfully inappropriate aunt (Sleepaway Camp’s Felissa Rose, who basically plays her delightful self).  It feels like a frothy queer comedy, until things abruptly shift into more sinister territory.

Shadowed

Shazam director David F. Sandberg, who originally broke big with his scary short Lights Out, has made two creepy shorts during lockdown, Shadowed https://youtu.be/8yu5ymbIjaYand Not Alone in Here with his wife Lotta Losten.  Losten also stars in the simple, punchy productions, and she’s a compelling and likeable lead.  Shadowed is the best—its premise of shadows that don’t seem to belong to anything in the “real” world is fun and unsettling.  But both shorts are enjoyable; there’s a bit with a cell phone camera in Not Alone in Here that pays off wonderfully.

Rob Savage’s untitled Twitter short combines a computer-based, Zoom chat approach with the simplest of horror premises: investigating creepy sounds in the attic.  As the director’s friends watch nervously, he ascends the ladder to his attic with butcher knife and smart phone in hand.  Needless to say he finds nothing good.  It’s the only one of these shorts that actually made me scream, which brought my partner running into the room.  When I told him why he cracked, “’Did he just cut his arm off?’ ‘No, just a video on the internet.’”

3rd Eye Cult Murders is perhaps the most unique of all the quarantine horror shorts.  Directed by Todd Spence, and written by Spence and Zak White, it purports to be crime scene footage from a 1970s murder committed by a Manson-like cult.  The ’70s production design is spot on, from board games to Band Aid packaging to a rotary telephone; it really does look like footage recovered from the era.  Spence and White evidently have practice, as they regularly post short films @midnight_video on Instagram.

There Can Be Only One

A couple of horror shorts eschew scariness for laughs. There Can Be Only One, directed by Mike Mendez (Big Ass Spider!) is a thoroughly enjoyable romp pitting Mendez, playing himself, against an Oreo snatching Guillermo del Toro action figure in his memorabilia filled apartment.  Taking control of one of his Pacific Rim robots, Guillermo rants that “there can be only one” Mexican filmmaker, and announces his intentions to “production design the world!”  There’s lots of action, some of it quite hilarious, involving puppets, toys, and animation, with references to classics like Aliens, Robocop, and Back to the Future thrown into the mix.  In The Egg, Canadian filmmaker Naoki Otsuki imagines the horrifying perpective of an egg waiting to be cracked, and scores the proceedings with some killer John Carpenter-esque synth music.

The only one of these shorts that utilizes exteriors is Prague’s Coronapocalypse, directed by Paul Dean and written by Scott Lee Hansen.  Relatively long at over fourteen minutes, the film concerns a young woman who ventures out of her apartment for the first time during the pandemic and is unnerved by the empty city she finds.  Constantly broadcasting online to a multitude of followers, she tries to turn to them for answers while espousing her bizarre conspiracy beliefs about the moon landing, “lizard people,” and the like.  It’s a sly commentary on people who’d rather believe fringe theories than an all too real pandemic, and our particular social media moment.

Alexandra Serio in Tingle Monsters

Tingle Monsters is similarly pertinent to our current online reality. Written, directed by, and starring Alexandra Serio, it’s billed as “the first ASMR horror film.”  It wasn’t actually produced during the lockdown, but it may as well have been.  Its set-up is incredibly simple: Serio is a popular ASMR vlogger delivering her first webcast after a long absence.  Disturbed by a follower’s inappropriately sexual comment, she’s then oblivious to a presence in her apartment even as her fans furiously type worried comments.  Serio uses an exercise with a makeup brush to set up a fantastically suspenseful game of peekaboo with the intruder.  Tingle Monsters works as both a fun suspense piece and a commentary on the toxic nature of the internet.

The Geeks OUT Podcast: Coming “Out” on Disney+

The Geeks OUT Podcast

Opinions, reviews, incisive discussions of queer geek ideas in pop culture, and the particularly cutting brand of shade that you can only get from a couple of queer geeks all in highly digestible weekly doses.

In this week’s episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by Steve Gianaca, as they discuss HBO Max’s decision to release the Snyder Cut of Justice League, get excited about Tuca & Bertie getting a second season on Adult Swim, and celebrate Out, the first Pixar SparkShort on Disney+ to feature a queer main character in This Week in Queer. 

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BIG OPENING

KEVIN: Justice League the Snyder Cut is coming to HBO Max is 2021
STEVE: Season 2 of Umbrella Academy coming July 31

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DOWN AND NERDY

KEVIN: Hightown, Stargirl, Mythic Quest
STEVE: She-Ra, Picard, FF7 Remake, Animal Crossing, Lore Olympus

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STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER

Tuca & Bertie has been picked up by Adult Swim

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THIS WEEK IN QUEER

New Pixar SparkShorts Out now on Disney+ featuring first queer main character

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CLIP OF THE WEEK

New trailer for The Old Guard

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THE WEEK IN GEEK

MOVIES

Shazam director releases short-form horror film Not Alone in Here
New music video for Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
David Arquette officially signs on to Scream 5
Disney adapting The Snow Queen for live-action movie
New trailer for The Last Days of American Crime
New trailer for Antebellum
New trailer for Tenet
New trailer for We Bare Bears: The Movie

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TV

• Ruby Rose is leaving Batwoman
• First look at the new limited series The Stand remake
Motherland: Fort Salem renewed for season 2
• New trailer for Space Force
Muppets Now coming to Disney+ July 31
• Peacock is developing Little Mermaid inspired series Washed Up
• New trailer for season 2 of The Alienist
What We Do in the Shadows renewed for 3rd season

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COMIC BOOKS

• Boom! Studios announces early launch for Wynd
Scribd expands into comics and more in new streaming service
DC Universe celebrating Pride by featuring LGBTQ+ stories

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SHILF

• KEVIN: The Dad from Out
• STEVE: Cloud

Interview: Brandy Colbert

Known for her diverse and beautifully written books, Brandy Colbert is the best-selling author of PointeLittle & LionFinding Yvonne, and now her Middle-Grade debut The Only Black Girls in TownRaised in Springfield, Missouri, Colbert currently lives in Los Angeles, and is currently on faculty at Hamline University’s MFA program in writing for children. Geeks OUT’s own Michele Kirichanskaya had an opportunity to interview Brandy Colbert recently, which you can read below.

To start off, congratulations on your debut middle-grade book, The Only Black Girls in Town. Where did the impetus for this book come from and what were your thoughts going into this novel?

Thank you so much! I’m thrilled to be writing for a new age group. I knew I wanted to write a middle grade novel, but I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted it to explore until one day I had the idea: What would happen if you were the only Black girl your age in your town and another Black girl your age moved in? My life doesn’t parallel Alberta’s, but like her, I grew up in a predominantly white town. I had friends at the Black church I attended every week, but I didn’t go to school with any of them and always wished for more Black girls my age at school.

As a critically acclaimed author known for your Young Adult novels, how was the creative process different when writing a novel intended for younger readers? In what ways was the process the same?

At first, I was too focused on that age difference, and tried too hard to make the story read like what I thought a middle grade novel was supposed to sound like. I’ve read a lot of modern middle grade, but I wasn’t quite sure how to make that transition. Once my literary agent told me not to focus too much on that and just write, the story fell into place. I’m still trying to figure out the difference, but I think there is a lighter feel. I’m tackling heavy topics, like in my YA novels, but there is something a bit gentler about being twelve, even though middle-school kids are already dealing with a lot of issues at such a young age. There’s an innocence and openness that unfortunately fades for a lot of people by the time they get to high school, so I tried to capture that sweet spot of being on the cusp of adolescence. 

As an author, you have previously included LGBTQ+ characters and themes in your other books, such as the Stonewall awarded book Little & Lion. You have also mentioned in previous interviews that you grew up in an environment not known for much “diversity of any kind.” Has this factored into your persistence to include diverse representation? How important would you say representation is for younger readers today?

I grew up in the Missouri Ozarks, about two hours from the Arkansas border, where it was a bit rough for anyone from a marginalized community. I had a lovely, privileged childhood, but I always felt like I was under a microscope as one of the few Black people in our town. I wanted more people around who looked like me, but I also wanted to meet people from other underrepresented backgrounds to learn about their experiences. I didn’t meet an openly gay person until I was 18, and I remember thinking how brave my coworker and his husband were for living their truth in such a closed-minded region, especially back in the ’90s. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for a long time now, which is one of the most diverse cities in the country, so I try to write the world as it looks for me. Writing a world without LGBTQ+ characters just isn’t realistic to me. But I also like to represent Black kids and other marginalized groups living in towns where they are the “other” because that’s a very real experience, too.

If the characters of your stories could interact with other characters from any fictional universe, which ones would they be and where would they be from?

Ooh! Well, I love animation, and one of my favorite shows of all time is Daria, so I’d love to see my characters go back to the late ’90s to interact with Daria, Jodie, Trent, Jane, and the rest of the Lawndale crew in animated form.

Aside from writing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I love cooking, baking, tap-dancing, reading, yoga, and hiking. I’m also a huge TV fan, and like going to the movies.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers today?

Try to shut out the noise, keep going, and keep improving your craft! That’s advice I have to remind myself of often, as there are so many other things to focus on in the publishing industry. But at the end of the day, all that matters is the work and putting out books that I’m proud of.

Are there any projects you are currently working on or project ideas you are incubating and are at liberty to speak about?

My next YA book, The Voting Booth, will be out on July 7 from Disney-Hyperion, which I’m really excited about! And then there are projects that haven’t yet been announced that I should be able to talk about soon, including my next middle-grade novel. I can’t wait to tell everyone more about them!

Finally, since this is an LGBTQ+ website, are there any LGBTQ+ authors and/or books that have inspired you and your own work? Can you recommend any titles or authors for other readers?

So many! I highly recommend anything by Nina LaCour, Abdi Nazemian, Ashley Herring Blake, Lev (L.C. Rosen), Kacen Callender, and Adib Khorram. I could go on, but these authors are writing really special books that speak to so many kids and teens who’ve never seen themselves depicted in literature before. Their stories are beautiful, sometimes painful, and always real, and I’m so grateful their books are on shelves as both mirrors for kids who desperately need that representation, and windows for people like me, who grew up wanting to know more about communities that were different from mine.

The Geeks OUT Podcast: Enter Sandman

The Geeks OUT Podcast

Opinions, reviews, incisive discussions of queer geek ideas in pop culture, and the particularly cutting brand of shade that you can only get from a couple of queer geeks all in highly digestible weekly doses.

In this week’s super-sized episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by artist & Geeks OUT co-founder Josh Siegel, as they discuss an audio drama of The Sandman coming to Audible, get excited about Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, and celebrate Harley Quinn getting her moment with Poison Ivy in This Week in Queer. 

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BIG OPENING

KEVIN: New seasons of CW shows delayed ‘til 2021 while airing Swamp Thing in the fall
JOSH: Star-studded audio adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman coming to Audible

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DOWN AND NERDY

KEVIN: Kimmy vs. The Reverend, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, Hollywood
JOSH: Star Wars, Westworld, Journey to the Microverse

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STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER

Katee Sackhoff join season 2 of The Mandalorian

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THIS WEEK IN QUEER

Harley Quinn finally shares her feelings with Poison Ivy

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CLIP OF THE WEEK

CBS All Access orders Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

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THE WEEK IN GEEK

MOVIES

Hamilton is coming to Disney+
Disney developing live action remake of Atlantis: The Lost Empire
New Mutants gets new late August release date

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TV

• Disney+ developing a Percy Jackson series
• Season 2 of Doom Patrol coming June 25
• Season 5 of Riverdale will have a time jump
• AMC developing two Anne Rice series
• New trailer for season 2 of The Twilight Zone
• Ryan Murphy announces American Horror Stories

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COMIC BOOKS

• DC introduces new vigilante Clownhunter
• Amazon options queer comic mini-series Youth

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SHILF

• KEVIN: Kipo
• JOSH: She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

Homecon Returns This Weekend!

One month after the inaugural HomeCon, they’re back to bring us round 2 for more of that con experience we’ve been longing for this season! While it may be an adjustment for some to go from a live experience to attending a con via twitch, HomeCon offers an impressive list of guests, panels, and one on one celebrity meet and greets to scratch your con itch!

Guests include Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy), Nathan Fillion (Firefly, The Rookie), Tasya Teles (The 100), Tim Rozen (Wynonna Earp, Vagrant Queen), Danielle Cormack (Wentworth) and many other cast members from The 100, The Rookie, Wynonna Earp, Vikings, Dark Matter, Heroes, Orphan Black, Blood Quantum, and many more! You can check out the full guest list here.

Many the guests will also be available for 5 minute one on one interactions with you! Check out the list here of whose available and how to purchase your time slot. Have a few friends or family you know would love to be a part of it? You can add up to four additional people at a reduced rate!

There are over a dozen panels too available through Twitch! You could check out the Michael Rooker Spotlight on Saturday at 1:00pm EST, The Rookie Panel on Saturday at 4:00pm EST, The 100 Panel on Sunday at 1:00pm EST, Wentworth – Danielle Cormack Spotlight on Sunday at 4:00pm EST, and many more! You can see the full schedule here.

Like the previous HomeCon, 2nd Edition will also be supporting a charitable; First Responders First. Please consider checking out their site and donating if you can. Every little bit helps!

Here’s more information from their press release below:

HOMECON is broadcast live on Twitch. Fans can enjoy an ad-free viewing experience for free by subscribing with their Twitch Prime subscription; however, a subscription is not required to watch, making HOMECON accessible to all!

ABOUT HOMECON

Born out of a quarantined world of isolation, HOMECON connects individuals who are respectfully staying at home to an online event community that’s bringing a brand-new face to the world of pop culture conventions. Attendees have the opportunity to attend live virtual panels with the stars of their favorite shows—and the ability to book video chats with celebs in intimate one-on-one video settings. HOMECON: 1st Edition took place on April 10-11, 2020. and had more than 111,666 views (Source: Twitch) and online conversations about the event in more than 38 countries spread over six continents (Source: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram). Created by Paul Amos (Jupiter’s Legacy, Lost Girl, Assassin’s Creed) and Rachel Skarsten (Batwoman, Lost Girl, Reign), HOMECON is the ultimate virtual fan experience. www.homeconofficial.com

Follow us at:

Webhttps://homeconofficial.com/

Insta: @HomeConOfficial

Twitter: @HomeConOfficial

Review: Fence

Fence is a 12-issue comic series from Boom! Box was written by C.S. Pacat, with artwork by Johanna the Mad, colors by Joana LaFuente, and lettering by Jim Campbell. It has since been collected into three volumes that your local comic book store or favorite digital platform is sure to be carrying. While the series wrapped up its initial run in 2018, the story will continue as original graphic novels starting later this fall.

Fence follows the story of the scrappy Nicholas Cox and his arch-rival Seiji Katayama as the two compete to make the Kings Row fencing team. The first three volumes of the series focus on the tryouts and allude to the looming showdown with their rival school, Exton. The series is brimming with richly textured characters, from stoic team captain Harvard to the arrogant Aiden, who dates and dumps a new boy on the team every week. There’s lots of fencing terms and strategy talk, but it’s never overwhelming. Pacat does a great job of giving just the right amount of information for the story to flow without losing the reader in detail. 

I knew absolutely nothing about fencing before I picked up Volume One. I wasn’t even aware there was a genre called sports manga. But that didn’t stop me from immediately connecting with it. Maybe it was my own history with elite sports (I was an active member of my high school’s crew team for five years), but I couldn’t help falling in love with this story. It was easy for me to recall the all-encompassing intensity and competitiveness that comes with high school sports, and there’s certainly no shortage of that here. But I think my favorite part was how queerness is just a natural part of the world that these characters live in. It’s never scandalous or newsworthy; it’s just a part of who some people are. 

Reading through the first three volumes of Fence has been one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve had in a while. On its surface, Fence is a light-hearted American take on sports manga with queer themes. I expected it to be fun. I expected I might like it. But I wasn’t expecting it to be so sweet and sincere. If you’re looking for a heartwarming escape from the dredges of reality, Fence would be a great place to start.

DANIEL STALTER – My reviews for Geeks OUT are of queer comics and literature that I felt moved and inspired by. These are not timely reviews of current releases, nor are they negative or overtly critical. They are simply my way of sharing queer stories that I have loved with a wider audience. For a greater variety of my writing, check out my website, danielstalter.com.

The Geeks OUT Podcast: Daddy Shark Do Do Do

The Geeks OUT Podcast

Opinions, reviews, incisive discussions of queer geek ideas in pop culture, and the particularly cutting brand of shade that you can only get from a couple of queer geeks all in highly digestible weekly doses.

In this week’s episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by Jon Herzog, as they discuss John Constantine running into his ex King Shark in Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, Taika Waititi directing a new Star Wars movie, and celebrate all the queens announced for Drag Race All Stars in our Clip of the Week. 

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BIG OPENING

KEVIN: ABC brings back the Wonderful World of Disney
JON: Taika Waititi directing & co-writing a new Star Wars movie

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DOWN AND NERDY

KEVIN: Gretel & Hansel, Westworld, The Outsider, Upload
JON: Rewatching all the MCU Movies, The Half of It, Night Vale Books, Star Wars Clone Wars and Rebels, Carry On

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STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER

New trailer for Becky

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THIS WEEK IN QUEER

Constantine dated King Shark according to new Justice League Dark movie

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CLIP OF THE WEEK

Drag Race All Stars staying on VH1

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THE WEEK IN GEEK

MOVIES

Demolition Man sequel in development
Tom Cruise developing space adventure movie with NASA & Elon Musk
Neve Campbell in talks to return to Scream franchise
Alamo Drafthouse launches their VOD service

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TV

• Season 2 of The Mandalorian to feature Boba Fett
• Disney+ developing series based on National Treasure
• Disney+ orders Just Beyond anthology series based on R.L. Stine books
The Right Stuff is coming to Disney+
Muppets Now coming to Disney+ this summer
Upload renewed for season 2
• CBS orders The Equalizer and Clarice to series
CBS All Access is getting overhauled
Nic Cage cast as Joe Exotic in new series 
American Horror Story may have to change storyline
• HBO Max orders adult animated series Santa Inc.  
• New trailer for Adventure Time: Distant Lands
• New teaser for Netflix’s revival of The Babysitters Club  
• New teaser for Netflix’s Space Force
• Adaptation of The Midnight Club coming to Netflix

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COMIC BOOKS

Marvel is releasing some “digital first” comics starting this week
Joker’s 80th Anniversary comic to feature Punchline’s origin

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SHILF

• KEVIN: Nandor
• JON: Taika Waititi

TFF 2020 Review: Socks on Fire

Director Bo McGuire in the opening of Socks on Fire

My early notes for Socks on Fire, Alabama-born director Bo McGuire’s unusual and personal documentary, are pretty harsh.  “Bizarre,” I wrote after the opening few minutes, with elaborate tableaus of various people throughout a house, with objects like dishes mysteriously floating in the air.  We’re dropped in with little context or explanation of who these people are or what these tableaus are meant to convey.  I jotted down “pretentious?” after McGuire drawled the first of many monologues, this one concerning his childhood belief that his grandmother’s backyard was “the forest.”  I continued to struggle with McGuire’s unique approach to his family history.  Mixed in with home videos and interviews with his mother, godmother, and uncle are elaborate recreations of events, as well as behind the scenes glimpses of those recreations.  Was he purposefully emphasizing the artificiality of these scenes?  To what end?  Was this all just a little too arch, too camp, to take seriously?

But as I continued to watch the film, and Socks on Fire established a narrative—essentially, it’s the story of how Bo’s gay uncle John was ostracized by his aunt Sharon, who tried to lock him out of the family home his mother wanted him to inherit after her death—I warmed to the movie’s offbeat approach.  With his hipster trucker hat, red glasses, and colorful suits, McGuire cuts a distinctive figure.  He relates his own experience growing up gay in a small town, and his close relationship with his grandmother and mother.  He and his aunt Sharon were close, too, but as he became a preteen and started to show more flamboyance—the videotapes from this time are priceless, and relatable—she seemed to turn against him.  He recalls how she mockingly called him “Reba,” after his favorite singer at the time, Reba McEntire, and how hurtful that was.  Following his grandmother’s death, Sharon conspired to take her house away from John, who would otherwise be homeless.  This seemed driven mostly by her immense discomfort with his sexuality.

Apart from an intriguing bit of hidden camera footage in which Sharon confronts John inside the house, McGuire dramatizes the conflict by casting John, a drag queen, in the role of his own sister.  John’s performance manages to transcend camp and get at a deeper emotional truth about his estranged sibling.  I wondered if it was unfair to make this film without giving Sharon a voice to defend herself, but it’s clear that McGuire was interested in more than a caricature or a middle finger at his aunt.  A discussion of her troubled, possibly abusive marriage and scenes of actors Odessa Young and Michael Patrick Nicholson playing young Sharon and her husband suggest a desire to understand what drives her. 

A Family Affair: Bo McGuire, his mom Susan McGuire, and his uncle John Washington

McGuire has a keen visual sense and displays creativity throughout his movie—animating photo collages to bring them to life, for instance.  His movie is a heartfelt reflection on the importance and meaning of family, with his loving and accepting mother Susan helping to explode stereotypes about Southern attitudes towards gay folks.  Socks on Fire stands out from the pack even in a festival known for its documentaries; McGuire was awarded Tribeca’s Best Documentary Feature prize for his efforts.  It challenged my ideas of what a documentary could be.

The Geeks OUT Podcast: Baby Yoda is Mask4Mask

The Geeks OUT Podcast

Opinions, reviews, incisive discussions of queer geek ideas in pop culture, and the particularly cutting brand of shade that you can only get from a couple of queer geeks all in highly digestible weekly doses.

In this week’s episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by Keisha Zollar, from Netflix’s #AstronomyClub, as they discuss Disney making their own face masks, take a trip in the teaser for Lovecraft Country, and celebrate the announcement of season 2 of Kipo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts as our Strong Female Character of the Week. 

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BIG OPENING

KEVIN: Marvel announces new production schedule starting May 26th
KEISHA: Disney Store releasing their own reusable masks

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DOWN AND NERDY

KEVIN: We’re Here, 50 States of Fright, The Plot Against America
KEISHA: DEVS, Definitely DEVS, UnDone, What We Do In the Shadows

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STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER

New teaser for season two of Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts

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THIS WEEK IN QUEER

Neil Gaiman commits to trans writers for Sandman series

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CLIP OF THE WEEK

New teaser trailer for Lovecraft Country

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THE WEEK IN GEEK

MOVIES

The complete Skywalker Saga is coming to Disney+ on May the 4th
Disney is developing a live-action remake of Hercules produced by Russo Bros.
AMC, Regal, and other theatres upset with Universal over Trolls 2 going VOD
The Oscars change rules about non-theatrical movie releases
We Are One: A Global Film Festival coming to YouTube
New trailer for documentary My Comic Shop Country

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TV

• New trailer for NOS4A2 season 2
• ABC is doing a Mother’s Day sequel to their Disney Family Singalong
One Day at a Time releasing animated election special
• HBO is developing a Hellraiser series
• New trailer for Reno 911! Revival
• Netflix orders an anthology Social Distance series from Jenji Kohan
• New trailer for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend
• New trailer for final season of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
• New sneak peek at Hulu’s Love, Victor 
• New trailer for Crossing Swords
Greg Berlanti donates $1million to support cast/crew & COVID-19 relief funds

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COMIC BOOKS

• Marvel launches Paul Scheer’s World’s Greatest Book Club w/ special guests
• The Creators4Comics campaign has brought in over $430k for comic shops & retailers

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SHILF

• KEVIN: Patrick
• KEISHA: Dan Levy

TFF 2020 Review: P.S. Burn This Letter Please

It’s rather poignant that I watched P.S. Burn This Letter Please on the day Heritage of Pride announced they were cancelling all Pride events in NYC.  Sad news, to be sure, but Michael Seligman and Jennifer Tiexieria’s excellent documentary about a circle of drag queens in 1950s New York City demonstrates that Pride was a year-round state of mind even before the Stonewall Riots.  Inspired by a box of letters discovered in a Los Angeles storage unit, the filmmakers have crafted a vibrant, colorful experience made up of patched together elements—it’s something like a handmade costume, appropriate given the subject matter.

Animated script written over floral backgrounds, accompanied by dynamic voiceovers by the likes of Cole Escola and Adam Faison, bring the letters to life.  (Credit designer and animator Grant Nellessen.) Filled with vintage slang that evokes the time, the letters are the heart and soul of the movie—and punctuated with eminently quotable dialogue.  “Just a demented note to say hello.”  “I never felt so cunty.  And Mary, I love it.” 

Robert Arango, aka Adrian

The documentary is enhanced by some equally compelling interviews with some of the letter writers and their contemporaries.  Particularly dynamic is Claude Diaz, who’s hilarious in his recollections of life as a drag queen but also thoughtful and introspective—at one point he’s utterly overwhelmed with emotion and sadness for a time forever lost.  There’s also insightful commentary by authors and historians like Esther Newton, who comments on fascinating dynamics like those at Club 82, a Manhattan nightclub where straights—including such luminaries as Warren Beatty, Natalie Wood, and the Kennedys—came to see drag queens perform.  She characterizes it as “performance by stigmatized people for normals.”  The stigma and adversity faced by drag queens is explored throughout the film.  One participant describes them as being “revered and reviled” for representing both what people loved and loathed about being gay.  Robert Bouvard expresses his distaste for the term “drag queen” itself, preferring “female mimic” or “female impersonator,” though conceding that drag queen is now commonplace and has a function if “it means you can understand what I’m talking about.”

The scene introducing the club is emblematic of the skill with which directors Seligman and Tiexieria have crafted their film—the pair use great tricks to bring to life what it was like to descend the long staircase into this hidden world.  They vividly convey many aspects of queer life in the 50s—“trick hotels,” for instance, were rooms rented so that queens could change away from the judgmental eyes of family and friends.  Along the way there are some surprising twists and turns, like a high-end wig heist Diaz and a friend pulled at the Metropolitan Opera House and the experience of Terry Noel, whose transition and surgery were provided free of charge thanks to a co-owner of Club 82.  Noel also provides an eloquent and heartfelt explanation of transition: “To me it’s not mutilation, it’s rearrangement.  So I can live my life as I wish.”

P.S. Burn This Letter Please concludes with a nod to the broader LGBTQ rights movement and an acknowledgement of the pioneering role these subjects inadvertently played while simply living their lives; it’s a bit rushed, perhaps, but important to note.  There are also postscripts about each of the writers—including a surprising and fun revelation about “Daphne”’s identity—and the identity of who they were all writing to. The movie is a vivid and vital testimony—and a profoundly meaningful slice of gay history.

The Tribeca Film Festival was postponed, but films have been made available for members of press and industry.