Playing it straight

James Sweeney’s queer rom-com Straight Up (Strand), now available on DVD, has more in common with Woody Allen’s Annie Hall than you might expect. Like Allen did for Annie Hall, Sweeney wrote, directed and stars in Straight Up. Like Allen’s Annie Hall character Alvy, Sweeney’s Todd is a nerdy, obsessive compulsive, in therapy, who is in search of companionship. Similarities between the two probably end there. In Straight Up, gay millennial Todd is undergoing a severe sexual identity crisis, or so he tells friends Ryder (James Scully) and Meg (Dana Drori) in an L.A. diner. He believes he could statistically […]

The end of innocence

The late gay filmmaker Luchino Visconti (Death in Venice, The Damned) went out with a bang, so to speak, with his over-the-top final feature, 1976’s L’Innocente (Film Movement), now available on Blu-ray. Based on the 1892 novel by Gabriele D’Annunzio, L’Innocente gave Visconti plenty of opportunity to exercise his operatic excesses. Tullio (Giancarlo Giannini), a despicable chauvinist and charmer, is the kind of unfaithful husband who shows up at a piano recital with his devoted wife Giuliana (Laura Antonelli) and is openly flirtatious with his mistress, the widowed Teresa (Jennifer O’Neil). If that’s not bad enough, Tullia basically insults Giuliana […]

Two to Avoid

If we’ve learned anything during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that time is precious. There isn’t that much of it and as the numbers of the dead increase at an alarming rate, we are reminded of how important it is not to waste what little we have. One recommended way of not being wasteful is by avoiding movies that don’t deserve to sap your hours and minutes. Kevin Bacon, still hot to the touch in his early 60s, has a longstanding relationship with the horror genre. From his memorable appearance in a Speedo in the first Friday the 13th (1980) to […]

As “Perfect” as Trump

Nannies get a bad rap. As portrayed by Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins may have made nannies safe for moviegoers in 1964, but a year later, Bette Davis changed all that in 1965’s The Nanny. As you might have guessed from the title, The Perfect Nanny (Icarus/Distrib), which shares its title with a song from Mary Poppins, and is based on the bestselling novel by Leila Slimani, is about a nanny who is anything but.   Paul (Antoine Reinartz from the incredible 2017 gay film BPM) and Myriam (Leïla Bekhti) are a young married Parisian couple, the parents of five-year-old Mila (Assya Da Silva) and toddler […]

Bold ‘Wives’ Tale

“Inspired by the true stories of the women who started the first military wives choir,” director Peter Cattaneo’s Military Wives (Bleecker Street), and its on-the-nose title, comes from a long tradition of movies that also includes Cattaneo’s full-length feature debut The Full Monty. In the same category, you will also find Calendar Girls, Kinky Boots, Brassed Off, Pride, and even Sister Act. Have you figured out where this is going? That’s right, an unlikely and often motley crew comes together during an extremely challenging time to lift each other’s spirits and leave the audience in tears. Kate (Kristin Scott Thomas) […]

How high

While watching “The High Note” (Focus), Tracee Ellis Ross’ first major motion picture role as a lead actress, don’t be surprised if you find yourself thinking, “Well, this could have gone either way.” Even in the more than capable hands of lesbian filmmaker Nisha Ganatra (“Late Night” and “Chutney Popcorn”), and without the star power of say, Emma Thompson, “The High Note” could have gone sour. As it is, it can be kind of pitchy. Ross, the daughter of diva Diana Ross, plays Grace Davis, a celebrated recording star with 11 Grammys to her name struggling to stay relevant in an industry […]

The art of love

When gay actor turned writer/director Mike Doyle’s feature-length debut played the festival circuit it went by the terrible title “Sell By”. Opening in theaters this spring, the movie is now called “Almost Love” (Vertical Entertainment), which we can all agree is also very bad. Thankfully, the movie itself is so much better than either of its names. Adam (out actor Scott Evans, younger brother of Chris) is a painter in New York. He (barely) makes a living (by NYC standards) producing paintings for famous artist Ravella Brewer (Patricia Clarkson) whose signature at the bottom of each piece brings in an […]

Three (cock)ring circus

Queer filmmaker/performance artist Rachel Mason gets personal with her new documentary “Circus of Books” (Netflix/Future Clown), debuting on Netflix in late April 2020. The daughter of Karen and Barry Mason, the straight, married couple who owned and operated the titular legendary XXX adult emporium in WeHo (shuttered in early 2018) and a short-lived Silverlake location, Rachel has crafted a revelatory, warts and all family portrait, that is equally emotional and informative. Journalist Karen and movie special effects designer/inventor (and UCLA classmate of Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek) Barry, the unlikely proprietors of Circus of Books, didn’t set out to become […]

Doing the bunny hop

Screenwriter/director/actor Taika Waititi (Marvel box office blockbuster “Thor: Ragnarok”) won an Oscar for his adapted screenplay for “Jojo Rabbit” (Fox Searchlight/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment), based on the novel “Caging Skies” by Christine Leunens. In its exaggerated irreverence, Waititi’s mind-bending film, about a Nazi youth’s imaginary friendship with Hitler, is both anti-hate and pro-peace. It’s an unabashed tribute to classic comedy geniuses that came before, including Mel Brooks (remember “Springtime For Hitler”?) and Monty Python. “Jojo Rabbit” arrived in theaters, and now on home video, as neo-Nazism is on the rise worldwide. It’s a sharp poke in the ribs, alternately […]

A girl can get burned

The early 19th century novels of Jane Austen, including “Sense and Sensibility” and “Pride and Prejudice”, have never gone out of print. If movie studios, both domestic and foreign, have their way, film adaptations of her titles will also continue to be a part of our consciousness. Even if they’ve been made before. But do we really need two mini-series and one theatrical release version of “Sense and Sensibility”? Additionally, not only were there feature-length and mini-series versions of “Pride & Prejudice”, but also a zom-com remake. Austen’s “Emma” has suffered a similar fate, including a mini-series, a Hollywood edition […]