In this week’s episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by fellow board member Teri Yoshiuchi, as they discuss the next Arrowverse crossover event Crisis on Infinite Earths and whether it will come to Netflix, get excited about the new Batwoman trailer, and celebrate Mr. Ratburn’s wedding on the PBS cartoon Arthur in This Week in Queer.
This year’s Tribeca Film Festival Pilot Season features five different television pilots, and with one exception, they’re all terrific. The first is particularly exciting for LGBT audiences: Lady Liberty, starring Julia Lindon as Shea, a young aspiring comedienne in New York City. Shea works for an established comedian (Jason Sudeikis), but is afraid to tell him about her own ambitions; she’s also struggling to define her own sexuality after an intense affair with a longtime friend (Rebecca Henderson). A chance encounter with a beautiful young lesbian (Karen Eilbacher) in an Uber pool leads to her first night out with “gay gals,” and it’s clear that Miller’s taking her first thrilling steps towards self-actualization. Lindon, who created the series, is tremendously appealing and relatable, and the first episode is wonderfully real and authentic. I think this could become the next Broad City.
distinctly different strong female is at the center of Halfway, about a woman’s struggle to re-enter society, and
reconnect with the daughter she abandoned, after prison. Anastasia Leddick is mesmerizing as Krystal:
she’s got an incredible punk look, and is utterly convincing as a woman who’s
been through the ringer. The first
episode is equal turns funny and dramatic, and left me wanting to binge.
The rest of
the program is comprised of DC Noir,
a strong, gritty slice of urban life; the goofy but promising Unimundo 45, about a plus-sized Latinx
news producer (Elizabeth De Razzo) looking to inspire her family and friends in
the wake of Trump’s election; and the faintly obnoxious Awokened. The latter was the
only entry I had no desire to see more of—it focuses on entitled, irritating
millennials and lots of forced wackiness, and it retreads ground better
explored by the critically underrated Enlightened.
Pilot Season screens as part of the Tribeca Film Festival. Visit tribecafilm.com for more info.
individual who grew up religiously—and that’s many of us—knows what it’s like
when your faith seemingly conflicts with your identity. That conflict is at the heart of Daniel
Karslake (For the Bible Tells Me So)’s
new documentary. Among the most powerful stories: Linda and Rob Robertson, who
encouraged their son Ryan to undergo conversion therapy, with tragic results;
Vico Baez Febo, who was thrown out of the house by his grandmother for being
gay, and later survived the Pulse shooting; and Sarah McBride, the first openly
transgender woman ever to speak at the Democratic National Convention.
The film is
well executed and affecting, with some deeply emotional testimony from all of
the participants, particularly the Robertsons.
The movie does a good job of making us understand their perspective, and
the profound sorrow they feel for the loss of their son is balanced by an
enlightened and ultimately hopeful view.
Vico’s vivid testimony, Snapchat video of his slain friend, and security
footage of his rescue bring the Pulse tragedy to searing life. But though every participant in the film
endured unimaginable loss, the movie is ultimately neither depressing nor
didactic. It does a great job of
outlining the current state of the LGBT struggle, explaining how, in the wake
of marriage equality, trans folks became the new scapegoat for the religious
right. But if McBride is any indication,
not to mention the other resilient and courageous figures depicted in the film,
we’re not going down without a fight.
For They Know Not What They Do screens as part of the Tribeca Film Festival. Visit tribecafilm.com for more info.
In this week’s super-sized episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by J.W. Crump, as they discuss the new trailers for Spider-Man: Far From Home and It: Chapter 2, and celebrate The CW ordering Batwoman, Nancy Drew, and Katy Keene to series as our Strong Female Characters of This Week in Queer.
In this week’s super-sized episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by Jon Herzog, as they share their spoiler filled thoughts on Avengers Endgame and Game of Thrones’ Battle of Winterfell, discuss controversies surrounding the latest Uncanny X-Men and Sonic the Hedgehog film, and celebrate Veronica Mars as our Strong Female Character of the Week.
Early on in David
Charles Rodrigues’ exquisite Gay Chorus
Deep South, San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus artistic director Dr. Tim Seelig
is working in his office. He explains that he keeps himself surrounded by “queens,”
Queen Elizabeth and San Francisco legend—and gay hero—Harvey Milk among
them. So it’s fitting that the Chorus
takes inspiration from Milk, who famously used a lavender pen to sign
groundbreaking gay rights legislation into law, in naming their post Trump Lavender
Pen Tour. The men travel from Tennessee
to Alabama to the Carolinas, looking to spread hope and ignite dialogue. Interestingly enough, assumptions are
challenged on both sides. A queer historian
complains that the concept reeks of condescension. A Southern Baptist church, meanwhile,
welcomes the group with open arms.
Rodrigues shoots the film beautifully, with sweeping overhead shots, intimate access to the performances, and skillful editing. The music is beautiful and accomplished, naturally, and it weaves in and out of sequences seamlessly. A sequence in Selma, where the men hold a triumphant concert and walk across the famed Edmund Pettus Bridge, is particularly striking. We get to know a few of the men particularly well. Seelig reveals his painful history with the Southern Baptist Church and the havoc wreaked on his family when he came out. Jimmy White is fighting cancer and hoping for reconciliation with his staunchly conservative father. Perhaps most compelling is Ashlé , who struggles to come to terms with their gender identity and finds unwavering acceptance in the men of the Chorus. Thus this film is one of several notable examples of trans stories being told at Tribeca this year; Jeanie Finlay’s beautiful Seahorse and Changing the Game being two others.
Gay Chorus Deep South takes a story that is compelling and of the moment and delivers it with precision and heart.
Gay Chorus Deep South screens this week as part of the Tribeca Film Festival. Visit tribecafilm.com for more.
annual Virtual Arcade Featuring Storyscapes is back with another diverse
assortment of VR experiences. I got the
chance to experience four, including the remarkable Another Dream, second in the transmedia series Queer In A Time of Forced Migration. Readers should note that this year’s Arcade
also includes Doctor Who: The Runaway,
an animated tale featuring the new Doctor—and a full scale Tardis on site!
In Another Dream, directed by Tamara Shogaolu, viewers meet a lesbian couple forced to flee Egypt in search of safety in the Netherlands. It’s an incredibly moving story, elegantly animated; watching it, I couldn’t help but be bowled over by the immense courage of its subjects. While the interactivity left a bit to be desired—all you get to “do” is trace the Arabic characters for each chapter title—the immersive nature of the short makes you feel like you are living through the predicament with the women. You also share in their newfound peace and hope.
Kevin Cornish’s ambitious 2nd Civil War plays a bit like an augmented reality Purge installment. Like that franchise, it’s ambitious and more than a little on-the-nose hammy. The experience begins in the “real” world, where a tough-as-nails army officer begrudgingly approves your pass to report from the Conflict Zone of a war torn America. (The actress was utterly real and made me distinctly uncomfortable.) In the VR component, a prologue mixing real and recreated news footage leads into a series of encounters with dystopian Baltimore residents. You can speak dialogue from a range of options; unfortunately, I had to repeat some of the lines multiple times for the people to “hear” me. Cheesy acting from some of the participants, like a one-armed journalist and a trashy tattooed mom, as well as the choppy integration of performers and background plates distracted from the intended effect.
The Canadian Gymnasia, directed by Clyde Henry Productions, gets an A for physical environment: a decrepit classroom with hard plastic chairs, pages of music strewn across the floor, and two nightmare fuel baby dolls, one seated and the other roaming eerily on wheels. The VR itself is cool and creepy: balls and butterflies skitter across the floor and the dolls start singing one of those “childlike” songs calculated to give goose bumps. It’s all nifty to look at, but ultimately feels like just so much production design in search of a Conjuring spinoff.
For pure, adorable entertainment, you probably can’t beat Eric Darnell’s Bonfire made by Baobab Studios. The director cut his teeth on the Madagascar movies and Antz, and it shows: the adventure plays like a particularly witty “kiddie” movie that you’d have no problem sitting through. Ali Wong is pitch perfect hilarious as a neurotic robot who, following a crash landing on a potentially hostile alien planet, keeps nagging you to look out for danger. It will come as no surprise that Pork Bun the alien is no threat but rather a cute new friend—you can even pet it! Ultimately you choose how to proceed with regard to this potential colonization site, and the fate of Pork Bun. Viewers receive a cool souvenir video of their experience afterwards.
consider it a point of pride when I see a film people walk out of. At House
of 1000 Corpses, a couple walked out as the woman loudly declared “let’s
get the FUCK out of here!”; another pair fled Suspiria (2018) after a nasty bit of body contortion. So it pleased me that a few folks just couldn’t
sit through Bliss, writer/director
Joe Begos’ hallucinogenic vampire flick playing the Midnight category at the
Tribeca Film Festival. Interestingly,
they all left before any of the bloody mayhem even got started; the visceral
intensity of the filmmaking seems to be what they couldn’t handle.
Bliss opens with a warning about strobe
effects, which seems as much part of the exploitation tradition as a legitimate
caveat. After a day glo, rock and roll
opening title sequence, we meet Dezzy (Dora Madison), a starving artist
struggling to pay the bills while battling a pretty heavy drug problem. She’s got a deadline looming for her latest
piece, an appropriately eerie painting of souls writhing in fire, but she can’t
seem to find the inspiration to finish it, despite the help of a well-meaning
boyfriend Clive (Jeremy Gardner). Maybe
that’s because she’s too busy scoring drugs from her pal Hadrian (Graham
Skipper) and partying with her girlfriend and sometime lover Courtney (Tru
Collins, giving off trashy Lady Gaga vibes) and Courtney’s boyfriend Ronnie
(Rhys Wakefield). When Hadrian slips her
a coke variant called Bliss, Dezzy’s instantly hooked, but the bad trip it
sends her on is compounded by a simultaneous thirst for blood. Dezzy’s life quickly spins out of control—to put
Bliss is an impressively crafted movie,
with stunning cinematography and lighting and a hard driving metal
soundtrack. Madison is remarkable as
Dezzy, a character that could easily come off as selfish and obnoxious, but who
is vividly real and funny in the actress’ capable hands. The screenplay is smart and pretty damn
funny, and the intensity of the filmmaking makes Bliss a movie you experience more than watch. There’s also outstanding use of locations—the
various bars, Dezzy’s apartment, and Hadrian’s house are all vividly real
places. Where Bliss might be polarizing is with regards to the copious drug use
and the extremely intense, bloody violence (thought to be fair, isn’t that
exactly what a vampire movie should have in spades?). The finale is so gruesomely over the top that
I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about it.
But this movie really goes for it, and Begos and his crew are undeniably
talented. However you feel about Bliss, you won’t soon forget it.
Bliss screens Wednesday at 9:45 as part of the Tribeca Film Festival. Visit tribecafilm.com for more info.
movie fans, the existence of a documentary about the Showgirls cult is both remarkable and unsurprising. It’s unlikely subject matter in some ways,
but if you saw Paul Verhoeven’s notorious 1995 flop for the first time with a
date who did all the dance moves while watching—and then, later, with an
adoring crowd led by the inimitable Hedda Lettuce—it’s no wonder someone got a
whole ninety minutes out of this. It’s a
testament to writer/director Jeffrey McHale and his exceedingly witty, literate
commentators that You Don’t Nomi exceeds
expectations—it’s not just diverting but intensely imaginative and thoughtful,
and it becomes a film not just about Showgirls
but about movies and our love for them, too.
Showgirls arrived twenty four years ago amidst a swirl of controversy: it was the first ever mainstream NC-17 movie, and it starred Saved by the Bell good girl Elizabeth Berkley in a potentially star making role as stripper Nomi Malone. Nomi is running from a mysterious past—when friend Molly asks her where she’s from, she memorably blurts “DIFFERENT PLACES!!!!”—and is seeking stardom in the tawdry world of Las Vegas. Her big break comes via Cristal Connors (a delightful, scenery chewing Gina Gershon), the star of the revue Goddess, and her entertainment director boyfriend Zack (heartthrob Kyle MacLachlan), who’s willing to help Nomi replace Cristal in the lead in exchange for some spastic swimming pool action. Before you can say All About Eve, Nomi’s headlining at the Stardust, but at what price?
McHale forgoes “talking head” interviews in favor of a continuous montage approach. He deftly weaves together footage from Showgirls as well as Verhoeven’s other films, like Robocop and Basic Instinct, and other notable film favorites like Mommie Dearest. All the while, we hear ruminations from an engaging cast of characters: Adam Nayman, film writer and author of It Doesn’t Suck: Showgirls; April Kidwell, a theater performer who played Nomi in the Off-Broadway Showgirls musical (pictured above) and who’s touring this summer with a new prequel show, I, Nomi; and Jeffery Conway, a poet who wrote a book of sestinas (!) based on the film. They and others offer their perspectives on Showgirls: for some, it’s an endlessly watchable piece of trash; for others, it’s a surprisingly underrated satire that brilliantly skewers cultural attitudes towards sex, entertainment, and other issues. Kidwell used her roles as Berkley’s caffeine pill addicted Jessie Spano (in Saved by the Bell: The Musical) and Nomi to overcome her PTSD following a rape; while some deride the scene in which Nomi avenges Molly’s rape, for Kidwell, it was an especially empowering and resonant moment. Another commentator points out that Nomi, in seeking success in the big city, freely using her sexuality, and building her own chosen family, is reflective of many queer people’s experience (to say nothing of the unsubtle lesbian “subtext” that pervades her interplay with Cristal).
The movie also examines why Berkeley became the scapegoat, in many ways, for the movie’s box office and critical failure. While You Don’t Nomi’s participants revel in her outlandish performance, they also take pains to demonstrate that Verhoeven directed her specifically to behave in an outsize way. They also hint at the sexism that played a part in her torpedoed career: a clip shows Gene Siskel bluntly criticizing her appearance, and Verhoeven’s misogyny is detailed at length. When Berkley is shown introducing a packed Hollywood screening of the movie in 2015—and receiving a standing ovation—her emotion is palpable.
You Don’t Nomi is a must see for fans of Showgirls, but more broadly, this is a
movie about the profound ways film can impact and inspire the lives of
audiences, particularly queer moviegoers.
You Don’t Nomi screens Tuesday at 8:30 as part of the Tribeca Film Festival. Visit tribecafilm.com for more.
In this week’s super-sized episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by Rachel Greeman, as they discuss Avengers Endgame breaking box office records while introducing the first out gay character in the MCU, check out the new trailer for Men in Black International, and celebrate Supergirl’s Dreamer (@NicoleAMaines) as our Strong Female Character of the Week.