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As Outfest sets to launch, here’s what to watch out for

11 must-see standouts in a massive lineup



Rising star Harris Dickinson falls in with a pack of art-loving sex workers and bonds with Caravaggio in the gorgeous ‘Postcards from London.’ (Photo courtesy of ‘Postcards from London’)

The 36th edition of Outfest is now just a few weeks away, and while its fearless programmers have done another fantastic job of pulling together the best and brightest in queer filmmaking from around the world, navigating the resulting massive lineup — 221 films spread over 11 days this year — choosing what to see can be decidedly daunting.

So here’s our rundown of the top must-see standouts at Outfest 2018, which runs July 12-22. (And don’t wait — tickets went on sale this week, and will surely sell out for all of these gems.)

Studio 54

Thursday, July 12, 8 p.m.

Orpheum Theatre

842 S Broadway, Los Angeles

What better way to kick off Outfest and its fabulous Opening Night Gala than with the eagerly anticipated documentary about the most dazzling disco of all time, Studio 54? Director Matt Tyrnauer explores the legacy of this nocturnal fortress of ‘70s hedonism, where Liza Minnelli, Andy Warhol, Grace Jones and Michael Jackson were just a few of the regulars who rubbed body parts with New York’s most happening gays. As usual, the Outfest opener and its famed after-party go down at the Orpheum Theatre in DTLA, and will include the presentation of this year’s Outfest Achievement Award, to director Angela Robinson.

Wild Nights with Emily

Saturday, July 21, 8:30 p.m.

The Ford Theaters

2580 Cahuenga Blvd E, Los Angeles

Director Madeleine Olnek (“The Foxy Merkins”) presents one of the funniest lesbian comedies in years, pulverizing patriarchal preconceptions about poet Emily Dickinson, and transforming her into a vivacious lesbian romantic — played warmly and beautifully by Molly Shannon — who’s forced to hide her lifelong romance with her best friend Susan for the sake of her literary career.

We the Animals

Saturday, July 14, 6:45 p.m.

Directors Guild of America, Theater 1

7920 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles

Hailed as “this year’s ‘Moonlight’” when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year (where it received the NEXT Innovator Award), “We the Animals” is the tough but tender story of three young brothers — half white, half Puerto Rican — who tightly bond as they navigate the fallout from their parents’ explosive relationship. Their close sibling unit is tested as the two older brothers begin to follow in the macho path of their father (“Looking’s Raúl Castillo), while the youngest, sensitive Jonah, is more drawn toward their mother — and boys.


Friday, July 13, 7 p.m.

Directors Guild of America, Theater 1

Award-winning director Ondi Timoner presents this appropriately full-frontal biopic about rebel photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, whose arrestingly gorgeous black and white photographs became iconic ‘70s and ‘80s symbols of unflinching homosexuality — and then tragically, of the AIDS crisis and its fallout. English actor Matt Smith (“The Crown,” “Doctor Who”) plays Mapplethorpe, against the backdrop of New York’s highbrow art and down-and-dirty leather scenes.

Bad Reputation

Wednesday, July 18, 8:30 p.m.

The Ford Theatres

Another ‘70s and ‘80s queer icon — rock bad girl Joan Jett — is profiled in this loud and loving documentary that explores the many stages of her career, from young founder of The Runaways to 60-year-old rock powerhouse. Debbie Harry, Iggy Pop, Miley Cyrus and Michael J. Fox are just a few of the celebs who share their thoughts on their friend and idol.

Postcards from London

Friday, July 20, 8:30 p.m.

The Ford Theatres

Rising mainstream star Harris Dickinson (last year’s “Beach Rats”) headlines the sexy and arty tale of young Joe, who flees small-town Britain for the bright lights of London — where he promptly falls in with a posse of hip and highbrow sex workers, cherished by their patrons for their ability to carry on lofty post-coital conversations. Shades of Caravaggio, Derek Jarman and Pierre et Gilles permeate this heady homoerotic fantasy.

Game Girls

Sunday, July 15, 9:30 p.m., Directors Guild of America Theater 2

Sunday, July 22, 1:45 p.m., Regal LA Live

1000 W Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles

This gritty and moving documentary shines a spotlight on a side of LA queer life that’s rarely seen, following girlfriends Tiahana (who’s just out of prison on a drug-dealing offense) and Teri (who’s coping with mental health issues) as they face the grim realities of living on Skid Row, while navigating a relationship that’s alternately tender and physically volatile.

Mr. Gay Syria

Saturday, July 14, 9 p.m.

Directors Guild of America, Theater 2

A big crowd favorite when it was shown at Outfest Fusion earlier this year, this riveting documentary follows a group of gay Syrian refugees as they struggle to both rebuild their lives as foreigners after the devastation of war, and to live authentically within a culture that condemns their sexuality. The film focuses particularly on two young men, Husein (who works as a barber and lives with his toddler and unsuspecting wife in Istanbul) and Mahmoud (who lives in Berlin, and is the organizer of the necessarily semi-secretive Mr. Gay Syria contest).

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood

Saturday, July 14, 1:45 p.m.

Directors Guild of America, Theater 1

Matt Tyrnauer — who also directed “Studio 54”, this year’s Opening Night Gala film — presents this dishy and fascinating documentary about the life of Scotty Bowers, gas station attention turned paramour and pimp to the stars. The Golden Age of Hollywood comes to juicy life here, with queer celeb secrets about the likes of Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy and George Cukor.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

Friday, July 20, 7:15 p.m.

Directors Guild of America, Theater 1

It’s cinematic queer nirvana as out gay hunk Luke Evans portrays real-life Harvard psychologist William Moulton Marston, who was inspired to create girl-power comic book icon Wonder Woman by the female sexuality and empowerment of his wife and their polyamorous lover, Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote). Angela Robinson, winner of this year’s Outfest Achievement Award, directs.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Sunday, July 22, 7 p.m.

The Theater at Ace Hotel

929 S Broadway, Los Angeles

Outfest 2018 closes with this winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize, the bittersweet tale of young Cameron (Chloë Grace Moretz), who — after being caught cavorting with her best friend — is sent to an ultra-religious gay conversion camp. Resistant to “treatment,” Cameron, fortunately, finds like-minded spirits in fellow campers Jane (Sasha Lane) and Adam (Forrest Goodluck), and the three form a bond that helps them rise above the intolerance surrounding them.

This year’s Outfest will also include perennial favorites like the experimental Platinum section and Boys and Girls Shorts collections, and will mark the return of several outdoor screenings to the Ford Theatres, which had been closed for a several-year renovation. Outfest’s Trans Summit will return for its second edition, this year featuring award-winning director and producer Yance Ford as the keynote speaker.
And for the first time, Outfest will include a dedicated Episodic Programs section (highlighting the ever-growing realm of queer series), as well as a special Focus on Taiwan series, showcasing a selection of LGBTQ films from the queer-forward country of Taiwan.

Tickets to all showings can be purchased at



APLA Health hosts private screening of ‘Commitment to Life’ doc

“Commitment to Life” is a story of unwavering bravery in the face of death. It reconstructs HIV’s devastation & those who rose to fight it



APLA Health Commitment to Life Documentary Screening - WeHo Times

By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – APLA Health hosted an exclusive private screening of the feature documentary “Commitment to Life” by Automat Pictures this past Wednesday, February 22, 2023, in the Pacific Design Center’s Silver Screen Theater.

The doc, by filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz (“Tab Hunter Confidential,” “I Am Divine”), was fresh from a recent Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) world premiere the previous weekend. It features lots of never-before-seen footage, a lot taken in 1980s West Hollywood.

It was a who’s who at the reception before the screening of the documentary . Persons who are featured in the film such as Jewel Thais-Williams, Co-founder, Minority AIDS Project, Bruce Vlanch, Writer and Comedian, Torie Osborn, Former Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Dr. Michael Gottlieb Physician and Former APLA Board Member, and Steve Pieters, Former Field Director of AIDS Ministry, were among those in attendance.

Other familiar faces include Sheila Kuehl, former Los Angeles County Supervisor,  John D’Amico, former West Hollywood Council Member and Mayor, Marc Malkin, Senior Culture & Events Editor at Variety, and LGBTQ Journalist and activist Karen Ocamb.

APLA Health Commitment to Life Documentary – WeHo Times
APLA Health Commitment to Life Documentary – WeHo Times
APLA Health Commitment to Life Documentary – WeHo Times
APLA Health Commitment to Life Documentary – WeHo Times
APLA Health Commitment to Life Documentary – WeHo Times

The event featured a Q&A panel after the screening lead by Marc Malkin.

APLA Health Commitment to Life Documentary – WeHo Times

“Commitment to Life” is a story of unwavering bravery in the face of death. In the early 1980s, a young doctor at UCLA reports a strange immune disorder among gay men — the world’s first warning sign of the epidemic to come. 

“Commitment to Life” documents this incredible drama — Rock Hudson and Easy-E, Elizabeth Taylor and David Geffen, the Red Ribbon and “Philadelphia,” ACT UP and AIDS Project Los Angeles — through the stories of those who lived through it

The film profiles some of the extraordinary and courageous individuals who stepped forward in a fight for survival. People like Nancy Cole, one of the founders of AIDS Project Los Angeles, who helped provide vital services in those dark early days and was one of the first women in LA to go public about having AIDS. Or Phill Wilson, who, when he and his partner Chris Brownlie were faced with their own HIV diagnosis, became full time activists, and helped defeat the notorious Prop 64, which would have placed people with HIV in internment camps.

There’s Brenda Frieberg, who when both of her sons were diagnosed with AIDS, traveled to Washington to lobby for access to drugs that could save their lives. Or Jewel Thais-Williams, owner of Catch One disco, who helped start the Minority AIDS Project to address the needs of the African American community. And in the center of the storm was AIDS Project Los Angeles, a committed group of activists who helped care for the sick and dying, while at the same time lobbied those in Hollywood to contribute to the fight. APLA brought together A-list stars like Elizabeth Taylor, who used her celebrity to advocate for people with AIDS and inspired the Hollywood community to do the same.

LGBTQ journalist and activist Karen Ocamb with Jewel Thais-Williams, co-founder Minority AIDS Project

Using newly filmed interviews, never-before-seen clips from APLA’s gala fundraising events, rare archival footage, and long-forgotten PSAs, “Commitment to Life” reconstructs the virus’ devastating march and the city that rose to fight it. Like the virus itself, the story winds through gated communities and neighborhoods of color, government offices and university labs, hospital suites and studio sound stages to tell a story of courage and sacrifice — as well as one of discrimination and unequal treatment.

The “Commitment to Life” filmmaking team is helmed by Director & Editor  Jeffrey Schwarz; Producers Aimée Flaherty, p.g.a. (“Moulin Rouge,” “Killing The Colorado”), and Jeffrey Schwarz, p.g.a.; Executive Producer Ron Sylvester (“Bystander Revolution,” “IMDb: What to Watch”); Co-Executive Producer Robert James Wood II; Co-Producer Taki Oldham; Associate Producer Michael Stabile; Executive Producer for APLA Health Craig Thompson; Supervising Producer for APLA Health Craig Bowers; Composer Allyson Newman (“Generation Q,” “The L Word”) with the participation of Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles; and Cinematographer Adam Jason Finmann (“Daddy Issues,” “Dirty Cops”).

“Commitment to Life” Features Key Interviewees Featured in the Film: Jewel Thais-Williams Co-founder, Minority AIDS Project; Phill Wilson HIV/AIDS Activist; Karamo Brown “Queer Eye” Cast Member & HIV/AIDS Educator; Dr. Michael Gottlieb Physician and Former APLA Board Member; Bruce Vilanch Writer and Comedian; Jeffrey Katzenberg Former Chairman, Walt Disney Studios and APLA Board Member; Bill Misenhimer Former APLA Executive Director; Robert Contreras Co-Founder, Bienestar; Torie Osborn Former Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Rev. Steve Pieters Former Field Director of AIDS Ministry, Metropolitan Community Churches; and Bamby Salcedo President, TransLatin Coalition.


Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings over 20 years of experience as a columnist, reporter, and photo journalist.


The preceding article was previously published by WeHo Times and is republished with permission.

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“Starving for Perfection” & revisiting Karen Carpenter 40 years later

We have to wonder if now, forty years later, how the non-binary, fluidity and being one’s authentic self could have saved Karen Carpenter



Karen Carpenter, The Carpenters at Christmas Special 1977 (Screenshot/YouTube)

HOLLYWOOD – Tragedies take many forms. There are tragic stories of individuals who deserved a wonderful existence, who were taken obscenely early in lives full of promise. Then there are tragedies where someone with a great contribution to the world is cut down in their prime and we are deprived of a unique talent.

The tragedy of Karen Carpenter embodied both. She was “the voice” of her time, and in many ways has become established as one of the rare classic voices that will extend to all times. Her warm deep melodic tones conveyed beautiful melancholic rainy days and Mondays to top of the world euphoria, to taking us back to connect with yesterday once more. We won’t even talk about how it brought us the warmth of a holiday fire and a Merry Christmas, darling.

“Long ago, and so far away, I fell in love with you…” from Superstar, made famous by Karen Carpenter.

Her voice was so perfect that many thought it was not real, that it had been manufactured by her brother Richard’s studio magic. Fil Henley of Wings of Pegasus recently did an analysis of Karen’s voice from her live singing versus her studio vocals. He declared, “Karen’s waveforms are INSANE. When it comes to vocal accuracy and pitch… due to Karen’s accuracy, pitchwise and ability to hold a note on pitch, she is dead on. These were not autotune waveforms, in fact this was before autotune was invented… but these are the most dead on that I have seen in my life.”

Karen has been dead for exactly forty years from the effects of anorexia nervosa, but her loss still inspires intrigue around the demons that took her and silenced her for good. Speculation has fueled articles and movies ranging from a video version of her life told in Barbie dolls, to a Cynthia Gibb led Movie of the Week. In each re-examination, proverbially, “layers of the onion” get pulled back.

None have pulled as deeply as a new documentary called Karen Carpenter, Starving for Perfection, which premiered this last week at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. The documentary was produced by author Randy L. Schmidt and based on his bestselling book Little Girl Blue

Starving takes filmgoers deep into Karen’s story in ways her life has not been discussed before. It brings fresh new perspectives and insights about her personal struggle told in her own voice through never-before released recordings and through the voices of those who knew her including Carol Burnett, Olivia Newton-John, Suzanne Somers. There are also interviews with Cynthia Gibb who portrayed her, and with Belinda Carlisle, Kristin Chenoweth, and Carnie Wilson whose own careers were inspired by Karen’s music.

The convergence of Randy Schmidt and Cynthia Gibb on the project represents a full circle moment in the documentary’s creation. The biopic in which Cynthia starred as “Karen Carpenter” was 13-year old Randy’s introduction to the Carpenters. He became obsessed with their records and music from that moment on. “I wanted to know everything because I had been born right in the middle of the Carpenters heyday and missed a lot of it first-hand,” he told me when he sat down for an LA Blade exclusive viewing of the film, and an interview on my Rated LGBT Radio podcast

Cynthia’s insights in Starving were significant. She bore witness to Karen’s life more than just as an actress who had played her. Every dress she wore in the TV movie had been Karen’s. They filmed in the actual house where Karen died and both Richard and Karen’s parents were present during filming. The extras playing the EMTs in the movie were the actual first-responders who had been to the house on the day that Karen died.

Cynthia told of seeing the evidence of Karen’s anorexia first-hand. As she went through Karen’s closet, she saw the size differential go from garments too big, to Karen’s most recent, which were very tiny. Both Cynthia and Mitchell Anderson, who played Richard in the film, described the family dynamic to Randy. Harold and Agnes, Karen’s parents, were a constant presence on the set with Richard giving daily script revisions protecting the family’s image. Agnes laid the groundwork with the first day of production when she answered the door and spurt out at the film’s director,

“I did NOT kill my daughter.”

Starving does not let Agnes off as easy as the TV movie rendition did. While it does not accuse Agnes of murder, it paints a complex picture of a mother who promoted and completely worshipped her son. She was a mother, at the same time, who tended to disregard and undervalue her daughter and seemed driven to make Karen fit into the appropriate Richard-supporting role. No one in the family, Agnes, Richard or even Karen herself, seemed to find joy in Karen’s success in the spotlight that put Richard in a supporting role.

The film portrays Karen as having two driving desires—to earn the love of her mother, and to carve out some accomplishment and actualization on her own. She never seemed to attain either, and it was the striving for perfection to get them that may have killed her.

The family seems to have been driven by an inherited obsessive compulsive disorder complex. Agnes certainly had it, Richard exhibited it, and it may have exacerbated the weight obsession fueling Karen’s anorexia. Randy told me, “Olivia Newton John talked to me in the book about it, not the documentary. She said that when she went to Karen’s apartment that she noticed that all of the hangars were exactly a half inch apart, and everything was color coded as far as the clothing and the shoes. Everything was very OCD for Karen. She grew up with a mother who, the neighbor kids told me, would not only polish the locks, the gold brass locks on the windows, with a toothbrush, but then she would go next door and clean the windows of the house, the neighbor’s house, that faced hers. So, I mean, this was, this was a woman who dealt in control in just about every possible way. Karen saw that from the time she was born and didn’t know that it was unusual.”

Karen also seemed to be challenged by the feminine gender expectations thrust upon her. She had been a sports loving “tom-boy.” She was masculine in behavior, was a guy’s guy drummer hanging out with the band. In the early days, she crossed the stage “like a mack truck.” She literally got trained on how to present in a more feminine way. Randy stated, “I get asked this question quite often because I think nowadays people are tuned in: was she gay? … I don’t want to out anybody and didn’t want anybody to out me when I wasn’t ready so I never want to go there. What I feel comfortable talking about based upon my research with the friends of hers, that talked to me about some really intimate things, is that she was,  I guess, she struggled with the expectations of femininity.” He added, ”There was this unmet expectation from Agnes, and maybe the reason she was a little disappointed in her daughter, that Karen was not the ideal 1950s, 1960s girly girl.”

We have to wonder if the deeper understanding now, forty years later, about the non-binary, fluidity and being one’s authentic self could have saved Karen Carpenter. We will never know. What we still know, and feel, is the shock of losing her. In the documentary, Olivia Newton John, in her last on-screen interview, showed that virtually no one experienced that shock more than she. She had been literally on her way to have lunch with Karen when she heard the news of Karen’s death announced on her car radio.

Karen famously sang of asking “perfection of a quite imperfect world.” Sadly, it may have been demanding perfection of herself and how others would perceive her that ended her own world. 

She sang that all she knew of love was “how to live without it.”

Therein lies the biggest tragedy of all.  There was so much love for her, and still is, that she seemed unable to accept, from millions of hearts completely willing to love her just the way she was, as a “tom boy”, as a full-figured human being and as a cherished talent. So, to Karen, we can only sing her song back to her… and hope she hears us.

“We love you in a place where there’s no space or time

We love you for your life, you are a friend of mine

And when your life is over, remember when we were together

We were alone and you were singing this song…”From A Song for You


Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] .

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Highways Presents
Queer Film and Performances 

All events are RSVP and pay what you can & in person at HIGHWAYS PERFORMANCE SPACE, 1651 18th St, Santa Monica, CA 90404



Los Angeles Blade graphic via HIGHWAYS PERFORMANCE SPACE

Friday, February 3rd, 8:30 PM
1-900-BODY-ON-THE-LINE (curated by Celeste Kamppila)

Curator Celeste Kamppila is a multidisciplinary artist based in Los Angeles. She is best known for her music project under the name of Celeste X, formally known as Celeste XXX. Celeste blends together a bedroom pop sound with harsh distortion and siren-like melodies. Her unforgettable live performances bring to life a raw display of the feminine experience, transmuting emotions ranging from distress to sensuality. She draws inspiration from horror and sexuality which blend together to make an interesting psychodrama visual, using images of prehistoric goddess to 1980s VHS adult films. She uses many mediums that range from music, video, and performance art to SFX make-up.

Untitled, Tita Cicognani,2023 United States
Turtledove, Chantel Beam 2021 United States 5:22
Hentai and Crack Vol 1, Nastya Valentine, 2023, 14:00
The MagicianMatthew Kaundart, 2016, 8:00
Ricochet, Daviel Shy & Valerie Whitehawk, 2022, 4:00
Untitled, Peter Kalisch, 2023, United States
Permanence is Only a Word , Kayla TangeChuck HohngLuka Fisher, 2020, 4:00, United States

Saturday, February 4th, 8:30 PM
TIGHT: An exploration of the architectures of restriction (curated by Gina Young)

Confinement. Repression. Stress. TIGHT is an exploration of the architectures of restriction and how the body and soul respond. Our protagonists– many of them queer, nonbinary, trans– find themselves trapped by the limits of the gendered gaze, of memory, of the Covid-19 shelter-in-place lockdown, or of mysterious situations beyond their control. Whether they find their way to freedom or not? May vary.

gina young (she/they) is an award-winning writer, director, performer, and curator. Their stage work, screen work, and curated events have been presented nationally and internationally from The Hammer Museum and REDCAT to punk clubs and gay bars across the US and Europe. ROOM TONE, her screenwriting debut starring A League of Their Own’s Roberta Colindrez and directed by Whitney White, is currently making the film festival circuit as part of the anthology film KEEP THIS FAR APART. gina is a winner of the Jane Chambers Award for Playwriting, the Humanitas/PLAY LA Prize, and a two-time finalist for the Sherwood Award for boundary-pushing artists. Connect with gina and her production company SORORITY at or @ginagenius on Instagram.

Creature, María Silvia Esteve, 2021, 15:27, Argentina, Switzerland
Schindler House Haunting, 
jas lin, 2022, 17:00, United States
Safe at Home, Zoë DeLeon & Michelle Calderon, 2022, 4:00, United States
Room Tone, gina young, 2022, 9:00, United States
Suspension, Dulcinee DeGuere, 2022, 15:00, United States
Basic Needs, Karla Espino, 2022, 3:00, United States
Princess, Jason Vu & B Gosse,2021, 8:00, United States

Saturday, February 11th, 8:30 PM
Ecstasy and Reminiscence: Nights Out in Los Angeles (curated by Dino Dinco & Juan Fernández)

Emerging with fits and starts from a prolonged, challenging quarantine and its social isolation, we celebrate the return to sharing physical space and intimacy by reflecting on Los Angeles nightlife and live performance, particularly the richness and vibrancy that live in the margins and fringe after dark. Tonight’s works draw poignant threads that link Los Angeles dance floors, art galleries and artists, backyards, and dark rooms from the 1980s through present day, where ecstatic moments collide with mortality and for so many of us, “going out” was going home.

Pacoima Techno & Soltera 818 kick off the night with collaborative video work and live performance.

Pacoima Techno use their experience growing up in the San Fernando Valley, specifically Pacoima, as the basis for their music, live performance, and community organizing. In addition to creating sultry, hard-edged dance music, Soltera 818 is the host of the online radio program Todo O Nada centralizing the roots and influences of electronic music across genres while featuring underrepresented artists globally and locally.

A screening of Artbound: Mustache Mondays (directed by Marianne Amelinckx, 2021, PBS), 55 min.
“See how a roving LGBTQ night club event in Los Angeles called Mustache Mondays became a creative incubator for today’s leading edge contemporary artists. This film examines the history of these spaces and how they shaped the Queer cultural fabric unique to Southern California.” – PBS

A new performance work by Creepypasta Puttanesca (aka Alice Cunt):
“Creepypasta Puttanesca is a dish best paid for in advance as she is a hearty serving of a hauntingly delectable specter of the digital realm, a finger-licking ghost in the machine that comes with a complimentary order of all you can eat breadsticks and side salad. Beverage sold separately.” – Creepypasta

An installation by the anonymously run social media account Noche de Jotiar, highlighting “joteadas y pendejadas estílo Los Ángeles.”
The installation features a collection of candid photos and video (many of them previously unshared) along with flyers and music from inside and around queer Latinx/e nightlife in Los Angeles dating from the late 1980s to 2000s. The collection includes photos taken at Hollywood’s Circus Disco, Arena Cafe, and backyard T-parties around the greater Los Angeles area.


Dino Dinco is a film and theater director, performance art curator and maker, writer, and lecturer in the Department of Visual Arts at UC San Diego. Based in Tijuana, México, his work has been exhibited in solo exhibitions in Paris, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, in group shows internationally, and is included in the collection of Le Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain de Haute-Normandie, France, as well as private collections in Paris, Antwerp, Brussels, Los Angeles, Barcelona, New York and London.

Dinco’s first feature length documentary film, Homeboy, explores gay Latino men who were in gangs. His award-winning short film, El Abuelo, with San Antonio poet Joe Jiménez, premiered at the Tate Modern, has screened internationally, and is included in the online LGBTQ film platform, Frameline Voices. Dinco co-founded You Wear it Well (2006-2008), the first traveling international film festival dedicated to short films on fashion.

He was a Consulting Producer on the Fall 2021 installment of KCET’s Artbound documentary film series which profiled the itinerant Downtown Los Angeles queer dance party, Mustache Mondays (2007 – 2018), of which Dinco was a co-founder.

Juan Antonio Fernández (He/Him) is a media scholar, cultural producer, and educator.  Juan has recently relocated to Los Angeles and has produced theater, art installations and performance in New York, Oakland, and San Francisco.

1651 18th St, Santa Monica, CA 90404

Info at
All events are Pay what you can with an RSVP

Fri-Sat. February 3-4 & Sat. February 11
BEHOLD! Queer Film and Performance Series, curated by Gina Young, Celeste Kamppila, Dino Dinco, and Juan Fernandez, featuring performance and multiple feature and shorts programs that showcase works from and about the LGBTQ+ and Latinx communities spread over three curated categories.

Friday, February 3rd 8:30 pm
1-900-BODY-ON-THE-LINE (curated by Celeste Kamppila)
An exploration into the nuanced realm of fantasy, love, and validation from the POV of todays’ “public enemy” – the outcast, sex worker/symbol, the working artist, the queer.

Saturday, February 4th 8:30 pm
TIGHT: An exploration of the architectures of restriction (curated by Gina Young)
Confinement. Repression. Stress. TIGHT is an exploration of the architectures of restriction and how the body and soul respond.

Saturday, February 11th 8:30 pm
Ecstasy and Reminiscence: Nights Out in Los Angeles (curated by Dino Dinco & Juan Fernández)
Los Angeles dance floors, art galleries and artists, backyards, and dark rooms from the 1980s through present day, where ecstatic moments collide with mortality and for so many of us, “going out” was going home.
Full Festival Schedule and descriptions available at
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“Learn With Love:” A film full of trans joy and acceptance

This documentary is the 1st short film co-produced by The Trevor Project, the leading suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ+ young people



Kristen and Kaiden courtesy of The Trevor Project

LOS ANGELES – Could a new film be the antidote to the venomous anti-transgender laws and bills spreading across America? In Learn With Love, three young trans people share compelling stories about how they found love and affirmation from adults who struggled with acceptance. 

Trans man Kaiden and his mother Kristen traced their difficult journey with the filmmakers on the day he celebrated his 21st birthday. “How in the world could you know that you wanted to be a man at three and four years old?” says Kristen. She said she recognized her child was a tomboy, because she was, too.  

But over time, this Michigan mom from Nashville realized Kaiden was exactly who he told her he was, and what she needed to do: “Learn, support and most important, love.” 

This documentary short film is the first piece of content co-produced by The Trevor Project, the leading suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ+ young people. The nonprofit calls it a new content strategy aimed at raising public awareness of the experiences of trans youth and their families, and an investment in a campaign to counter misinformation and help change hearts and minds.

“Our goal is to develop content that amplifies the human experience and ultimately helps foster deeper understanding and acceptance of LGBTQ young people among the general public,” says Megan Stowe, head of content at The Trevor Project and Director of Learn with Love, which was filmed in Los Angeles and produced in collaboration with IMPOSTER, a boutique production company. “This film is just the beginning of a larger content series we have planned, and we hope that this new way of storytelling will be a powerful force in shifting public perception and drawing more allies and advocates to our critical work.”

In Learn With Love’s brief running time of 28 minutes, viewers also meet Lyndon, a trans man whose family turned their backs on him, taken in by Danny, pastor of a conservative Christian church in Southern California. 

“I was taught that God created male and female,” says Danny. “That when someone is born either male or female, that’s God’s original intent and God doesn’t make mistakes.” Danny says his church would “pray the gay away” if someone admitted to a same-sex attraction, and set up a fund for conversion therapy, which has been outlawed in California since 2012. 

But the pastor says hosting this introspective, kind and caring individual who at one point considered suicide forced him to reject stereotypes and re-evaluate everything he knew. 

“Jesus says the greatest commandment is to love God and love neighbor. If loving God and loving neighbor is the greatest commandment, then that means the opposite of that, to not love is the worst sin,” says Danny. “It dawned on me, I was the one that was committing sin. I was the one that was committing harm.” 

“To have him tell me, ‘You are loved exactly as you are and God loves you,’ I can’t put it into words, honestly,” says Lyndon, who called Danny and his wife’s invitation to live with them “very powerful,” and “mind-blowing.”

Lyndon and Pastor Danny courtesy of The Trevor Project

“Seven in ten Americans have never met a transgender person, and it can be hard for them to distinguish between stereotypes that saturate today’s national discourse and what it really means to be transgender,” says Kasey Suffredini, vice president of advocacy and government affairs at The Trevor Project. “More than 230 anti-LGBTQ bills have already been introduced in 2023. This harsh, stigmatizing political climate only raises the stakes to protect transgender youth, who are already marginalized. When Americans learn their stories, they are moved to support them. In a time of increasing polarization, Learn with Love captures three beautiful stories and shows the power of one-on-one connection to overcome misinformation and change hearts and minds.”

The third subject of Learn With Love is effervescent pre-teen Skyler Morrison, a trans girl whose grandfather spent a weekend getting to know her, and reconnecting with Skyler’s dad, his son, Andrew, after a long separation. 

Grandad Tom Morrison is asked by the filmmakers when he started to accept Skyler for who she is. “Yesterday,” he says, crediting The Trevor Project’s invitation to spend a weekend together: “Because otherwise it probably wouldn’t have happened,” says Tom, who admits to being embarrassed. “We have not been together for six years, and it may have been longer than that. It’s been a waste.” The film captures the moment he apologizes to Skyler, and her response.

Skyler, Andrew and Tom Morrison courtesy of The Trevor Project

With the headlines each and every day dwelling on the persistent barriers that so many transgender young people face, the makers of this documentary focus on the breakthroughs and the significance of openness, education, and love. 

Learn With Love: Trailer

If you or someone you know is feeling hopeless or suicidal, trained crisis counselors at The Trevor Project are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat, or by texting 678678.

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Academy honors queer films but omits queer talent

Mixed bag of nominees as heterosexual actors playing gay win nods



Courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

LOS ANGELES – The race for Oscar — Hollywood’s favorite sport — officially began Tuesday morning, when past winner Riz Ahmed and “M3gan” actress Allison Williams appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” to announce the list of nominees for the 95th Academy Awards.

As always, that list was mostly comprised of established favorites, boosted by the momentum gained from wins and nominations for other film awards, with a few inevitable snubs and surprises thrown into the mix just to keep things interesting.

From a movie-lover’s perspective, the Academy’s final ballot reflects a year that has yielded a better-than-average crop of films, even as post-pandemic box office numbers skewed away from the kind of “prestige” movies that usually win Oscars. With plenty of deserving front-runners among the nominees, cinema buffs will have plenty of worthy choices to root for when the Academy Awards presentation airs on March 12.

Looking at the nominations through a queer eye, on the other hand, there’s not much to get excited about. But let’s focus on the good news first.

Among the movies nominated for Best Picture, several include LGBTQ characters and storylines. In “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” the popular indie sci-fi comedy that received the most nods (11) of any movie in the pack, the fate of the multiverse hinges on – among other things – a woman’s ability to acknowledge and affirm her daughter’s queer sexuality; the controversial but acclaimed “Tár” is built around Cate Blanchett’s consummate performance as an acclaimed lesbian symphony director accused of sexual misconduct, and features numerous queer characters among the supporting cast; “Women Talking,” Sarah Polley’s powerful drama about victims of sexual assault in a Mennonite colony, includes a transmasculine character (portrayed by nonbinary actor August Winter) in a small but crucial role.

In addition, “Elvis” was helmed by queer director Baz Luhrmann, who snagged a nomination as one of the film’s producers; and “The Fabelmans” was co-written by out gay screenwriter Tony Kushner, who likewise gained a nod as producer as well as sharing a nomination for Best Original Screenplay with Steven Spielberg.

Cate Blanchett stars in ‘Tár’ (Image courtesy of Focus Features)

As for the acting categories, a handful of performers earned nominations for playing LGBTQ-identifying characters. Blanchett, in “Tár,” is seen as a shoo-in for Best Actress; similarly, first-time nominee Brendan Fraser, whose “comeback” performance as an obese gay man consumed by grief and regret after the death of his partner in “The Whale” gained almost universal praise despite controversies surrounding the movie itself, is a strong contender among a slate of other first-timers in the Best Actor race.

‘The Whale’ with Brendan Fraser (Image courtesy of A24)

Stephanie Hsu, who portrays the above-mentioned lesbian daughter in “Everything,” also became a first-time Oscar nominee, for Best Supporting Actress; lastly, though it might be a bit of a cheat, it’s worth mentioning that “Everything” also depicts – quite memorably – versions of the characters played by Best Actress nominee Michelle Yeoh and Best Supporting Actress nominee Jamie Lee Curtis as [SPOILER ALERT] a same-sex couple in an alternate universe.

Ke Huy Quan, Jamie Lee Curtis and Michele Yeoh in EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE
(Image courtesy of A24)

Other notably queer-inclusive films in the overall Oscar lineup include: “Close,” directed by filmmaker Lukas Dhont, a Belgian coming-of age drama nominated for Best International Feature; “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” the comedy crime caper sequel that confirms the queerness of detective Benoit Blanc (played by Daniel Craig), earned writer-director Rian Johnson a nod for Best Adapted Screenplay; “Babylon,” Damien Chazelle’s ambitious ensemble drama about 1920s Hollywood, which was snubbed in the “major” categories but earned nominations for Justin Hurwitz’s original score and its costume and production designs; and incredibly enough, “Top Gun: Maverick,” which scored multiple nominations including Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay, makes the inclusion list through the involvement of queer ally Lady Gaga, who is co-nominated (with BloodPop) for writing Best Original Song contender “Hold My Hand.”

While the inclusiveness in some cases could be perhaps described as marginal, at best, and none of the nominated titles are predominantly queer focused, it’s still heartening to see a crop of widely varied films in which an LGBTQ presence is not only visible, but normalized, almost routine. That’s a far cry from 2006, when the high-profile nominations and wins for “Brokeback Mountain” provoked outrage and outcry among industry old-timers. Progress has clearly been made.

Unfortunately, while the Academy has clearly become more comfortable with movies that allow queer people to exist on the screen at all, it’s still prone to some of its old habits – and this year’s nominations underscore the importance of keeping up pressure on the Hollywood establishment to prevent backsliding. In recent years, LGBTQ-themed films and out queer performers have increasingly been part of the party on Oscar night, with movies like “Moonlight,” “Call Me By Your Name,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Rocket Man” and more emerging as major contenders and, in some cases, even taking home the prize; but this year, the roster is frustratingly straight.

This is most telling in the acting categories, where – true to what has become a long-standing Oscar tradition, at this point – none of the nominees, including those playing LGBTQ characters, identify as queer. There’s no argument against the worthiness of Blanchett, Fraser, or Hsu, each of whom does superb work and deserves recognition for it; what is more pertinent is the omission of actual LGBTQ people from the roster, like Janelle Monáe of “Glass Onion” or Jeremy Pope of “The Inspection,” whose much-lauded 2022 performances put them high on the short list for Academy recognition.

The LGBTQ community is not the only one with reason to be disappointed. After two consecutive years of being won by women, the Best Director category is once again made up entirely of heterosexual men; female filmmaker Polley, despite the Best Picture nod for “Women Talking,” failed to make the cut – though she did pick up a writing nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Recognition for people of color also took a step backward. This is particularly notable in the acting categories, where only two Black performers – Angela Bassett (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”) and Brian Tyree Henry (“Causeway”), for Best Supporting Actress and Actor, respectively – received nominations. Among the year’s potential nominees were snubbed powerhouses like Viola Davis (“The Woman King”), Danielle Deadwyler (“Till”), Gabrielle Union (“The Inspection”), as well as the aforementioned Pope and Monaé, any of whom might have helped to even the balance.

Don’t get us wrong; there are plenty of reasons to be happy with this year’s Oscar contest, not the least of which is the element of surprise – though there are definite favorites, there are no clear winners in most of the categories. Returning to our focus on the positive, there’s a strong showing of Asian-American nominees in the mix, thanks to “Everything,” and it’s worth adding that, with queer-inclusive films scoring high in total nominations, some of them are sure to win – and that will give us ample reason to celebrate.

It won’t keep us, however, from expecting Oscar to do better next year. Until then, don’t be surprised if this stumble on the road to real LGBTQ equality in the movies spawns a new hashtag: #OscarsSoStraight.

The complete list of Oscar nominations is below:

Best picture

– “All Quiet on the Western Front”

– “Avatar: The Way of Water”

– “The Banshees of Inisherin”

– “Elvis”

– “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

– “The Fabelmans”

– “Tár”

– “Top Gun: Maverick”

– “Triangle of Sadness”

– “Women Talking”

Best director

– Martin McDonagh, “The Banshees of Inisherin”

– Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

– Steven Spielberg, “The Fabelmans”

– Todd Field, “Tár”

– Ruben Östlund, “Triangle of Sadness”

Best actor

– Austin Butler, “Elvis”

– Colin Farrell, “The Banshees of Inisherin”

– Brendan Fraser, “The Whale”

– Paul Mescal, “Aftersun”

– Bill Nighy, “Living”

Best actress

– Cate Blanchett, “Tár”

– Ana de Armas, “Blonde”

– Andrea Riseborough, “To Leslie”

– Michelle Williams, “The Fabelmans”

– Michelle Yeoh, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Best supporting actor

– Brendan Gleeson, “The Banshees of Inisherin”

– Brian Tyree Henry, “Causeway”

– Judd Hirsch, “The Fabelmans”

– Barry Keoghan, “The Banshees of Inisherin”

– Ke Huy Quan, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Best supporting actress

– Angela Bassett, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”
– Hong Chau, “The Whale”
– Kerry Condon, “The Banshees of Inisherin”
– Jamie Lee Curtis, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
– Stephanie Hsu, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Best original screenplay

– “The Banshees of Inisherin,” Martin McDonagh

– “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert

– “The Fabelmans,” Tony Kushner and Steven Spielberg

– “Tár,” Todd Field

– “Triangle of Sadness,” Ruben Östlund

Best adapted screenplay

– “All Quiet on the Western Front,” Edward Berger, Lesley Paterson and Ian Stokell

– “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” Rian Johnson

– “Living,” Kazuo Ishiguro

– “Top Gun: Maverick,” Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie, story by Peter Craig and Justin Marks

– “Women Talking,” Sarah Polley

Best cinematography

– “All Quiet on the Western Front”

– “Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths”

– “Elvis”

– “Empire of Light”

– “Tár”

Best international feature film

– “All Quiet on the Western Front” (Germany)

– “Argentina, 1985” (Argentina)

– “Close” (Belgium)

– “EO” (Poland)

– “The Quiet Girl” (Ireland)

Best documentary feature film

– “All That Breathes”

– “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed”

– “Fire of Love”

– “A House Made of Splinters”

– “Navalny”

Best animated feature film

– “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”

– “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On”

– “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish”

– “The Sea Beast”

– “Turning Red”

Best live action short film

– “An Irish Goodbye”

– “Ivalu”

– “Le Pupille”

– “Night Ride”

– “The Red Suitcase”

Best documentary short film

– “The Elephant Whisperers”

– “Haulout”

– “How Do You Measure a Year?”

– “The Martha Mitchell Effect”

– “Stranger at the Gate”

Best animated short film

– “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse”

– “The Flying Sailor”

– “Ice Merchants”

– “My Year of Dicks”

– “An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It”

Best original score

– “All Quiet on the Western Front”

– “Babylon”

– “The Banshees of Inisherin”

– “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

– “The Fabelmans”

Best original song

– “Applause” from “Tell It like a Woman”

– “Hold My Hand” from “Top Gun: Maverick”

– “Lift Me Up” from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”

– “Naatu Naatu” from “RRR”

– “This Is A Life” from “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Best film editing

– “The Banshees of Inisherin”

– “Elvis”

– “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

– “Tár”

– “Top Gun: Maverick”

Best production design

– “All Quiet on the Western Front”

– “Avatar: The Way of Water”

– “Babylon”

– “Elvis”

– “The Fabelmans”

Best costume design

– “Babylon”

– “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”

– “Elvis”

– “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

– “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris”

Best makeup and hairstyling

– “All Quiet on the Western Front”

– “The Batman”

– “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”

– “Elvis”

– “The Whale”

Best sound

– “All Quiet on the Western Front”

– “Avatar: The Way of Water”

– “The Batman”

– “Elvis”

– “Top Gun: Maverick”

Best visual effects

– “All Quiet on the Western Front”

– “Avatar: The Way of Water”

– “The Batman”

– “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”

– “Top Gun: Maverick”

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The ‘Spoiler’ is you’re going to cry

Films like these don’t play their big moments for drama, or even for laughs, to keep us involved – they play for truth



Jim Parsons and Ben Aldridge star in SPOILER ALERT - image courtesy Focus Features

It’s been a refreshing year for LGBTQ love stories on the screen. From “Fire Island” to “Bros,” from “Crush” to “Anything’s Possible,” we’ve seen narratives that offer up hopeful and positive alternatives to the gloomy outcomes presented by movies of the past. Instead of stories that reinforce the tired trope of doomed queer romance, we’re finally seeing ourselves get the same chance at a happily-ever-after ending as everybody else. 

It’s been a welcome change – but just when Hollywood finally seems to have finally figured out that all our relationships don’t have to end in tragedy, “Spoiler Alert” has come along to remind us that sometimes they still do.

Based on the best-selling memoir by Michael Ausiello (“Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies”) and directed by Michael Showalter from a screenplay by David Marshall Grant and gay blogger/author/pundit Dan Savage, it’s the true story of a couple (Ausiello and his eventual husband, photographer Kit Cowan) who find love and build a relationship over the course of more than a decade only to face the heartbreak of Kit’s diagnosis of – and his (SPOILER ALERT, hence the title) premature passing from – a rare form of terminal cancer. Though It’s not exactly a rom-com, it does try to keep things light-hearted, and it aims for the uplift despite its foregone tragic conclusion.

That’s a tough tightrope to walk. The book, penned by veteran television and entertainment journalist Ausiello, pulled it off successfully, becoming a bestseller – and not just among queer readers – with its warts-and-all celebration of what it truly means to commit to love. After all, we may adore our fairy tale fantasies, but we all know that even a couple’s best-case scenario is guaranteed a sad ending; Ausiello’s first-person written narrative managed to get the point across that it’s all worth it, anyway.

Sometimes, though, a literary device that works on the page doesn’t translate easily to the screen, and on film, Ausiello’s “we-already-know-the-outcome” premise faces a more resistant challenge.

In the first act of the film, which details the meeting and early romance of its two lead characters (Jim Parsons and Ben Aldridge as Michael and Kit, respectively), our knowledge of the ending becomes an obstacle. This may be particularly true for more jaded viewers, who are apt to be keenly aware of the emotional payoffs being set up in advance. Heartwarming moments can easily come off as deliberate, even manufactured, and one might sense an obvious bid to force our identification with the characters in the movie’s deployment of all the standard “new gay relationship” tropes. In reading, it’s easy to personalize such universal moments through our own imaginations, which can fill in the spaces (and the faces) in a way that rings true for us. On film (this film, at least), such communally identifiable experiences run the risk of feeling manipulative: a little too perfect, a little too pat, a little too “meet-cute,“ and a little too… well, precious.

The dissonance between formulaic fantasy and genuine lived experience is sometimes made even more obtrusive by occasional flashbacks to Michael’s childhood, framed as excerpts from an imagined 90’s sitcom, which distance us further from the story – a stylistic ploy which seems intended to keep the tone of the narrative as far from tragic as possible.

When it’s time to get real, however, Showalter’s film lands on more solid ground. Once the blissful “happy-ever-after” couple-hood of the two men is established, the movie takes us into deeper, more mature – and therefore, less predictable – territory. Things don’t end up being perfect in Michael and Kit’s ostensible lover’s paradise: jealousies, self-esteem issues, and the inevitable individual growth that sometimes drives wedges between us in our relationships take their toll. As any successful long-term couple – queer or otherwise – is bound to discover, relationships take a lot of work, and seeing the two protagonists confront that seldom-told part of the story goes a long way toward making their experience more relatable for those who are looking for more than mere aspirational fantasy.

So, too, does the acting from the two leads. Parsons, who struggles against the obvious artificiality of playing against being two-decades-too-old in the film’s earlier scenes, blossoms once the story moves ahead in time to deliver an emotionally brave and affectingly authentic portrait of a man overcoming the baggage of his awkward and socially isolated youth (there’s a Smurf addiction involved, need we say more?) and finding the resilience to weather a battle for his lover’s life. Aldridge, a Brit flawlessly playing American, is perhaps even better – not that it needs to be a competition – as Kit, whose easy-going self-esteem masks a world of unresolved insecurities and makes an almost-too-good-to-be-true character endearingly real; perhaps more importantly, the emotional journey he’s tasked with portraying requires an absolute dedication to unornamented truth, and he delivers it impeccably.

It helps that the two actors, who carry most of the movie’s running time, have a convincingly natural chemistry together that gradually persuades us to invest in these characters even if we had resisted becoming invested in them before. Bolstering the emotional solidity even further is the presence of seasoned pros Sally Field and Bill Irwin as Kit’s parents, who deepen this not-as-clueless-as-they-seem pair beyond the familiar stereotype they represent and raise them above the easy sentimentality they might otherwise have carried into the story’s already-poignant mix. 

These considerable advantages are enough to help us forgive the movie’s contrived expository beginnings, though its ongoing sitcom conceit for childhood flashbacks – as well as its occasional fourth-wall-breaking interruptions from Michael’s TV obsessed imagination – continue to feel a little gimmicky, especially after the plot has passed the point where such amusements are welcome or even necessary.

Still, the movie’s fortunate choice to play against its tearjerker underpinnings – such as when it undercuts a particularly histrionic scene of hospital drama by calling itself out on its own shameless nod (which any gay movie buff will surely already recognize) to an iconic moment from a cinema classic – keeps the tears which finally come from feeling as though they’ve been shamelessly manipulated out of us. It’s this quality that marks the best entries in the tearjerker genre; the thing that movies like “Terms of Endearment” and “Steel Magnolia” have in common (besides Shirley MacLaine) is their ability to lean fully into the artifice of their own weepy, sentimental style without sacrificing the sincerity of their emotional payoffs. Films like these don’t play their big moments for drama, or even for laughs, to keep us involved – they play those moments for truth. “Spoiler Alert” clearly aspires to the same standard.

It mostly succeeds, after an awkward start; though some viewers might find its quirkier narrative conceits to be an overcompensation for its weepy ending, its characters are real enough to get past all that and win us over. And though it’s hard to deny that it’s ultimately another tragic gay love story, it manages to remind us that love is worth it even when you know it’s going to end badly.

After all, just because a romance is doomed doesn’t mean it has to be a downer.

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Powerful queer films from across the globe ignite AFI Fest 2022

AFI FEST 2022 takes place November 2-6, 2022 & features groundbreaking stories from a wide array of dynamic and diverse artists



Los Angeles Blade graphic

LOS ANGELES – AFI Fest returns to Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatres this week, bringing its usual intoxicating blend of glitzy red carpet premieres (like The Fabelmans and She Said), special screenings of buzzy Oscar contenders (like Women Talking), and the best and boldest in indie filmmaking from all corners of the planet.

Spanning continents, identities, genres, and themes, the cream of this year’s indie movie crop comes to Los Angeles

Kicking off on Wednesday, November 2 with the world premiere of Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me, the festival will run through Sunday, November 6, showcasing some 125 films from more than 30 countries along the way—including a very healthy mix of LGBTQ+-themed content, often in its first public appearance in Los Angeles, and usually accompanied by post-screening conversations with directors and stars.

Call Me by Your Name’s director-actor power-pairing of Luca Guadagnino and Timothée Chalamet returns with the cannibalistic road trip love story Bones and All, which has been hailed by Mashable as “the next great queer horror movie,” at least metaphorically. The film also stars Taylor Russell, with a chilling supporting appearance by Mark Rylance. Guadagnino and Russell will be present for a Q&A following its special AFI Fest showing on November 5.

Another director quite familiar to contemporary queer film audiences is Belgium’s Lukas Dhont, who garnered both praise and outrage for his 2018 film Girl, the tale of a teenage trans ballet dancer who goes to excruciating lengths to perfect her young body. Dhont returns this year with Close, the story of a pair of 13-year-old boys whose affectionate friendship for one another is torn asunder after they’re targeted by school bullies. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Close is also Belgium’s Best International Feature entry for the 2023 Academy Awards. Dhont will appear for a Q&A after the film’s November 5 screening.

‘CLOSE’ Photo Credit: AFI Fest

In Andrea Pallaoro’s Monica, Transparent‘s Trace Lysette stars in the title role as a masseuse whose lengthy estrangement from her family comes to an end after her mother (the always fantastic Patricia Clarkson) approaches death, gradually leading to the rewiring of their long-tense relationship. Pallaoro, Lysette and Clarkson will all take part in the Q&A after the film’s November 6 screening, along with producer Christina Dow.

‘MONICA’ Photo Credit: AFI Fest

From Pakistan comes Joyland, the story of an aimless young man whose life is transformed (as well as the lives of his entire family) after he takes a job as a backup performer in an ensemble led by a trans dancer Biba. Appearing at AFI Fest in its U.S. premiere, Joyland took the top prize in the Un Certain Regard section of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and is Pakistan’s Best International Feature entry for the 2023 Oscars. Director Saim Sadiq and producer Apoorva Guru Charan will take part in a conversation after the film’s November 5 screening.

‘JOYLAND’ Photo Credit: AFI Fest

Lesbian film lovers will delight in the latest from French actor Adèle Exarchopoulos (from 2013’s iconic Blue Is the Warmest Color), who appears as the mother of a young girl with strange olfactory powers in the genre-bending The Five Devils. The girl’s powers kick into overdrive when her long-gone aunt returns to town and family secrets are revealed.

‘THE FIVE DEVILS’ Photo Credit: AFI Fest

Exploring the complicated and uneasy relationships between Tahiti’s indigenous population, European tourists, and the Polynesian island’s French military presence, the hypnotic thriller Pacifiction focuses on the developing bond between a French bureaucrat and a third gender Tahitian choreographer. Director Albert Serra will appear in a Q&A after the film’s November 4 screening.

‘PACIFICTION’ Photo Credit: AFI Fest

Blurring the lines of documentary and fiction, Dry Ground Burning (Mato seco em chamas) tells the story of two sisters who lead a notorious all-girl gas-stealing biker gang in central Brazil. Joana Pimenta (who co-directed with Adirley Queirós) will take part in a Q&A after the film’s November 3 showing.

Adding interactivity to his experimentation, director Sam Green presents 32 Sounds, an immersive audio tour of the history of sound science and experimental music, featuring original compositions by queer music darling JD Samson. Headphones will be provided for this special binaural screening on November 4, which will be followed by a Q&A with Green.

On an even more experimental tip, the German film Piaffe tells the story of introverted Berliner Eva, who takes over a sound effects job for her sister when the latter is committed to a psychiatric hospital, only to begin growing a horsetail from her body that unleashes newfound confidence and a sensual awakening.

‘PIAFFE’ Photo Credit: AFI Fest

Several shorts at this year’s AFI Fest also have LGBTQ+ themes, including the excellent Barbara Hammer biography Love, Barbara (screening as part of Shorts Program 1 on November 5); the North American premiere of Portuguese trans love story An Avocado Pit (Um caroço de abacate, screening as part of Shorts Program 5 on November 5); and the ambiguous Israeli romance Colony Collapse Disorder (הפרעת התמוטטות המושבה, screening as part of Shorts Program 4 on November 5).

Also on tap at this year’s AFI Fest is a special showing of the sweet 2012 female coming-of-age movie Mosquita y Mari, as part of festival Guest Artist Director Ava DuVernay’s showcase of women filmmakers. Director Aurora Guerrero and stars Venecia Troncoso and Fenessa Pineda will take part in a rare Q&A after the film’s November 5 screening.

MOSQUITA Y MARI’ Photo Credit: AFI Fest

For tickets and complete info about this year’s AFI Fest, head to

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Academy Museum to screen classic doc about anti-LGBTQ violence

LGBTQ+ individuals continue to be targeted for violence in our society, no matter how far they’ve come in the fight for acceptance & equality



Arthur Dong and Robert Shepard during shooting of Licensed to Kill (Photo by Angi Rosga)

LOS ANGELES – Late last week, trans woman Nikai David was shot dead in Oakland, California, becoming the 50th known victim of fatal violence against the trans, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming community in the United States.

In Los Angeles County, last year saw a 20% increase in hate crimes; among those, crimes motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation increased by 17%, and 84% of those targeted gay men.

With statistics like that, it’s clear that LGBTQ+ individuals continue to be targeted for violence in our society, no matter how far we may have come in our fight for acceptance and equality. It’s important – perhaps more important than ever – to raise awareness in the community about this issue, and that’s why the timing is perfect for the Academy Museum’s upcoming public screening of “Licensed to Kill”, Arthur Dong’s groundbreaking 1997 documentary about anti-LGBTQ violence and the people who perpetrate it.

The final installment of the Museum’s screening series, “Sound Off: A Celebration of Women Composers,” the film takes a riveting journey into the minds of men whose hatred of homosexuality led them to commit murder. Attacked 20 years ago by gay bashers on the streets of San Francisco, filmmaker Arthur Dong took his camera behind bars to confront seven different murderers of gay men, face-to-face, and ask them directly: “Why did you do it?”

The answers vary; one young man claims he justifiably killed as protection from his victim’s sexual advances, a defense known as “homosexual panic”; another was triggered by childhood abuse which lead him to fear a “loss of manhood”; others acted out of internalized homophobia, or anger over “gays in the military,” or simply because they were looking for “easy prey”.

“Licensed to Kill”, which won Dong the Best Director prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 1997, offers an uncompromising investigation into the roots of anti-gay violence, filtered through the eyes of the murderers themselves. Examining the social, political and cultural environments of these men, it questions whether society itself had given them a “license to kill”, through the interviews and videotaped confessions from the perpetrators, news reports, court footage, police files, home and police videos of anti-gay violence, and more..

Additionally, the screening caps off a series of films celebrating women composers. The score for “Licensed to Kill” was composed by out-Lesbian composer Miriam Cutler, who also scored the LGBTQ themed films “Vito”, “Chris & Don”, “Pandemic: Facing AIDS”, and “Scout’s Honor”. In addition, she has scored award-winning documentaries “The Hunting Ground”, “Love, Gilda”, and “RBG”. 

More info on Miriam can be found on“Licensed to Kill” screens in the Ted Mann Theater at the Academy Museum, 6067 Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, on December 14 at 7:30 PM.

Tickets can be purchased at the Museum’s website.

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‘Mayor Pete’ emerges as a likable enigma in new doc

An early snapshot of a history-making figure in the making



‘Mayor Pete’ is out now via Amazon. (Image courtesy Amazon)

LOS ANGELES – For reasons that should be obvious, it’s difficult for a filmmaker to avoid adopting a subjective stance in a political documentary. Many such movies have a tendency to feel like they’ve crossed the line between journalism and propaganda, which may not seem like such a bad thing to a viewer who is on the same “side, but can be infuriating to those whose political ideas run in the opposite direction. It goes with the territory.

Amazon’s much-touted “Mayor Pete,” which drops on Prime Nov. 12, is bound to incur those kinds of reactions from its audience, even though it makes an effort to avoid the kind of divisive politicizing that now seems like business as usual.

After all, it is the story of the first openly gay man, who is both a millennial and a Democrat, to become a serious contender for the office of president of the United States. Depending on where you stand with regard to the plethora of potentially thorny issues raised by those circumstances, you’re undoubtedly going to have strong feelings about this movie, one way or another.

Filmed over the course of a year by a film crew granted unprecedented access to Pete Buttigieg (as well as his husband Chasten and his ambitious young staff) on the campaign trail, it offers a briskly paced profile of the titular candidate during his bid for the Oval Office, from throwing his hat in the ring to his victory in the Iowa primary and beyond, culminating in his historic appointment by eventual winner Joseph Biden as Secretary of Transportation.

It’s a chronicle that will be fresh and familiar to the many viewers who undoubtedly followed it in real time, and one that we know will take a disappointing turn before the triumphant twist in which America gets its very first out Senate-confirmed LGBTQ Cabinet member.

What makes it more than merely a left-leaning rehash of recent events, however, is the way director Jesse Moss takes a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal with a presidential hopeful — and his steadfastly supportive husband — and turns it into a springboard for a wider contemplation of Buttigieg and his place in American political history.

Through extensive interviews conducted over the course of the candidacy with both Pete and Chasten, we are allowed to get to know them both at a far more intimate level than we are usually allowed with political figures; this is enhanced and illuminated by behind-the-scenes footage, which provide us with in-the-moment glimpses of them each in action that perhaps tell us as much or more about who they really are than anything they say or show us in the controlled environment of their interviews; finally, through the inevitable exploration of Buttigieg’s status as a gay man and the impact (or lack of it) that has on his viability as a candidate, we get a snapshot of an American culture at a time when it is perhaps more accepting and evolved around the subject of sexuality than anyone really expected — despite the occasional purveyors of virulent homophobia who predictably turn up to spout their bigotry every chance they get.

While it’s always interesting to gauge public reaction to an out-and-proud public figure (particularly when that public figure is able to arrive at a place where the American presidency is almost within his grasp), what is most fascinating about “Mayor Pete” is Mayor Pete himself.

His face, his voice, and his famously hard-to-pronounce name may already be familiar, but here we are given a fuller and more detailed view. The man that emerges for us is a bit of an enigma, a light-hearted stoic who exudes sincerity even as he fine tunes the optics of his public image with his team, but somehow that manages to make him even more compellingly charismatic.

After all, before he ever ran for any office he was a real American hero, a military veteran whose tour of duty clearly helped to shape what he would become. His entire manner belies his background; his respect, his sense of duty, his patriotism, unflappability and get-it-done determination — all these are the hallmarks of a former soldier. He even carries himself like a soldier.

Unfortunately, though, the self-assured calmness born of Buttigieg’s military service proved to be an issue that, as the documentary reveals, became an issue that would plague him throughout his bid to become the youngest American president in history.

His even-tempered demeanor was interpreted by many as coldness, an emotional distance that made it difficult for would-be supporters to connect with him. Worse, his compassionate idealism was seen by seasoned politicos as too good to be true, and some suggested that his inspirational rhetoric was ultimately just a disguise designed to conceal a lack of substantive policy ideas.

Watching Buttigieg through the candid lens of Moss’ profile, it’s easy to see how someone with a cynical bent might draw such conclusions; there’s something about his careful, contemplative discourse that suggests things hidden below the surface.

Yet at the same time, as the film (and his quest for victory) progresses, there’s a cumulative effect that reinforces the first impression served up by his infectious blend of old-fashioned optimism and forward-thinking ideology and makes it difficult to believe he is anything less than authentic.

Rather, we get the sense that he is evolving as he goes, holding back his deepest thoughts because he himself is still weighing and considering them, and that he is taking us with him on the journey as he goes. The end point may be uncertain, but we somehow seem to know he’s on the right track.

Pete is not the only Buttigieg in the movie, however, and his husband Chasten comes close to stealing the show from him, matching him every step of the way in terms of positivity and dedication, and adding to the mix the kind of steadfast support that any man — or any person at all, for that matter — dreams of having from their spouse.

Best of all, Moss gives us several quiet, fly-on-the-wall scenes that show the tenderness of their connection, the strength of their bond, and the thrill of their love for each other. They are, quite simply, an adorable couple, and they go a long way in the film (as they continue to do in real time) toward erasing old prejudices and assumptions about gay relationships that, sadly, still linger in the imagination of social conservatives and religious fundamentalists who are too caught up in their fear of change to see the beauty in two human beings loving each other that completely.

In the end, the greatest value of “Mayor Pete” may eventually be as an early snapshot of a political giant in the making, depending on Buttigieg’s future career trajectory, of course. In the meantime, though, it’s a thoughtful, personable, and — yes, I’ll say it — inspiring look at Buttigieg as a man, rather than a phenomenon or a political event.

And somehow, it makes it even clearer that he is all of these things at once.

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NBC Universal cancels Golden Globe awards broadcast for 2022

NBC Universal announced the network would not broadcast the 2022 Golden Globes awards ceremony



Screenshot NBC coverage of the Golden Globes from previous years on YouTube

BURBANK – In the wake of an in-depth investigation into the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the organization responsible for the Golden Globes by the Los Angeles Times, which revealed a lack of racial diversity among its voting members and various other ethical concerns, NBC Universal announced Monday the network would not broadcast the 2022 Golden Globes ceremony.

This past February ahead of the HFPA’s 78th Annual Golden Globes ceremony, HFPA board chair Meher Tatna told Variety magazine that the organization that the organization of international journalists which covers the film, television, and entertainment industry has not had any Black members in at least 20 years.

Actor Sterling K. Brown,  a Golden Globe winner and two-time nominee, posted to Instagram; 

Criticism of the HFPA, which puts on the Globes and has been denounced for a lack of diversity and for ethical impropriates, reached such a pitch this week that actor and superstar celebrity Tom Cruise returned his three Globes to the press association’s headquarters, according to a person who was granted anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the decision, the Associated Press reported.

“We continue to believe that the HFPA is committed to meaningful reform. However, change of this magnitude takes time and work, and we feel strongly that the HFPA needs time to do it right,” a spokesperson for NBC said in a statement.

“As such, NBC will not air the 2022 Golden Globes,” the spokesperson added. “Assuming the organization executes on its plan, we are hopeful we will be in a position to air the show in January 2023.”

NBC’s decision comes as Vogue reported that the backlash to the HFPA came swiftly and decisively. Some of Hollywood’s biggest studios, including Netflix, Amazon, and WarnerMedia, announced they were severing ties with the organization until efforts were made to increase diversity and stamp out corruption, while a group of more than 100 of the industry’s biggest PR firms released a statement in March in which they pledged to boycott the ceremony for the foreseeable future. 

The HFPA did not immediately respond to inquiries by media outlets requesting comment about NBC’s decision.

In February, the organization said it was “fully committed to ensuring our membership is reflective of the communities around the world who love film, TV, and the artists inspiring and educating them.”

“We understand that we need to bring in Black members as well as members from other underrepresented backgrounds, and we will immediately work to implement an action plan to achieve these goals as soon as possible,” it said.

HFPA also announced a full timetable through this summer for implementing promised reform initiatives in response to NBC’s decision.

“Regardless of the next air date of the Golden Globes, implementing transformational changes as quickly — and as thoughtfully — as possible remains the top priority,” the HFPA board said in a statement. “We invite our partners in the industry to the table to work with us on the systemic reform that is long overdue, both in our organization as well as within the industry at large.”

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