Belgian Oscar contender strikes ‘Close’ to home
Exploring gender expectations we force upon our children
When queer Belgian director Lukas Dhont debuted his first feature film “Girl” at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, it made quite an impression. As winner of the Caméra d’Or prize for Best First Feature, as well as the Queer Palm Award and a Jury Award for Best Performance for its star Victor Polster, it was quickly acquired by Netflix and catapulted Dhont onto the international cinema scene. He was even named on the Forbes “Europe 30 Under 30” list of business and industry professionals to watch.
Not all the attention heaped on his movie was positive, however. The tale of a teen trans girl seeking a career as a ballet dancer, it raised sharp objections from some queer and trans commentators for what they perceived as a sensationalized approach to gender dysphoria and self-harm, not to mention for the casting of cisgender actor Polster in the leading role; though other queer and trans voices – including real-life trans ballerina Nora Monsecour, who inspired the story and consulted with Dhont and co-screenwriter Angelo Tijssens during the writing process – were quick to defend the movie, the controversy nevertheless created a blemish on its reputation, and that of its filmmaker, too.
Now, Dhont is back with his second full-length film, and while it certainly marks an escalation of his success, it’s not without its own detractors. “Close,” based on experiences from his own childhood and again co-written by Tijssens, also took Cannes by storm, winning the Grand Prix Award this time, and has gone on to accumulate accolades from other festivals and awards bodies around the world; yet its subject matter, perhaps inevitably, has opened the filmmaker up to another round of criticism from queer observers who are uncomfortable with the story he has chosen to tell – or at least with the way he has chosen to tell it.
It centers on two young teen boys, Léo (Eden Dambrine) and Rémi (Gustav De Waele), tightly bonded best friends who start their first year of secondary school after a summer spent together in innocent but intimate companionship working on Léo’s parents’ farm. When new schoolmates begin to make comments about the closeness of their relationship, Léo begins to distance himself from Rémi, becoming involved with hockey and pursuing a camaraderie with the rougher, more athletic boys on his team instead; first confused, then devastated by his abandonment, the heartbroken Rémi is moved to a public schoolyard confrontation with his former friend, further driving a wedge between them and setting the stage for an unthinkable turn of events.
The film’s provocative title is partly a nod to psychologist Niobe Way’s book, “Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection,” which documents a study of intimacy among teenage boys – frequently using the term “close friendship” to describe their relationships – and was one of Dhont’s inspirations for making the film. More than that, however, it’s an important clue to what his movie is all about. Though the director revealed before making “Close” that it would be about a “queer character,” there is no suggestion, either explicit or implicit, that its two teen friends have a sexual relationship with each other, or even that such a thing has ever crossed their minds; they are simply two boys, comfortable with each other in that tender and trusting way that only boys at their age can be. Likewise, there’s no bullying, no aggressive or even “microaggressive” shaming; it’s only their schoolmates’ perceptions that introduce the suggestion this friendship might be something more – but that’s more than enough to sour the sweetness between them, forcing us to question why some ways of being “close” are only OK for boys until they start to become men.
More to the point, perhaps, it begs the question of how this kind of low-key homophobia, so culturally ingrained that it is perpetuated without a flicker of awareness, remains persistent in a community that should know better. We don’t see a lot of the adult world in “Close,” but what we do see leads us to an impression that most of the grown-ups around Léo and Rémi are intelligent, educated, compassionate, and sensitive; their parents are unconditionally loving, and more than welcoming of the close companionship between their respective offspring. Yet throughout the film, throughout the boys’ conflict and beyond, there is no adult figure in their lives who seems willing or able to broach the subject of sexuality, or to show by example that there’s nothing about being queer – or even being perceived as queer – to be ashamed of.
These things, of course, are part of the criticism that has been leveled at the movie. Without positive messaging to counter its bleak narrative, some have seen “Close” as perpetuating a bevy of toxic tropes. Though we try to avoid spoilers, it’s hard to discuss a movie like this without revealing that something tragic happens, and many have expressed disappointment that Dhont’s film “punishes” its gay characters – even if we’re never sure they’re really gay. Further, in the absence of any affirmation of queerness (or even non-traditional masculinity), some have been troubled by an assumed reinforcement of a homophobic status quo within its narrative.
We can’t – and won’t – argue with any of those points. “Close” is a challenging film in the same way as “Tár,” another controversial title among this year’s awards contenders, in the sense that it presents a problem and doesn’t offer a solution or tell you how to respond to it – yet unlike “Tár,” it encourages us to feel things for its characters, and the consequences here are much more tragic. That might be especially true for queer men, certainly of older generations but still among today’s youth, for whom the film may trigger traumatic memories that hit particularly close to home. That means, when it comes to deciding if you’re up to the substantial challenges of watching it, you’re on your own. (SPOILER ALERT: it’s rough going, emotionally speaking.)
Still, “Close” is a beautiful film on a lot of levels. In the most literal sense, it’s visually stunning, framed with an almost tactile up-close intimacy and brimming with the preternatural light that glows through Frank van den Eeden’s delicate cinematography; in a larger sense, it strikes a resonant chord for anyone who has ever (is there anyone who hasn’t?) experienced the terrible pangs of losing a childhood friendship, an unforgettable hurt it captures with heart-rending authenticity. Though we want our coming-of-age stories to be uplifting, there are some kinds of pain that cannot be erased, and it’s to Dhont’s credit that he doesn’t try. He wants you to feel those feelings, and his movie is delicately crafted to make sure that you do, complete with the remarkable performances he elicits from his two underage stars.
That doesn’t make it easy to watch, of course, but for those who are willing to take it on, it offers plenty of food for thought; and if the observations it makes about the gender expectations we force upon our children make you uncomfortable, then it’s accomplished what it set out to do in the first place.
Master and student go to war in ‘The Tutor’
An unsatisfying thriller that fails to surprise
There was a time when horror movies weren’t taken nearly as seriously as those falling into the more so-called “legit” genres. Even the now-iconic early masterpieces from the silent and early sound eras were largely dismissed by critics as mere lowbrow entertainment enhanced by big studio production values, offering little but shock value and occasionally a clever script and a memorable performance or two.
Today, of course, there is widespread critical appreciation for the horror genre. In recent years, especially, the horror movie field has taken a sharp step up in terms of ambition and perceived legitimacy, with smart and multi-layered movies from artists like M. Night Shyamalan, Guillermo Del Toro, and Jordan Peele pushing boundaries and daring to let the genre wear its once-coded cultural subtext on its sleeve.
“The Tutor,” from sophomore feature director Jordan Ross and screenwriter Ryan King, clearly aims to be cut from that same cloth. It centers on Ethan (Garrett Hedlund), a professional academic coach whose ability to improve his pupils’ educational standing has placed him highly in demand among the rich and elite; despite his success, Ethan and his girlfriend Annie (Victoria Justice) – who are expecting their first child as they make plans for a future together – are struggling financially, making it impossible for him to refuse a secretive, under-the-table offer from an anonymous one-percenter who wants to hire him at a life-changing daily rate to tutor his teenage son Jackson (Noah Schnapp). However, true to the old adage about things that seem too good to be true, Ethan soon discovers that not all is as he expected; arriving at his new employer’s palatial estate, he finds it mostly deserted – save for a butler, a pair of vaguely insolent houseguests, and Jackson himself. Though his new student turns out to be a promising one, Ethan is disturbed by the teen’s almost obsessive fascination with his private life; despite his efforts to maintain a healthy distance, Jackson’s increasingly inappropriate overtures continue to escalate, and soon the boy’s intrusions threaten to sabotage the tutor’s life and career before he can even make sense of what’s behind them.
At first, Ross’s movie seems rooted in the familiar horror trope of the Damien-esque child of privilege, a creepy rich kid (in this case, a more grown-up version) whose demeanor suggests something evil lurking beneath his scrubbed and pampered exterior. However, as any horror fan knows, the more recognizable a trope may be, the less trustworthy it becomes – because if there’s anything a good horror story likes to do, it’s to pull the rug out from under us by turning our expectations on their ear with a clever, unforeseeable twist.
That makes it difficult to discuss “The Tutor” without giving away too much; though anyone who has watched a lot of films like it will find it easy to spot the sleights of hand Ross and King employ to misdirect their audience’s attention, it’s probably best to avoid the specific details of how the plot eventually unfolds. Instead, we can simply sum things up by calling it a cautionary tale about the dangers of judging a situation – or a person – based on appearance alone.
Citing Alfred Hitchcock and David Fincher as his influences, Ross approaches his movie more as a psychological thriller than as outright horror; there’s little onscreen violence, and the tension is built more on uncertainty than fear. Nevertheless, he leans into the macabre with his brooding visual style, evoking a sense of dread. He also relies on a tight, streamlined narrative, moving with brisk and broad strokes through the preliminaries to get right into the business of unsettling us. In this way, he gets us invested quickly and manages to deliver a solid first half that makes up in creep factor for what it lacks in intricate plotting.
It also uses this not-so-slow build to introduce some intriguing themes. Most obviously, it plays with our cultural biases around money, class, and privilege, emphasizing both the extravagant luxury of Jackson’s home and the smallness of Ethan and Annie’s humble apartment, not to mention the teen’s disregard for boundaries and the thinly veiled, mocking arrogance of his dissolute cousins (Jonny Weston, Ekaterina Baker), who may be more tied up in Ethan’s dilemma than their seeming disinterest in him suggests.
Then there’s the undercurrent of queerness – another familiar horror trope – that manifests in Jackson’s apparent “infatuation” with his new teacher and becomes one more red flag for Ethan to dismiss and ignore if he wants to keep his lucrative gig. The casting of Schnapp – the young “Stranger Things” star who came out as gay in January after previously disclosing that his character in the Netflix hit series is also queer – plays into the expectations we have of these scenes.
On the subject of the casting, Schnapp gives an impressively nuanced performance in a volatile role that is both very different and oddly similar to the one his fans know him for, and manages to keep our sympathies – if not always our trust – even when he’s on his worst behavior; he also sparks a believable chemistry with Hedlund, whose role positions him as a proxy for the audience. The latter succeeds by making Ethan as much an “everyman” figure as possible for a character whose defining feature is his intellectual prowess; still, he keeps a palpable distance from the audience when it comes to his inner landscape, something that works in his favor once the story begins to sow doubt about what’s really going on.
Unfortunately, after “The Tutor” gets all its pieces in place and begins to move toward a climax and a final confrontation, it doesn’t quite deliver on its promise. Instead of delving deeper into the mystery it’s worked to establish, it devolves into a game of cat-and-mouse that sometimes stretches credibility a little too thin in the name of raising the stakes and ends up feeling more like a particularly dark episode of “Scooby Doo” than it does like “Strangers on a Train.” Less forgivable, perhaps, is a tendency to reveal previously withheld and unknowable key information as a device for shifting the plot – and our assumptions – in a different direction. Used once, it feels like a cheat; used repeatedly, it feels like laziness.
Of course, all this is part of the movie’s tactic to “gaslight” us so that we won’t see what’s coming. Yet somehow, we still do.
“The Tutor” does have reasons to recommend it. Besides Schnapp and Hedlund, it offers a striking, dramatic visual aesthetic and a sumptuous location setting. It also offers some food for thought by exploring certain thematic elements about narcissism and toxic masculinity, though to say more about that might constitute a spoiler.
Still, by the time it delivers its final surprise twist, it won’t be much of a surprise to most viewers; and while provocative themes might stimulate some conversation after the final credits roll, they don’t do much for creating a satisfying thriller. Or, for that matter, a scary one.
A lesbian thriller, ‘Scream’ returns, and more film, TV options for spring
A host of queer programming on tap for upcoming season
Spring is always an exciting time for queer fans of film and TV, as the entertainment industry shifts its eye to the future and begins to roll out the eagerly awaited movies and shows it has in store for us in the upcoming year. This year is no exception – but while there are several exciting titles announced for 2023’s cinematic lineup (like the Anne Hathaway-starring lesbian thriller “Eileen” and Dan Levy’s directorial film debut “Good Grief”), many of their release dates are slated for later in the year or still to be determined.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few good options for queer movie buffs looking for some “spring fresh” cinema, and the Blade has compiled a few suggestions.
The First Fallen (Digital/DVD, available now)
A Brazilian release from 2021 making its debut on US screens, this 1983-set historical drama from writer/director Rodrigo de Oliveira follows a group of small-town LGBTQ men and women as they face the first wave of the AIDS epidemic. We haven’t seen it ourselves yet, but it comes with a five-star Rotten Tomatoes rating and the subject matter strikes a deep communal chord. Johnny Massaro, Renata Carvalho, and Victor Camilio lead the cast.
Lonesome (Digital/DVD, available now)
Another import making its way to U.S. screens, this Australian Outback-meets-big-city romance from director Craig Boreham explores “sexuality, loneliness and isolation in a world that has never been more connected” through the story of a country boy (Josh Lavery) who, fleeing from small-town scandal, arrives in Sydney and meets a city lad (Daniel Gabery) with secrets and struggles of his own. In their new acquaintance, the two young men “find something they have been missing, but neither of them knows quite how to negotiate it.” We don’t want to spoil anything, but since this festival-circuit favorite was praised by reviewers for its masterful use of erotic storytelling, it’s safe to assume they figure it out.
Scream VI (In theaters March 10)
The rebooted horror franchise – originally created by queer screenwriter Kevin Williamson, who in an interview around 2021’s “Scream V” said the movies were “coded in gay survival” – picks up where it left off, as the four survivors the latest Ghostface killings leave Woodsboro behind to start a fresh chapter. Melissa Barrera, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mason Gooding, Jenna Ortega, Hayden Panettiere, and Courteney Cox return to their roles, joined by Jack Champion, Henry Czerny, Liana Liberato, Dermot Mulroney, Devyn Nekoda, Tony Revolori, Josh Segarra, and Samara Weaving.
The Tutor (In theaters, March 24)
Recently out “Stranger Things” star Noah Schnapp hits the big screen in this eerie thriller from writer Ryan King and director Jordan Ross, in which an in-demand tutor (Garrett Hedlund) accepts a lucrative offer to take on the son of a wealthy elite family (Schnapp) as his pupil and finds himself becoming the object of an unsettling obsession – a situation that quickly escalates toward the sinister as his creepy new student threatens to tear apart the life he is building with his newly pregnant wife (Victoria Justice) before it even begins. Ekaterina Baker, Jonny Weston, Michael Aaron Milligan, Exie Booker, and Ashritha Kancharla also star.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (In theaters March 31)
Yes, the venerable RPG (that’s “role-playing game,” for the uninitiated) played on the tabletops of countless Gen X nerds is coming to the screen once again, this time as a big-budget sword-and-sorcery adventure starring Chris Pine, “Bridgerton” hunk Regé-Jean Page, bi “Fast & Furious” star Michelle Rodriguez, queer actor Justice Smith, and Hugh Grant. Planned as the ambitious launch point for a “multi-pronged” franchise that includes a graphic novel tie-in, an upcoming television spin-off, and a slate of future installments across these and other forms of media, it’s an eagerly awaited roll of the 12-sided dice in an unpredictable market already saturated with tent-pole style entertainment options. After years in development and multiple COVID-related delays, moviegoers – doubtless including millions of queer fantasy fans – will finally get to decide whether or not it was worth the gamble.
Renfield (In theaters April 14)
The renaissance of Nicolas Cage continues with another franchise-ish new action-fantasy, this one more in the in the horror vein – a vein injected with a healthy dose of humor by director Chris McKay (“The Lego Movie”) and screenwriter Ryan Ridley. Nicholas Hoult (“A Single Man,” “The Great”) stars as the title character, the long-suffering lackey of Count Dracula (Cage, in a role it was inevitable he would eventually play), who discovers an unexpected new outlook on life when he falls in love with a traffic cop (Awkwafina) in modern-day New Orleans. Ben Schwartz and Adrian Martinez round out the cast of what looks to be a highly entertaining tall-tale blend of gothic vampire camp and quirky comedic reinvention. As for the LGBTQ connection, well, “Dracula” author Bram Stoker was reputedly queer, and that’s a good enough excuse to give this promising romp a chance.
Little Richard: I Am Everything (In theaters and VOD April 21)
A must-see for fans of both documentaries and classic rock ’n roll, not to mention anyone interested in the story of a unique individual charting his own course of self-expression in a world that wasn’t ready for what he wanted to be, this richly illuminated film profile from director Lisa Cortés was the opening night documentary selection at this year’s Sundance Festival. Framed as a story of “the Black queer origins of rock ’n roll,” it aims to dismantle “the whitewashed canon of American pop music” by positioning its titular subject – whose “real” name was Richard Penniman – as an innovator who forever shaped the genre with his irresistibly flamboyant style and persona. Offering a wealth of archive and performance footage alongside interviews with family, musicians, and cutting-edge Black and queer scholars, the film brings us into an icon’s complicated inner world, “unspooling” his life story with a comprehensive sense of scope and a keen eye for important detail.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (In theaters April 28)
Fifty-three years after its publication, Judy Blume’s iconic piece of YA fiction comes to the screen for the first time in this adaptation from writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig starring Rachel McAdams and featuring Abby Ryder Fortson as the title character – a sixth-grader who moves to a New Jersey suburb from New York City with her mixed-faith parents (one Christian, one Jewish), prompting her to go on a coming-of-age quest for her religious identity. A touchstone for generations of young readers, the original novel has been a perennial source of controversy – not only does it depict a child allowed the freedom to choose their own religious beliefs, it contains frank discussions of “taboo” issues relatable to young teen girls, like menstruation, bras, and boys. Naturally, that means it has been included, along with other classic titles from among Blume’s work, on countless lists of “banned books” across the five decades since it first saw print. That is more than enough reason to go out and support this female-led screen adaptation with your box office dollars, as far as we’re concerned.
When it comes to the small screen, spring 2023 brings not as many new shows of queer interest as it does the return of queer favorites we’re already hooked on, like the second seasons of both Showtime’s grim-but-gripping girl scout survival series Yellowjackets (March 24) and HBO’s sweet-and-gentle Somebody Somewhere (April 23). As with the movies, there are numerous upcoming titles that pique our interest, but many of them have yet to announce a premiere date. We’ll include the most enticing of those in our list of new TV series below, so you’ll know to watch for them, but keep in mind some or all of them may not come until later in the year.
Daisy Jones & the Six (Prime Video, now streaming)
Prime Video just dropped is this 10-episode limited series adaptation of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel about the rise and fall of a fictional rock group in the Los Angeles music scene of the 1970s, which frames its profile of the Fleetwood Mac-inspired titular band in a pseudo-documentary style and tracks the reasons behind their break-up at the height of their worldwide fame. Offering an attractive cast led by Riley Keogh, Sam Clafln, Camila Morrone, Suki Waterhouse, Will Harrison, Josh Whitehouse, and Timothy Olyphant, and an iconic period setting and subject matter guaranteed to inspire some fabulous costumes, if nothing else, this one has sufficient queer appeal to make our list.
Swarm (Prime Video, March 17)
Speaking of fictional re-imaginings of real-life music icons, multi-hyphenate “Atlanta” creator Donald Glover and playwright/screenwriter Janine Nabers offer up this darkly satirical horror series about fan obsession, centered on a young woman named Dre (Dominique Fishback) who goes to deadly extremes in her “stan-dom” of a certain pop star. No, the star in question isn’t Beyoncé, but her fanbase calls itself “the Swarm,” so you can draw your own conclusions from that. It’s a provocative premise that’s bound to ruffle some feathers, but that’s precisely what gives co-creator Glover his well-deserved reputation for delivering edgy, genre-defying content. All we can say is that if it’s half as unnervingly delightful as the first two seasons of “Atlanta,” we’re on board. Chloe Bailey, Damson Idris, Rickey Thompson, Paris Jackson, Rory Culkin, Kiersey Clemons, and Byron Bowers also star.
Marriage of Inconvenience (Dekkoo, April 6)
Subscribers to gay male-targeted streaming service Dekkoo can look forward to a romantic comedy described as “a 21st century gay version of ‘The Odd Couple’” centered on two mismatched strangers who enter a witness protection program and must pretend to be happily married to each other to keep their identities hidden from the people who want them dead. Series writer/creator Jason T. Gaffney stars as a messy, street-smart dropout with anger issues opposite David Allen Singletary as an even-tempered English professor conditioned to living an orderly, carefully structured life. They have nothing in common and they can’t stand each other, but at least they’re both gay – which, as we all know, is still no guarantee they’ll be able to find common ground. With a clearly campy premise like this, it should still be fun to watch them try.
Dead Ringers (Prime Video, April 21)
Rachel Weisz does double duty in this reimagined expansion of director David Cronenberg’s classic 1988 thriller about identical twin gynecologists who dupe unsuspecting patients into participating in their perverse sexual fantasies. The twist? While Cronenberg’s film featured a pair of male siblings, this one flips the gender of its creepy twins – and in so doing, opens up a whole plethora of queer possibilities to be explored. As anyone familiar with the original already knows, it’s a story full of twisted psychology and grotesque body horror, not for the faint of heart. We can’t wait.
Love & Death (HBO Max, April 27)
Queer fan favorite Elizabeth Olsen (“WandaVision”) stars in this true crime miniseries about real-life “good Christian” Texas housewife Candy Montgomery, who claimed self-defense at her murder trial after taking an axe to the wife of a man with whom she was having an extramarital affair. The lurid story has already been told (in last year’s “Candy,” with Jessica Biel as Montgomery), but with writer/producer David E. Kelley – whose back catalogue includes a host of successful shows from “Doogie Howser, MD” to “Big Little Lies” – behind it, we can be sure that this version will have a unique quality of its own. Jesse Plemons (“Breaking Bad,” “The Power of the Dog”) co-stars as the other half of Candy’s illicit and ill-fated romance, with Lily Rabe as his unfortunate wife; Parick Fugit, Elizabeth Marvel, Tom Pelphrey, Krysten Ritter, and Beth Broderick also star. In this case, perhaps, the queer appeal comes from the irony of watching supposed “good Christian” types engage in the kind of depraved and detrimental behavior they regularly condemn everyone else for – and that’s good enough for us.
As for the shows with launch dates still TBD, the standouts include:
The Idol (HBO) – a buzzy series starring Lily-Rose Depp as an aspiring pop star and Abel “the Weeknd” Tesfaye as the self-help guru with whom she becomes involved. Supporting players include Dan Levy, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Hank Azaria, and musicians Troye Sivan and Moses Sumney.
Ripley (Showtime) – a limited series adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s classic 1955 novel “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” with out Irish actor Andrew Scott as its charming-but-sociopathic anti-hero; likely to bring the original story’s gay subtext to the screen much more directly than the 1999 film adaptation starring Matt Damon, it also stars Johnny Flynn and Dakota Fanning.
Fellow Travelers (Showtime) – Matt Bomer and Jonathan Bailey star in this adaptation of Thomas Mallon’s book about two men who begin a volatile clandestine romance while working for the government during the 1950s McCarthy era. Allison Williams also stars.
Glamorous (Netflix) – Created by Jordon Nardino (“Star Trek: Discovery”) and Damon Wayans Jr., this Brooklyn-set drama centers on a gender-non-conforming youth (Miss Benny) who falls under the wing of a high-fashion makeup mogul (Kim Cattrall), and features guest stars like Matt Rogers, Joel Kim Booster, and Monét X Change. Sounds fabulous.
‘Everything’ lands queer endorsement as movie of the year
Dorian Awards add to momentum for breakout film as Oscars near
For Oscar handicappers – or anyone else who loves movies and enjoys playing the yearly game of picking favorites and predicting winners during Hollywood’s glitzy awards season – last weekend’s presentation of the Screen Actors Guild Awards was a crucial event.
As the last “big” awards ceremony before Academy Award night (which takes place this year on March 12), the SAG Awards’ film category winners are often seen as a clear indicator of which films and performers have the momentum to win there, too. It’s not surprising they should be seen as significant, but this year, thanks to some history-making wins (including firsts for Asian-American talent and a single movie’s sweep of all but two of the film categories), there was even more reason to pay attention.
SAG was not the only organization to bestow its film awards last week, however. Though they received less fanfare, the 14th Annual Dorian Awards – announced on Feb. 23 by GALECA, the Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics – offered a slate of winners that reflected a queer eye on the films of 2022; and while they might not be as much a barometer for the tastes and attitudes of the industry insiders who vote for the big film awards, it should be noted that its choices align surprisingly often with those of SAG and the rest of mainstream Hollywood.
That’s partly because, although they do include a handful of LGBTQ-specific categories, the Dorians don’t just honor queer films. GALECA’s voters – a group of more than 400 professional queer entertainment critics, journalists, and media icons – look at the same movies as their straight colleagues; they present the Dorians (named as a nod to iconic queer writer Oscar Wilde and his most famous literary creation) as a way “to remind bigots, bullies and our own communities that the world often looks to the Q+ eye for unique and powerful entertainment,” and to ensure that a queer perspective is represented amid Hollywood’s yearly bestowal of honors. While there have been notable divergences, such as the occasional queer title like “Carol” or “Call Me By Your Name” supplanting their more hetero-friendly competitors for Film of the Year, recent Dorian honors have tended more to mirror the mainstream consensus than defy it.
This year is no exception. “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” the genre-splicing serio-comic sci-fi sleeper whose jaw-dropping sweep at the SAG show has made a similar triumph at the Oscars feel all but inevitable, also scored a lion’s share of honors from the Dorians, winning in seven of its nine nominated categories – even achieving the triple feat of being chosen as Best Film, Best LGBTQ Film and Most Visually Striking Film. For Lead Film Performance – all nominees, regardless of gender, vie for a single award in the each of the two acting categories – Yeoh, long embraced by queer fans, edged out not only Blanchett but favored male competitors like SAG winner Brendan Fraser and Golden Globe winners Colin Farrell and Austin Butler, while co-star Ke Huy Quan continued his inspiring victory lap by being chosen for Supporting Film Performance. Rounding out their movie’s tally, filmmakers Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert won in both the Director and Screenplay categories. As a bonus, while technically awarded for “EEAAO,” Yeoh was also the winner of the Wilde Artist Award, a special Dorian given yearly “to a truly groundbreaking force in film, theater and/or television,” and fellow cast member Stephanie Hsu was named as Rising Star of the Year – honors almost certainly fueled by their work in “EEAAO.”
In other categories:
The UK import “Aftersun,” Charlotte Wells’ thoughtful father-daughter tearjerker starring Paul Mescal, which also is also nominated for Best Picture and Best Actor Oscars, was awarded the Dorian for Best “Unsung” Film.
“All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” director Laura Poitras’ searing documentary about famed bisexual photographer Nan Goldin and her mission to shame the Sackler Big Pharma dynasty for profiteering on America’s opioid crisis, took both Best Documentary and Best LGBTQ Documentary; it’s also Oscar-nominated as Best Feature Documentary, the only queer-related doc to have made the cut there.
In the Best Animated Film category, the Dorians went against the tide by choosing “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On,” the charming and deceptively absurd stop-motion “mockumentary” adapted from a widely popular series of YouTube shorts, over “Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio.” Both films are competing at the Oscars, as well.
For Best Non-English Language Film, the Dorians did what the Oscars cannot by picking “RRR” – the epic Telugu-language musical adventure fantasy about two South Indian rebels fighting to push British colonials from their homeland in the 1920s, rendered ineligible for the Academy’s equivalent category by India’s failure to submit it as the country’s official entry for consideration as Best International Feature. The film, a worldwide box office sensation from S.S. Rajamouli (India’s most commercially successful director), did snag an Oscar nomination in the Best Song category for “Naatu Naatu.”
Though “Tár” – a critically acclaimed but divisive cinematic portrait of a fictional lesbian symphony conductor accused of serial sexual misconduct in the workplace – ended up as an also-ran in most of its nominated categories, it didn’t go away empty-handed; composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, also nominated for her work on “Women Talking,” took home the award for Best Score. A former Oscar winner (for 2019’s “Joker”), she failed to earn an Academy nomination this year for either film.
In a category unique to the Dorians, the cheeky horror prequel “Pearl,” which starred co-writer Mia Goth as an ax-wielding wannabe in 1918 Texas, took the double-edged honor of Campiest Film of the Year. Other nominees included “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” and Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis,” as well as the aforementioned “RRR.”
Finally, a relatively new special Dorian honor, the GALECA LGBTQIA+ Film Trailblazer Award, went to nonbinary actor-singer Janelle Monáe (also a nominee for Best Supporting Performance for “Glass Onion”), whose win puts her in the company of groundbreaking LGBTQ directors Isabel Sandoval and Pedro Almodóvar, both former winners, as a queer pioneer in the ever-evolving cinematic medium.
As for how much influence the Dorians might have on Oscar voters, even most of the GALECA membership would likely say “not much.” That’s not the point, however; indeed, the increasingly frequent parallel between their picks and those of their mainstream compatriots might well be better interpreted as a reminder of the LGBTQ community’s role as “tastemakers” for the wider world. We’ve always been there, even when we were kept out of sight, helping to shape the aesthetic that dominates popular culture, and the fact that our tastes – as filtered through the representative cross-section of GALECA’s members, at least – are now so often represented in the content that achieves the industry’s highest honors is cause enough to celebrate.
As GALECA Executive Director John Griffiths puts it, “No matter what’s going on in the mind of a certain Florida governor and his ilk, the best movies, and TV too, will only continue to reflect what’s going on in the real world—and parallel ones too. Looking at our nominees and winners, you can let out a nice, deep breath.”
The complete list of Dorian winners and nominees is below:
Film of the Year
The Banshees of Inisherin (Searchlight)
Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24) – WINNER
The Fabelmans (Universal)
Tár (Focus Features)
LGBTQ Film of the Year
Benediction (Roadside Attractions)
Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24) – WINNER
The Inspection (A24)
Tár (Focus Features)
Director of the Year
Todd Field, Tár (Focus Features)
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24) – WINNER
Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin (Searchlight)
Sarah Polley, Women Talking (United Artists)
Charlotte Wells, Aftersun (A24)
Screenplay of the Year
Todd Field, Tár (Focus Features)
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24) – WINNER
Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin (Searchlight)
Sarah Polley, Women Talking (United Artists)
Charlotte Wells, Aftersun (A24)
Non-English Language Film of the Year
All Quiet on the Western Front (Netflix, Amusement Park)
Decision to Leave (Mubi, CJ Entertainment)
EO (Sideshow, Janus Films)
RRR (DVV Entertainment, Variance Films) – WINNER
Unsung Film of the Year (To an exceptional movie worthy of greater attention)
Aftersun (A24) – WINNER
After Yang (A24)
Benediction (Roadside Attractions)
The Eternal Daughter (A24)
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (Searchlight)
The Menu (Searchlight)
Emily the Criminal (Vertical/Roadside Attractions)
Film Performance of the Year
Cate Blanchett, Tár (Focus Features)
Austin Butler, Elvis (Warner Bros.)
Viola Davis, The Woman King (Sony)
Danielle Deadwyler, Till (United Artists)
Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin (Searchlight)
Brendan Fraser, The Whale (A24)
Mia Goth, Pearl (A24)
Paul Mescal, Aftersun (A24)
Jeremy Pope, The Inspection (A24)
Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24) – WINNER
Supporting Film Performance of the Year
Angela Bassett, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Disney, Marvel)
Hong Chau, The Whale (A24)
Jaime Lee Curtis, Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24)
Dolly De Leon, Triangle of Sadness (Neon)
Nina Hoss, Tár (Focus Features)
Stephanie Hsu, Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24)
Barry Keoghan, The Banshees of Inisherin (Searchlight)
Janelle Monáe, Glass Onion: Knives Out (Netflix)
Keke Palmer, Nope (Universal)
Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24) – WINNER
Documentary of the Year
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (Neon) – WINNER
Fire of Love (Neon, National Geographic)
Good Night Oppy (Amazon Studios)
Moonage Daydream (Neon)
Navalny (Warner Bros.)
LGBTQ Documentary of the Year
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (Neon) – WINNER
Framing Agnes (Kino Lorber)
Moonage Daydream (Neon)
Nelly & Nadine (Wolfe Releasing)
Animated Film of the Year
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (Netflix)
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (A24) – WINNER
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (DreamWorks, Universal)
Turning Red (Disney, Pixar)
Wendell & Wild (Netflix)
Film Music of the Year
Babylon – score by Justin Hurvitz (Paramount)
Elvis – score and music production by Elliott Wheeler; the music of Elvis Presley; various artists (Warner Bros.)
RRR – score by M.M. Keeravani (DVV Entertainment, Variance Films)
Tár – score and curation by Hildur Guðnadóttir (Focus Features) – WINNER
Women Talking – score by Hildur Guðnadóttir (United Artists)
Visually Striking Film of the Year
Avatar: The Way of Water (20th Century)
Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24) – WINNER
RRR (DVV Entertainment, Variance Films)
Campiest Flick of the Year
Bodies Bodies Bodies (A24)
Elvis (Warner Bros.)
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (Netflix)
Pearl (A24) – WINNER
RRR (DVV Entertainment, Variance Films)
Rising Star Award
Stephanie Hsu – WINNER
Wilde Artist Award
To a truly groundbreaking force in film, theater and/or television
Michelle Yeoh – WINNER
GALECA LGBTQIA+ Film Trailblazer Award
Goldin doc captures both ‘Beauty’ and ‘Bloodshed’
Laura Poitras produced and directed Oscar-nominated documentary
As the yearly Hollywood awards cycle heads into its final weeks before culminating with the Oscars on March 12, most of the public attention is — as always — focused on the movies in the so-called “major” categories, while the ones in the others are, if not completely overlooked, placed lower on the priority list for film fans looking to catch up on all the nominees before the big night.
As the shrewdest fans know, of course, some of the best filmmaking often goes unsung because it happens in the kind of films that win awards in categories deemed irrelevant by most of the people in the mainstream. Unfortunately, that description most frequently seems to apply to documentaries — and this year, a standout among the crop of potential Oscar winners comes from within that eternally underappreciated genre.
Nominated for Best Documentary Feature, producer/director Laura Poitras’ “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” is a movie that tells two stories. In part, it’s a chronicle of the remarkable personal history of photographer and artist Nan Goldin, who rose to prominence in the “respectable” art world through the images that she took of herself and her friends — often in candidly intimate situations — in the post-Stonewall queer underground of ‘70s and ‘80s lower Manhattan; told in Goldin’s voice and through her own vast archive of images, it charts her life and career from emotionally traumatic childhood to esteemed artist, while reminding us that she was as much a participant in the heady lifestyle she documented as she was a witness.
While Goldin’s life and career would be more than ample as the singular focus of a documentary, though, Poitras’ movie has an even bigger purpose in mind. In service of that goal, it interweaves its subject’s personal narrative around the saga of P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) — an organization she founded in 2017 after revealing she was in recovery from an addiction to prescribed opioids which almost led to her death from an overdose of fentanyl — and its high-profile protest campaign against the Sackler family, a billionaire pharmaceutical dynasty known internationally for its generous art patronage, who through its company Purdue Pharma were principle architects of America’s staggering opioid crisis. Moving back and forth between these two threads throughout the film, Poitras frames Goldin’s struggle to hold the Sacklers accountable within the context of the formative life experiences that shaped her into an activist, while making sure to give her subject due acknowledgment for the then-shocking celebration of queer life and sexuality in her work at a time when such things were still seen through the cold filter of anthropological distance or simply being denounced outright for violating social taboos.
As to that, many viewers will undoubtedly be drawn to “Bloodshed” by the prospect of revisiting the fabled era of Goldin’s early heyday through her up-close-and-personal pictures and footage, and they will not be disappointed. The film includes plenty of both, illuminated by the artist as she recounts the memories behind them; it offers poignant glimpses at a few future icons and fallen stars (lost-but-not-forgotten queer icons from her circle, like Cookie Mueller and David Wojnarowicz, are among those lovingly profiled by Goldin as she narrates her reminiscences), gives us an inside look at a seminal time and place in counterculture history, tantalizes us with provocative images of a sexually liberated lifestyle and throws us into the front lines of AIDS activism and the political battle over government funding of the NEA.
For those more interested in direct biography, there is also copious material on Goldin’s personal life. These sequences cover her memories of a dysfunctional childhood growing up with an older sister who would later die by suicide, her delinquent youth in and out of foster homes, her battery at the hands of a jealous lover, the horror of watching her community ravaged by AIDS while the rest of the world stood by and watched, and the crushing devastation of her opioid addiction.
Yet while these various parts of Goldin’s story may carry weight of their own, “Bloodshed” ultimately transfers it all into its saga about her effort to exact palpable retribution against the Sacklers — something her position as a world-renowned artist made her uniquely situated to do. Following her organization through a series of brilliantly orchestrated actions in which — borrowing a page from ACT UP — they staged dramatic protests at museums who had taken donations from the disgraced philanthropic dynasty, the movie deploys footage from these events to capture the raw sense of danger experienced within them with the kind of thrilling immediacy unachievable through journalistic observation or dramatic recreation. It’s this Robin Hood-esque story of taking back from the rich and amoral that drives Poitras’ movie and gives it an emotional structure, making it more than just another profile of an influential artist.
That doesn’t mean it relegates Goldin’s work as a photographer into the background. On the contrary, the bulk of the imagery we see comes from Goldin herself; even the footage of the protests was shot by P.A.I.N. for documentary purposes before Poitras had even become involved. Still, the filmmaker deserves full credit for assembling these photos and home movies into a finished product, and while it’s clear that “Bloodshed” is the result of intense collaboration between documentarian and subject, it’s also clear that her understanding of the material and her nuance in presenting it are essential elements in creating the cumulative power— and the surprising sense of urgency — that it delivers.
As for her subject, Goldin’s importance as both an artist and as activist come across plainly, but those were never in doubt. The film’s biggest surprise, perhaps, is the compassion visible at the heart of her activism, manifesting through her desire to use the privilege and influence her art has given her to help balance the scales between the powerful elite and the marginalized masses they exploit — a compassion reflected even in the revelation of her former life as a sex worker, which she discusses publicly for the first time here out of solidarity with other sex workers and to help reduce the stigma around sex work.
While juggling two separate-but-complementary stories might come at the risk of a disjointed focus, “Bloodshed,” thanks to Poitras’ seemingly symbiotic alignment with her subject’s aesthetic and sympathies, manages to weave its dual threads together in a way which not only makes sense, but uses them in concert to convey a fiercely radical worldview — one which resonates deeply in a contemporary social environment not too different from the one in which Goldin and her fellow sexual “outlaws” were flaunting their defiance of repressive, bigoted cultural norms not just in their work but in their everyday lives. Now, as then, a younger generation confronted with unbridled corporate greed and widening economic inequity, not to mention a conservative strategy of reverse cultural engineering through backlash and legislation, has been triggered to reevaluate its priorities.
It’s not surprising. After all, as Goldin says in the film, “When you think of the profit off people’s pain, you can only be furious about it.”
Young lovers meet and meet again in thoughtful ‘Of An Age’
Not a ‘gay romance,’ but simply a romance featuring gay characters
Early in “Of An Age,” one of its characters declares, “I like seeing movies from countries I haven’t visited.”
It’s a line of dialogue that catches our ear in part because, in context, it comes dripping with layers of hidden meaning, but it also serves as a fitting cornerstone in a film that – though it’s set in a mundane Melbourne suburb and almost entirely focused on two characters – feels infused with a multitude of global perspectives.
Perspective, in fact, seems key to the heart of gay writer/director Goran Stolevski’s thoughtful and refreshingly tender-hearted coming-of-age tale about an unexpected romance that lasts only 24 hours yet casts its spell across more than a decade. Inspired by his own youth in Australia, Stolevski begins his film in 1999 and focuses on Nikola (Elias Anton), a closeted Serbian-born 18-year-old amateur ballroom dancer who lives with his very traditional Balkan immigrant family. On the morning of an important competition, his dance partner and best friend Ebony (Hattie Hook) calls in a panic, stranded on a beach miles away. He reluctantly enlists the help of her older brother Adam (Thom Green), visiting home on the eve of his departure for graduate school in Argentina, to drive him to her rescue. Though initially mistrustful, thanks to Adam’s word-of-mouth reputation, Nikola is soon won over, and by the time they pick up the wayward Ebony, an unspoken connection has formed between them, leading to an intense day and night in which the young men forge a deep bond with each other – both keenly aware of Adam’s inevitable departure the next morning.
From there, the story jumps ahead 11 years, when Nikola and Adam, now both living in other countries, reunite in Melbourne for Ebony’s wedding. It shouldn’t be surprising that a lot of long-carried emotional baggage begins to unpack, but the details of that are better left unspoiled, so we’ll just say that what happens measures the difference in perspective that transforms our lives throughout the years while reminding us that some things feel the same no matter how much else may have changed.
There’s a lot of delicate work involved in conveying a story with such universal scope within a movie as intimate as “Of An Age,” but Stolevski – a Macedonian Australian filmmaker whose first movie, the period horror film “You Won’t Be Alone,” premiered at Sundance 2022 – proves himself a delicate cinematic craftsman in telling it. Deploying his skills like a composer orchestrating a piece of music, he propels the narrative more through mood than plot; though his tersely composed dialogue leaves much unsaid, his visual style communicates the unaired feelings behind it with more eloquence than words alone might ever capture. From the close-up intimacy with which he portrays his protagonists’ time together to the grim banality with which he drapes scenes of their respective family lives, he enables us to feel his movie through the atmosphere he builds; the love story at its center may not match our own nostalgic memories – or romantic fantasies, for viewers from younger generations – but the heady rollercoaster of desire, emotion, and bittersweet thrill that he evokes through the elegant-but-raw simplicity of his screen craft is profoundly recognizable nevertheless.
Heart-tugging as it may sometimes be, “Of An Age” doesn’t allow itself to become too precious or capitulate to sentiment, nor is it the kind of melancholy, hopeless tragedy so often told in movies about queer romance; on the contrary, one of its most surprising pleasures is its sly sense of humor, which is artfully displayed in a lengthy opening sequence depicting Ebony’s awakening on the beach. Seeing her terrified and hysterical after a night she doesn’t remember, we assume the worst, but Stolevski disarms our expectations of drama by systematically revealing the absurd and comparatively harmless details behind it. He laces the same sense of ironic humor throughout, allowing himself the opportunity for numerous bemusing observations of “basic” existence pursued by the not-very-self-aware collection of friends and family in Nikola and Adam’s orbit; and while few of the dry comedic touches could be described as “laugh-out-loud” funny, they create and maintain a tone that not only keeps things from getting weighed down by the starry-eyed, yearning drama of his love story, but emphasizes the essential desire to rise above their surroundings that draws his lovers together as much as their palpable attraction for each other.
As to that, the sweetly authentic, superbly measured performances of its two leading men are a crucial element in keeping the movie on that narrow path between cynical and cloying. Individually, Anton and Green each create compelling and likable characters that feel far more fleshed-out than the often thinly-wrought figures at the center of many such romantic dramas, and they convincingly embody both the differences and the same-ness of their characters at ages a decade apart; together, they have a sweet but smoldering chemistry that ignites the fieriest memories – both real and imagined – of our own treasured “flings” of the past, and that, of course, is a big part of the film’s appeal.
The relationship here, of course, is more than just a fling, as Stolevski asserts by juxtaposing the leisurely, affectionately detailed roman à clef of his lovers’ youthful one-night affair with the more urgently succinct bookend of their reunion as fully formed adults. Though events of past and present are almost pointedly mirrored, they starkly illustrate the changes wrought by an evolution toward maturity, the differences in outlook that come from lived experience; the audacious dreams give way to managed expectations, the giddy recklessness leads to foolish choices, the happy-ever-after fantasies become tinged with the tempering sadness that comes with disappointment and loss. Yet through all those transformations, there is something between these two men that remains untouched by time and circumstance, a longing that most of us – if we are lucky – will recognize in our own hearts; it might not be enough to give us the kind of “happy ending” we once believed we wanted, but it’s a reminder that our most deeply felt connections endure even as everything else about us fades into something else, and that counts, perhaps, for much more than many of us recognize.
All of this helps make “Of An Age” a much better “gay romance” than its vaguely erotic, nostalgia-tinged marketing suggests it might be; but while American films continue to struggle with that genre, this Australian love story between a Serb and an Irishman gets it right by transcending it; though there’s some garden-variety xeno- and homophobia from some of the movie’s peripheral characters, and though Nikola’s struggle with coming out is part of his journey, the obstacle in this couple’s union has nothing to do with oppression, or even with sexual orientation, but rather with timing and situation; they are just two people, at a crossroads in their lives, who are drawn together by an feeling in the center of their being they cannot find in anyone else around them.
It doesn’t feel like a “gay romance,” but simply a romance featuring gay people, and that makes all the difference.
Gay dads face the apocalypse in ‘Knock at the Cabin’
Whether it scares you or not, a movie that gives us lots to think about
As horrors go, it’s hard to get more horrible than the end of the world.
It’s the ultimate existential threat, a potent fear that has fueled nightmares for millennia, but while it may feel chillingly plausible in our modern era, many of us tend to imagine it in terms of scientific reality – climate change, collision with an asteroid, or simply the eventual death of the sun – rather than as a literal enactment of the doomsday scenarios proscribed in the myths, folktales, and religions of the ancient world.
What if we’re wrong, though?
That’s the essential hook in “Knock at the Cabin,” the latest thriller from horror movie maestro M. Night Shyamalan, which gambles that its viewers – even those who staunchly believe in a science-and-reason-based conception of the universe – might still occasionally be kept awake at night by a flicker of doubt, and spends a slow-burning 100 minutes trying to stoke that flicker into an apocalyptic flame.
Based on Paul Tremblay’s Stoker Award-winning 2018 novel “The Cabin at the End of the World,” Shyamalan’s compact adaptation (co-written with Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman) doesn’t waste much time setting up its confrontation between rational secularism and End Times prophecy; gay dads Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge), vacationing in the woods with their daughter Wen (Kristen Cui), have barely settled into their rented cabin when a quartet of ominous strangers – led by hulking-but-soft-spoken Leonard (Dave Bautista) – shows up at the door, insisting to be let in and not willing to take “no” as an answer. The visitors claim they are on a mission to prevent the apocalypse, and that they have been compelled by visions to deliver a message: mankind can still be saved, but only if this terrified little family is willing to make an unthinkable choice.
To reveal more would definitely constitute a spoiler; suffice to say that it’s a decidedly unpleasant proposition, and the two protective papas – who are convinced they are being terrorized by a homophobic cult of religious fanatics despite Leonard’s assurances to the contrary – are understandably resistant to it. Still, these seemingly reluctant home invaders are prepared to use extreme measures to ensure the couple’s cooperation, and Andrew and Eric are forced into an escalating standoff in which they must try to outwit their captors if they have any hope of whisking Wen away to safety; yet even as they forge a desperate escape plan, troubling news from the outside world begins to suggest the threat of impending cataclysm might not be so far-fetched, after all.
The screenplay for “Knock at the Cabin” – or at least, the initial draft of it, penned by Desmond and Sherman – was already a hot property before Shyamalan became involved, having been touted both by Hollywood’s highly influential “Black List” and by GLAAD as one of the best unproduced scripts of 2019. It’s easy to see why; for a mainstream film industry under pressure to prioritize inclusion, there’s an obvious appeal to the idea of a taut, commercially viable thriller featuring a same-sex couple as heroes, especially when it’s based on a popular bestselling novel. Good ideas frequently go bad in Hollywood, however, and it’s fortunate that the veteran Shyamalan saw the appeal, too, because without his experienced eye behind the camera – and his legion of loyal fans in the theater seats – this one could easily have gone either way.
Mounted almost as a “Twilight Zone” style morality play, “Cabin” juggles a hotbed of topical ideas and themes as its handful of characters, loosely representing a cross-section of humanity, engage in an unapologetically allegorical battle of beliefs – though it’s never explicitly stated that any God or devil is behind the supposed approaching apocalypse. There’s an implausibility to its premise that’s hard to dismiss, and while that might be a key factor in the movie’s ploy to undermine its heroes’ – and its audience’s – sense of certainty, it also makes it harder for it to scare us. With so many layers of “meta” in play, there’s sometimes too much intellectual distance in the way for us to feel fear.
A similar obstacle is created by the script’s use of broad strokes in defining its characters. Though the four antagonists – a mismatched assortment of eccentric but painfully ordinary strangers – are sharply drawn and unique enough to stir an interesting dynamic into the mix, Eric and Andrew are less substantial; the things we know about them are revealed to us in brief flashbacks and snippets of dialogue, serving more as plot devices than insight into what makes them tick. They’re a collection of positive traits, but they are largely blank underneath – and that doesn’t make it any easier to invest in them.
Fortunately, these potential shortcomings are largely overcome in Shyamalan’s finished product. “Cabin” is a perfect fit for his trademark style, laden with an unrelenting sense of dread and looped through a high concept framework that lends itself to the kind of puzzle-box storytelling with which he made his name. His magic doesn’t always work; sometimes, his succinctness of detail tips us off too early, or feels too precise to be convincing. Nevertheless, he keeps us fascinated by what he shows us on the screen – even if the story sometimes tends to stall.
His cast serves him well in making that happen. While their characters may be thinly drawn, Groff and Aldridge – especially the latter, fresh from his MVP performance in “Spoiler Alert” – fill in the gaps by infusing the leading men with personality and anchoring them with an authentic sense of depth. Young Cui gives a devastatingly genuine child performance as Wen, and Rupert Grint (of “Harry Potter” fame) gives a memorable against-type turn as a hapless blue-collar thug in Leonard’s company. The MVP in “Cabin,” however, is Bautista, whose Leonard is the kind of giant whose gentleness only makes us fear him more.
On the subject of fear, that’s where “Knock at the Cabin” might fall flat for some viewers. While it’s mostly a gripping ride, there are few moments that really hit us where we live. It pokes at our deeper fears, but it never quite stirs them up; even the nightmarish prospect of a home invasion feels strangely blunted of its edge. Violence happens, but only sparingly onscreen, and despite Shyamalan’s penchant for ingenious twists, this time he leads us almost predictably toward a conclusion that owes more to Hitchcock’s “The Birds” than any fire-and-brimstone apocalyptic thriller.
Still, there are plenty of reasons to see it, not the least of which is the placement of a same-sex couple at the center of a mainstream genre film which successfully displaced “Avatar: The Way of Water” from its top seat at the box office. Besides, whether it scares you or not, it’s a movie that gives us lots to think about – not just notions of Old Testament divine retribution, but universal human experiences like love and loss, death and grief, and how much we are willing to sacrifice for the sake of the people we care about.
Maybe that’s what the apocalypse is really all about, anyway.
Billy Porter tackles new role in ‘80 for Brady’
Fashion icon on the importance of dressing up
Billy Porter — the Tony, Emmy and Grammy winner — needs no introduction, especially to the many fans of his character Pray Tell on Ryan Murphy’s hit TV series “Pose.”
Arriving in theaters on Feb. 10, Porter will star as a Super Bowl half-time show choreographer, opposite Oscar winners Sally Field, Rita Moreno, Jane Fonda, and Tony winner Lily Tomlin, in the feel-good comedy “80 For Brady,” a comic homage to popular quarterback Tom Brady.
Porter rocketed to superstardom when he originated the role of Lola in the Tony-winning Broadway musical “Kinky Boots” just over 10 years ago. But show business was always in his blood.
“I started singing in church at a very young age,” he says. “By fifth grade the bullying had stopped and in middle school I got involved with theater. I dreamed about being on Broadway and becoming the male Whitney Houston.”
Porter knew he was onto something when he won $100,000 on Star Search, in 1992 but he never expected success would come easy.
“I took all of the necessary steps to prepare myself for a career in show business,” he says. “There have been moments of frustration, but no one is entitled to anything.
“I’ve practiced acting every day for decades. I went to Carnegie Mellon. I went to graduate school at UCLA. To this day, I still take singing lessons. I have the patience of Job. My best advice for anyone who wants to become a professional is to practice – even when no one is looking.”
How did Porter prepare himself for a trajectory in acting and a career in fashion? “I decided at a very young age to dress for the job I wanted, not the job I have,” he explains.
The “Oscar” dress, which made Porter a viral sensation, wasn’t something that “just happened.” In 2013, while Porter was in Chicago doing previews of “Kinky Boots,” he met with fans at the stage door after every performance. “It was right at the time when social media was taking off, especially Instagram photos, and I was dressing geek chic.
“When I looked at the news the day after the first performance I saw pictures of myself and I looked like a bag lady. From that moment on, I dressed up every day. After every show, before I went out the stage door to go home, I dressed up.” From then on, any candid photos that people did take of Porter were not only flattering but trend setting. “For three years, while I was on Broadway with ‘Kinky Boots,’ I dressed up after every performance, just to go out to the car to go home.”
In 2019, just a year before the pandemic hit, Porter started to gain attention for some of the most fabulous outfits that have ever adorned any human. At the Grammy Awards, he wore an embroidered suit and pink cape. That same year, at the Academy Awards he wore the famous black fitted tuxedo and velvet gown created by Christian Siriano, accompanied by six-inch Rick Owens boots.
The gender-fluid outfits worn by Porter that are now famous the world over were not intended to be labeled. “All of the outfits I have worn aligned with the roles I was playing. The term ‘non-binary’ never occurred to me.”
And now Billy Porter has become an inspiration for celebrities like Harry Styles, who posed on the cover of Vogue last year in a Gucci dress. “You said that, not me,” Porter insists I disclose.
“I have a calling,” he admits. “It is funneled through artistry.
‘Women Talking’ is the timely film everyone should be talking about
Filmmaker Sarah Polley explores shocking abuse in culturally significant effort
With the Hollywood awards season well underway, the public conversation around movies these days is mostly around the movies that have begun to emerge as early champions.
That makes this the perfect time to bring up “Women Talking,” a movie not many people have seen – yet – but that more people should be talking about.
Adapted for the screen and directed by Canadian filmmaker Sarah Polley, it’s based on a 2018 novel of the same name by Miriam Toews (which itself was loosely based on real-life events in Bolivia), and set in an ultraconservative Mennonite colony, isolated from the wider world by both distance and strict religious tradition, in which dozens of girls and women have been drugged with animal tranquilizers and sexually assaulted in the night by a group of men over the course of several years – only to be accused of lying or told that their attacks and injuries were perpetrated by “ghosts or demons.” Now, they’ve now been offered a choice – either forgive their attackers and continue living in fear or leave the community and be expelled from the church; with only a few short hours to decide, a group of townswomen convene in a barn to weigh the dilemma, and to make the impossible choice of what to do.
In Toews’s book, and therefore Polley’s film, the shocking circumstances of the story are reimagined in an American setting, and the scenario is framed – in the spirit, perhaps, of an increasing sense of public conscience that favors commemorating the victims of violence over elevating the victimizers’ names in the cultural record – through the eyes of the women; we never see the faces of their attackers, nor hear their names. Their identities, in fact, are irrelevant; for these women, what matters is making an impossible choice whether to brave the unknown evils of a world outside their experience or resign themselves to endure the all-too-familiar evils to which they are accustomed, forced upon them by male elders who seemingly think of them as little more than human livestock.
That’s a position that feels unsettlingly relevant in the climate of today’s America, and though both book and movie were conceived and executed before the devastating Supreme Court decision striking down Roe v. Wade, the timing of “Women Talking” couldn’t be more powerful or relevant. In watching these onscreen women attempt to find justification within their faith to defy the strictures that leave them powerless and without protection, it’s impossible not to notice the reflected significance; though the arguments they rehash – obedience to the teachings of their church, accepted gender roles within their culture, the “rightful place” of women in society, and all the other well-rehearsed topics inextricably tied to the ideals of feminism and basic human rights – often feel to us like the antiquated rhetoric of a bygone era, we cannot help but be aware that the principles they struggle to define, considered by many of us to be long-settled and self-evident, are currently anything but.
That’s entirely the point, of course. Polley’s film derives considerable power from the juxtaposition of an old-fashioned lifestyle into a contemporary setting; most of what we see on the screen – clothing, mores and manners, the quaint routine of a daily life lived without technology and off the grid – belies any connection to the 21st century, and when we are occasionally reminded that we’re watching a story that takes place in modern times, it’s jarring.
Indeed, there’s an unabashedly “meta” effect that permeates throughout, heightened by a theatrical approach to the narrative that spends more of its time on dialogue than on action – after all, the title is “Women Talking” – and takes place mostly in a single location. The movie’s studied mix of emotion and intellect, its prominent agenda and its progressive political leanings, all land with us as if we were watching a play, rather than a movie. Yet Polley ingeniously expands into the cinematic realm to connect with us though our eyes as well as our ears, particularly with the use of rapid-paced flashback collages that cut away from a character to wordlessly convey crucial details of their backstory, deepening both our insight and our empathy in the process.
She also takes pains to illuminate the emotional triggers – fear, rage, even guilt over perceived culpability – that bubble to the surface as her traumatized characters try to form a unified front; by tracking the way these lingering psychic scars affect the dynamic among this group of survivors, determining the positions they take and setting them at odds against each other, her movie helps open us up to empathy for those whose memory pain sometimes drives them to act against their own self-interest. Yet things aren’t unrelentingly grim, nor are they always somber; there are frequent interspersions of humor, appreciations of beauty, and expressions of love. It’s this focus on lived inner experience that keeps “Women Talking” grounded in the human and enables it to indulge in lengthy theoretical discourse about justice, ethics, and theology without feeling like an exercise in aloof didacticism.
To that end, a gifted ensemble of players, each obviously relishing the chance to do work of such substance, turns in a remarkably gripping collection of performances. Standing out in the showiest roles, Claire Foy and Jessie Buckley offer up unforgettable moments throughout the film, while a softer Rooney Mara serves as a warm and intelligent heart; screen veterans Judith Ivey and Sheila McCarthy bring depth and dignity to their roles as elders in this female contingent, with multi-Oscar-winner Frances McDormand leaving her stamp in a brief but indelible supporting turn; out gay actor Ben Whishaw shines as a gentle schoolteacher enlisted by the women to take the minutes of their meeting, a sole reminder that men can be allies, too; and nonbinary performer August Winter, cast as a transmasculine colony member, adds an affirming thread of queer inclusion to the mix, opening the door for one of the film’s most unexpected – and powerful – moments.
It’s not surprising, given the talents of Polley and her cast (not to mention the expert cinematography of Luc Montpellier and a stirring score by Hildur Guðnadóttir), that “Women Talking” has quietly gained momentum as an awards contender – even though it doesn’t go into wide release until Jan. 20. Whether it can pick up more prizes than the buzzier titles currently leading the race remains to be seen. Even in a post-#MeToo Hollywood, female-led films are often overlooked for the big awards, and the industry’s supposed progressive leanings rarely prevent it from shying away from polarizing subject matter.
Incredibly, in 2023, the subject of women seeking freedom to have agency over their own bodies feels more polarizing than ever, and women are fighting for it under oppressive regimes from Iraq to Indonesia, let alone in parts of the USA.
That’s why, whether it wins any awards or not, “Women Talking” is still one of the most culturally significant movies on the shortlist.
The year’s best in queer TV and film
‘Fire Island,’ ‘Bros,’ ‘Heartstopper’ made for memorable 2022
It’s that season, once again, when everyone is compiling their lists of the year’s best film and TV offerings – and naturally, the Blade is no exception.
Unlike many “Best of” lists, however, ours narrows the scope a little. Since our coverage of film and television is geared toward queer-focused or queer-inclusive content that is relevant to our LGBTQ readers, we like to limit our selections to the movies and shows that match that criteria – and further, to keep it honest, we prefer to limit our choices to the titles we’ve covered over the last 12 months.
That means you won’t see the same kinds of big mainstream films or series on our list that you’ll find on others – but you’ll see those mentioned in plenty of other places, anyway, and we think it’s far more useful to remind our readers of the standout gems we’ve particularly loved. It’s our way of celebrating the screen memories that have stuck with us throughout the year, and to make sure you add the ones you may have missed to your year-end catch-up list.
With that in mind, here are our five favorite films and five favorite TV shows from all those we’ve covered in 2022.
1. “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
If you haven’t yet seen this genre-bending, queer-inclusive indie sci-fi comedy – conceived, written, and directed by The Daniels (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) – you might be surprised to find it at the top of our list. If you have seen it, however, you’ll already understand why. Audaciously joining the ever-growing fray of “multiverse” movies and arguably besting them all, it’s a fast-paced but smooth-flowing wild ride in which a middle-aged Chinese American laundromat owner (Michelle Yeoh, in a career-topping star showcase) finds herself recruited into a battle against a sinister entity who seeks to destroy reality itself.
Quirky, clever, and laced with delicious absurdity, it’s a madcap caper from start to finish; but it grabs us by the heart, too, and uses the same overblown fantasy trope it creatively lampoons to gently remind us that, in a universe of infinite possibilities, we have the power to change our reality with every choice we make. It also shows us a universe where humans have fingers like hot dogs and gives us scene-stealing Jamie Lee Curtis as a frumpy and hostile tax auditor, so is it any wonder we put it at the top of the list?
Audiences were even more divided than critics in their response to Mike Field’s lengthy, inscrutable, and culturally provocative character study of a revered, world-class orchestral conductor (Cate Blanchett, surpassing her own brilliance yet again) whose reputation and career begin to unravel when implications of sexual misconduct subject her private life to public scrutiny. It’s easy to understand why; it’s as challenging as it is meticulous, as unsettling as it is mesmerizing, and as unsentimental as a clinical case study.
Though decried by some who saw it as an indictment against “cancel culture” or found it out of alignment with queer or feminist ideals, we found its true power beyond its purposefully contradictory politics; in its instinct for finding big truth in tiny details and its merciless focus on the uncomfortable secret corners we keep in the blind spots of our lives, it’s ultimately a movie about the masks we wear to disguise the desires we don’t want others – or even ourselves – to see.
3. “Neptune Frost”
Another quirky, genre-bending sci-fi movie makes our list with this unique cinematic experience created by acclaimed multi-hyphenate artist Saul Williams, who co-directed with Rwandan filmmaker Anisia Uzeyman. Self-described as “an Afrofuturist sci-fi punk musical,” it traces the separate journeys of two refugees – a miner running away from a life of enforced labor and an intersex tribesperson fleeing the oppression of their native village – and their assimilation into a collective of rebel hackers dedicated to overthrowing “The Authority” and elevating the world’s consciousness. That vague plot outline, however, falls short of capturing the film’s multi-layered essence; equal parts primal myth and dystopian techno-drama, it’s more a surreal allegory than a narrative, laden with bold visual strokes and reverberating with a proud and defiant Black voice – but the issues it thrusts into our consciousness go far deeper than race. It’s hard to explain this movie better than that, so if you’re curious for more, you’ll have to watch it for yourself. Trust us, you won’t regret it.
4. “Fire Island”
It’s been a banner year for queer rom-coms, but for our money, this smart, sharp, sweet, and sexy reimagining of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” – starring and written by Joel Kim Booster and directed by Andrew Ahn – is the cream of the crop. Skewering the attitudes and agendas of modern gay life as it follows the exploits of a group of friends who have gathered for a week of comradeship and debauchery at the queer mecca of its title, it revels in its diversity – three of its four romantic leads are Asian American, for starters – and celebrates the joys of chosen family while good-naturedly reminding us that snobbery cuts both ways. It’s everything you could want from a summer romance and more – including a ridiculously corny, over-the-top happy ending and a sparkling cast that includes queer fan favorites Bowen Yang, Margaret Cho, and Conrad Ricamora.
OK, we know. This much-hyped romantic comedy from writer/star Billy Eichner and writer/director Nicholas Stoller ended up with a disappointing box office take despite its historic use of an almost-all-queer cast and creative team – but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great movie. Though Eichner’s manic, sometimes abrasive persona can be a hard sell for some audiences, it works to his advantage as he uses his role as a defiantly oddball over-achiever to go deeper, and his chemistry with co-star Luke Macfarlane (in a bravely vulnerable performance) is surprisingly potent; and while the film’s self-consciously pro-LGBTQ checklist of topics sometimes feels like an obtrusion on its unexpectedly nuanced central love story, that somehow becomes part of the point.
For us, though, the biggest reason for including this one on our list of the year’s best might be its candid and relatable depiction of romance in a more mature queer demographic than we’re used to; that, alongside its unapologetically queer attitude, its artfully downplayed generosity of spirit, and its sex-positive treatment of non-hetero-conforming intimacy, is more than enough to render its box office receipts irrelevant.
This one is a no-brainer. The British Netflix import based on the webcomic by Alice Oseman (who adapted it for the screen) is a show to win the heart of even the most cynical viewer and have them ready to binge it straight to the end after watching only the first five minutes. The story of two boys’ school students – on opposite ends of the campus popularity spectrum – who form an unlikely friendship that blossoms into something more, is infectiously sweet and unrelentingly positive without feeling like an impossible fairy tale. More than that, its tender depiction of two youthful hearts negotiating the pangs and pressures of first love while navigating their school’s deeply ingrained social hierarchy has enough universal and multi-intersectional appeal to help it transcend its “queer content” genre and become an all-inclusive touchstone for younger generations – and to make older viewers wish they had grown up with a show like this one. None of it would work, however, without the soulful and endearing performances of series leads Joe Locke and Kit Connor, whose individual talents and shared chemistry make this big-hearted show a classic for the ages.
2. “Interview With the Vampire”
Three decades after Anne Rice’s saga of love among the undead was turned into a plush big screen star vehicle for Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, fans of the late author’s wickedly sexy and thrillingly subversive novel – and the multi-book series that followed it – finally got the version they deserved with AMC’s electrifying adaptation.
Reimagining key details of Rice’s seminal narrative (changing her lead vampire’s origin story in old New Orleans to make him a Black creole entrepreneur instead of a wealthy white plantation owner with slaves, for one) to update its cultural relevance, it still maintains a strong connection to the passionate, poetic spirit of the original tale; even better, it more than makes up for the film version’s comparative “straight-washing” by embracing the same-sex romance between the story’s beloved protagonists – sensitive fledgling vampire Louis (Jacob Anderson) and his flamboyant creator-turned-lover Lestat (Sam Reid) – to cement the connection between Rice’s brooding, sexually fluid vampires and the millions of queer fans that have seen themselves reflected in the pages of Rice’s books all along. To top it all off, it pulls no punches in rendering both the gory savagery of the story’s horrors and the brazen eroticism of its sensually enhanced supernatural heroes – meaning that even if you’re never heard of Anne Rice, you’ll be hooked by the end of the first episode.
3. “The Andy Warhol Diaries”
Netflix makes the list again with this comprehensively drawn Ryan Murphy-produced docuseries that takes a deep dive into the text – and between the lines – of the infamous queer pop artist-and-tastemaker’s notoriously opaque posthumously published diary. Supplemented by insights from surviving members of Warhol’s inner circle and imagery from the extensive archives he left behind, it attempts to reveal the fragile inner life of an enigmatic figure who made lack of substance a cornerstone of his career; it succeeds beyond expectation, revealing a heartbreakingly human voice behind the minutiae he recorded from his daily routine, casting light on the romantic relationships he took pains to keep separate from his public image, and hinting at a greater connection between his emotional life and his art than critics and commentators have previously acknowledged.
While it might not drop any bombshells or change the cultural conversation around Warhol and the era he helped to define, it gives us a behind-the-curtain glimpse that expands our empathy toward one of our greatest queer icons – aided by the controversial-but-effective AI-enhanced voice of actor Bill Irwin reading excerpts from the diary as Warhol – and that’s perhaps a much more meaningful accomplishment.
The most traditional series on our list, perhaps, is this queer-inclusive Hulu gem from “Modern Family” co-creator Steven Levitan, in which a young television writer (Rachel Bloom) gets a green light for her proposed reboot of a beloved ‘90s sitcom, which she plans to reinvent for a modern audience; her plan hits a snag, however, when the network brings in her father (Paul Reiser) – the original show’s creator – as a showrunner.
Complicating things even further is the show’s returning cast (Keegan-Michael Key, Judy Greer, Johnny Knoxville, and Calum Worthy), a dysfunctional collection of now-faded stars whose off-camera lives and relationships continually threaten to derail the production. The premise not only sets up a ripe field for comedy about the cultural conflicts and differing attitudes between older and younger generations, but it also provides limitless possibilities for Hollywood’s favorite pastime of making fun of itself; a top-flight, talented cast makes sure neither of those tropes feel tired, and Levitan’s signature rapid-fire comedic style ensures that every episode is laugh-out-loud funny. Our only complaint is that it’s so binge-worthy we burned through the debut season – which with only eight episodes feels frustratingly brief – and now we’re forced to wait for the next one.
5. “The Sandman”
Fans of Neil Gaiman’s iconic comic book and its darkly beautiful, queer-inclusive mystical universe have been waiting for more than 30 years to see it come to the screen, but this moody and stylish Netflix adaptation proved to be well worth their patience. With an excellent Tom Sturridge heading the cast as Morpheus – the saga’s mercurial “hero,” who rules over the Kingdom of Dreams and holds the fate of the human world in his immortal hands – and big-budget production values that bring the striking visual aesthetic of the original comic to thrilling life, it captures Gaiman’s macabre metaphorical fantasy saga and its wide assortment of conflicted, complex characters and themes to a pitch-perfect tee. Sure, some purists might quibble about the gender-swapping and/or reimagining of characters to create an even more diverse and inclusive blend than the original comic – but to us, those flourishes feel like a healthy evolution that only strengthens the appeal of a timeless classic. Besides, any show audacious enough to give us Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer is a masterpiece, in our book.
‘Pelosi in the House’ a fascinating, must-see documentary
Speaker is a force, whether doing laundry or surviving Jan. 6
‘Pelosi in the House’
Directed by Alexandra Pelosi
Available on HBO platforms
It’s often said that Washington, D.C. is Hollywood for ugly people. This may be true for uncharismatic politicos. But “Pelosi in the House,” a documentary just out on HBO, directed by documentarian Alexandra Pelosi, shows that this trope doesn’t describe Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
From the get-go, in this 145-minute film, Nancy Pelosi, 82, who announced that she’s stepping down as Speaker of the House, holds your attention.
Whether she’s at her home doing her laundry during a (remote) meeting with former Vice President Mike Pence, dancing with one of her grandchildren or going through the halls of the Capitol (stilettos clacking), Pelosi is captivating.
She’s an extraordinary vote counter, fundraiser, campaigner, and party leader, while fighting sexism and the glass ceiling. And she looks great wearing a red coat and sunglasses, or pajamas.
If politics is your jam, you’ll enjoy this documentary. If you’re expecting an intimate look into Pelosi’s psyche, you’ll likely be disappointed.
It’s hard to think of a more steadfast LGBTQ ally than Pelosi (D-Calif.). From her first floor speech about AIDS in 1987 to her pivotal role in securing passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, Pelosi has championed the queer community.
During her decades of service, Pelosi shepherded the passage of much legislation, perhaps most notably the Affordable Care Act.
“You’re a tough nut to crack,” Alexandra Pelosi, one of Nancy Pelosi’s five children, says to her mother in “Pelosi in the House.”
Alexandra Pelosi tries to keep up as her mother power-walks through the Capitol, reminds Democrats who resist voting for Obamacare that there are no “free passes” and advises Barack Obama (then president) not “to go too far left.”
But Alexandra Pelosi’s talent as a filmmaker doesn’t help her to decode her mother. We watch as Nancy Pelosi dances with a grandchild and looks for a birthday card for a grandkid. Though totally consumed by her work, the Speaker is devoted to her family. You sense that she has feelings about life — her family, etc. — but Pelosi isn’t going to reveal them. Not even to her daughter.
“If that’s what you want to do,” the Speaker says to her filmmaker daughter trying to break her facade, “Crack your mom.”
You can tell that Alexandra Pelosi loves her mother. But, she’s not a partisan filmmaker. “Pelosi in the House” is the 14th documentary she’s made for HBO.
Her documentary “Journeys with George” is about the 18 months she covered George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign as a NBC News producer. The film received six Emmy nominations.
Her other documentaries include “Friends of God: A Road Trip with Alexandra Pelosi,” a film on evangelical Christians; and “Outside the Bubble,” a film about Trump supporters. Contrary to what you might expect, these documentaries aren’t hatchet jobs.
Alexandra Pelosi isn’t a right-winger. But her documentaries on evangelicals and Trump voters are illuminating, not demeaning.
“Pelosi in the House” doesn’t reveal Nancy Pelosi’s inner world. But it’s revealing to anyone who cares about not only politics, but democracy.
The film, shot in cinema verite style, gives us a behind-the-scenes look at vote counting and negotiating. There are poignant moments. Scenes of Pelosi and George W. Bush – of Pelosi on the phone with John McCain – remind us of when politicians saw each other as human beings, not just as demonized opponents.
“Pelosi in the House” is terrifying in its last half hour when it shows Nancy Pelosi in the midst of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
This footage has been shown at the Jan. 6 committee hearings. But watching it on screen, you get in your solar plexus, how our democracy nearly imploded.
Hitchcock couldn’t have dreamed up anything more frightening than the riot in the Capitol. Or more sinister than the recent brutal attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband.
Pelosi has received death threats and been the object of vicious right-wing ads. Being Speaker makes you a target “sometimes of mockery,” Nancy Pelosi says in the documentary, “sometimes of violence.”
“It’s not for the faint of heart,” she says.
“Pelosi in the House” is a fascinating must-see.
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