Thursday, March 21, 2024

Reverend's Reviews: Two Great New Movies to Ring in Spring

Spring has officially/meteorologically sprung, although you wouldn't know it here at Reverend's rectory in New England. Other parts of the country are likely having earlier indications that the seasons have changed. This is especially true based on some local movie events.

In northern California, the Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF) is being celebrated this weekend! Proving that Sonoma has more to offer than just fine wine, this fest is presented each year by a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to promoting the best in independent film and filmmakers from around the world. SIFF hosts its annual festival each March, getting a jump on the US film festival season, as well as year-round events and special screenings. For passes, tickets and more information, visit

Extremely Unique Dynamic will be having its World Premiere as the fest's Gay-La Spotlight Film on tonight with a party hosted by fabulous actor-writer-director James Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Rabbit Hole, Shortbus). The movie will have an additional screening at 1:00 pm on Saturday, March 23rd. A smart meta comedy, it follows Ryan (Harrison Xu) and Daniel (Ivan Leung), two childhood best friends and aspiring actors. They are spending one final weekend together in Los Angeles before Ryan moves to Canada with his fiancé. Wanting to create a lasting memory, they decide to make a movie… about two guys making a movie… about two guys making a movie. In the process, bottled-up secrets arise as they unpack their decades-long friendship and prepare for the next chapters of their respective lives.

Things were seemingly just as meta behind the scenes. Read this carefully: Extremely Unique Dynamic is directed by Xu, Leung and Katherine Dudas (who plays Juniper) from a screenplay by Xu, Leung and Dudas, and is produced by Xu, Leung and Noel Do-Murakami. Both Leung and Do-Murakami identify as LGBTQ+. Also of note and beyond acting, Ivan Leung is celebrated for his comedic rap finesse that was notably showcased in the viral hit "Taco Loving Asian Guy." Also appearing in the film are Hudson Yang (well-known from the groundbreaking sitcom Fresh Off the Boat) and, making his film premiere, internet personality Nathan Down (3M YouTube followers and counting).

Leung and Xu give endearing performances in this often very funny movie. Wherever and whenever you see it, be sure to watch all the way through the end credits for additional meta wackiness.

The hands-down best film I've seen thus far this Spring/new year is Thomas Cailley's The Animal Kingdom (in French: Le Regne Animal). Co-written by Cailley and Pauline Munier, this visionary, provocative new sci-fi/queer thriller drops viewers into an extraordinary world where mutations in human genetics are causing people to transform into hybrid creatures. These mutants become disparagingly referred to as "critters" or, worse, "monsters." François (Roman Duris) does everything he can to save his wife, who is affected by this mysterious condition. As some of the creatures disappear into a nearby forest, François embarks with their 16-year-old son Emile (Paul Kircher) on a quest to find her with unexpected help from a local police officer (Adèle Exarchopoulos). Alas, Emile also soon begins to succumb to the unusual transformation.

The Animal Kingdom had its world premiere as the opening film of the Un Certain Regard section at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival. It was subsequently nominated for a leading 12 Cesar Awards and won an impressive 5 Cesars, including Best Visual Effects. The film is now playing in some US theaters and is streaming for a $6.99 as I write this. It is well worth the ticket or rental price, between its LGBTQ-relevant plot and Paul Kircher's impressive, affecting performance.

Reverend's Ratings:
Extremely Unique Dynamic: B+
The Animal Kingdom: A-

Reviews by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film and stage critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

Friday, March 8, 2024

Reverend's Preview: March Brings Major Movie Awards


Illustration by Olly Gibbs,

Hollywood’s biggest night this year will be this Sunday, March 10th, when the 96th annual Academy Awards are scheduled to be bestowed upon the best films, actors, actresses, directors, etc. of 2023. Nominations were announced on January 23rd and include several LGBTQ+ contenders. Getting a head start on the celebration, however, are GALECA’s newly-announced Dorian Award winners for 2023.

GALECA: the Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics was founded in 2009 and currently consists of 500 members (including yours truly). Each year, the group honors the best mainstream and LGTBQ+ film, television and Broadway/Off Broadway productions via their Dorian Awards. A 501 c 6 nonprofit, GALECA also advocates for better pay, access and respect for its members, especially those in our most underrepresented and vulnerable segments. GALECA’s other efforts include the Crimson Honors, a college film/TV criticism contest for LGBTQ women or non-binary students of color.

Among the LGBTQ-interest film honorees recognized by both GALECA and the Academy among their initial nominations this year were out actor Colman Domingo for his performance as the title, trailblazing gay activist in Rustin; out actress Jodie Foster as the dedicated friend and coach to a record-breaking lesbian swimmer in Nyad; lead actress Sandra Huller, screenwriter Justine Triet, and their keep-‘em-guessing courtroom drama Anatomy of a Fall; and the touchingly queer, anime-inspired animated movie Nimona.

Somewhat surprisingly, GALECA completely snubbed actor-director Bradley Cooper’s biopic Maestro, about bisexual composer-conductor Leonard Bernstein. But then, GALECA nominated the popular, Oscars-neglected queer comedy Bottoms in multiple categories.

Also notably absent among this year’s Oscar nominees was out filmmaker Andrew Haigh’s pretty much universally-acclaimed All of Us Strangers. This metaphysical/supernatural tale of a gay man reuniting with his long-dead parents while embarking on a romance with a mysterious neighbor is beautifully made and truly haunting. Actors Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal were both nominated by GALECA for their deeply moving performances.

Similarly neglected by the Academy were the LGBTQ favorites Saltburn and Passages. All this being said, the single coolest Oscar citation this year in my opinion is composer John Williams’ 54th nomination at the age of 91! He was recognized yet again for his score of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. (Williams actually turned 92 since this year’s nominees were announced.)

GALECA’s 15th annual Dorian Award winners, including several new categories, were just announced. We are honored to include them here:

Film of the Year: All of Us Strangers (Searchlight Pictures)

LGBTQ Film of the Year: All of Us Strangers (Searchlight Pictures)

Director of the Year: Greta Gerwig, Barbie (Warner Bros.)

Screenplay of the Year- Original or adapted: Samy Burch, May December (Netflix)

LGBTQ Screenplay of the Year (new award category this year): Andrew Haigh, All of Us Strangers (Searchlight Pictures)

Non-English Language Film of the Year: Anatomy of a Fall (NEON)

LGBTQ Non-English Language Film of the Year (new award category this year): Anatomy of a Fall (NEON)

Unsung Film of the Year- To an exceptional movie worthy of greater attention: Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. (Lionsgate)

Film Performance of the Year: Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon (Apple, Paramount)

Supporting Film Performance of the Year: Charles Melton, May December (Netflix)

Documentary of the Year: Kokomo City (Magnolia)

LGBTQ Documentary of the Year: Kokomo City (Magnolia)

Animated Film of the Year: The Boy and the Heron (GKIDS)

Genre Film of the Year - For excellence in science fiction, fantasy and horror (new award category this year): Poor Things (Searchlight Pictures)

Film Music of the Year: Barbie — Mark Ronson, Andrew Wyatt, et al. (Warner Bros.)

Visually Striking Film of the Year: Poor Things (Searchlight Pictures)

Campiest Flick: M3GAN (Universal)

“We’re Wilde About You!” Rising Star Award: Ayo Edebiri

Wilde Artist Award - Recognizing a truly groundbreaking force in entertainment: Todd Haynes

GALECA LGBTQIA+ Film Trailblazer Award - For creating art that inspires empathy, truth and equity: Colman Domingo

Timeless Star (Career achievement award) Honoring an exemplary career marked by character, wisdom and wit: Jodie Foster

For the full list of nominations and more information about the Society of LGBTQ+ Entertainment Critics, please visit

Monday, February 26, 2024

And the 2023 Dorian Film Award Winners Are...


 Film of the Year, LGBTQ Film of the Year and LGBTQ Screenplay of the Year: Andrew Haigh


Director of the Year: Greta Gerwig and Film Music of the Year


Film Performance of the Year: Lily Gladstone


Supporting Performance of the Year: Charles Melton and Screenplay of the Year: Samy Burch


Non-English Language Film of the Year and LGBTQ Non-English Language Film of the Year


 Unsung Film of the Year


 Documentary of the Year and LGBTQ Documentary of the Year


Animated Film of the Year


Genre Film of the Year and Visually Striking Film of the Year


Campiest Flick


"We're Wilde About You!" Rising Star Award


Wilde Artist Award


GALECA LGBTQIA+ Film Trailblazer Award


Timeless Star Career Achievement Award

Friday, February 9, 2024

Reverend's Interview: Guillermo Diaz is Here to Stay

Out actor Guillermo Diaz will be commanding movie screens this month as the star of You Can’t Stay Here. Directed by longtime, underground filmmaker Todd Verow (Frisk, Tumbledown, Goodbye Seventies), it will opens this week at theaters in Los Angeles and elsewhere.

The plot of You Can’t Stay Here was inspired by real events in early 1990’s New York City. The AIDS crisis hangs in the air and cops are targeting gay men in well-known cruising spots. This doesn’t stop aspiring art photographer Rick (Diaz) as he spends his days and nights cruising in Central Park. After he witnesses the murder of a gay man, though, Rick is drawn into a dangerous and sexy game of cat and mouse with the magnetic killer that leads him to question his own sanity.

Diaz is great in one of his few leading man roles to date, and it’s always good to see Verow back in action. The movie was actually shot in Central Park with the city’s permission. Verow wrote about the origins of his latest production for the film’s press notes.

“During the COVID pandemic, I heard that the Ramble (the notorious cruising area in New York’s Central Park that featured prominently in William Friedkin’s film Cruising) was jumping,” Verow recalls. “I went there to investigate and indeed it was full of queer people engaging in all sorts of intimate activity, not all of it sexual. Most of the cruisers were wearing masks, which only intensified the eye contact and intimacy.”

The filmmaker continued: “We had been locked down, curfew-ed, and burned out on Zoom sex and the harsh coldness of Grindr, Scruff and other hookup apps. We needed physical contact... or at least proximity... with other human beings. This got me thinking about cruising and cruising places around the world. These are sacred spaces and, no matter how the police or governments try to beat them back, they will always be cruising areas.”

During this time, Guillermo Diaz was in New York City working on a TV series. He contacted Verow saying he was a fan of his work and wanted to make a film with him. Verow was also a fan of Diaz’s work, especially his portrayal of La Miranda in the 1995 film Stonewall, and messaged him back immediately. They got together for lunch and Verow told Diaz about his recent experiences in the Ramble and how he wanted to make a film about cruising there. Diaz liked the idea.

The screenplay for You Can’t Stay Here was written by Verow and his writing partner, James Derek Dwyer. “I wanted the film to take place in the early 90’s, before social media and smart phones and during the height of the HIV/ AIDS crisis, when homophobia, both external and internalized, ran rampant,” Verow shared. “The script is loosely inspired by real events during that time but also on the timelessness of cruising and the otherworldliness of the Ramble itself. Real life cruisers rarely, if ever, speak. Everything is conveyed through their eyes. Guillermo’s eyes convey so much; I could photograph them all day.”

In addition to his early, star-making turn in Stonewall, many viewers know Diaz as Huck from his many seasons on the ABC hit series Scandal. He is also recognizable from such movies as Bros, Half Baked, Party Girl, High School High and Steven Spielberg’s The Terminal. In addition to his feature film credits, he is well-known from Showtime’s award-winning series Weeds (where he played the role of Guillermo, coincidentally/appropriately enough) and NBC’s Law & Order: Organized Crime. He can also be seen with Britney Spears in her video "I Wanna Go" and in Beyonce and Jay Z's video "Run" alongside Sean Penn and Jake Gyllenhaal. Diaz made his directorial debut with the documentary short film Valley of the Undocumented, which was produced by Russell Simmons and Mark Zuckerberg for Immigrant Heritage Month. Born and raised in NYC’s Washington Heights, he currently resides in Los Angeles.

Diaz recently sat down to speak with me about You Can’t Stay Here and other aspects of his impressive, 30-year career. (Note: This interview has been edited for length and/or clarity.)

CC: Congrats on the movie! It’s good to see you front and center in the whole movie.
GD: Thanks. Yeah, it was nice.

CC: You really got this project rolling. What led you to seek out and work with Todd Verow when you did?
GD: I had booked a recurring role on a show so that brought me to New York for a year, year and a half. Because it was recurring I would work two days a week, sometimes one day a week, and I was like “Oh my god, I’m going crazy.” It was a procedural show and it wasn’t very challenging creatively, and so I started to think “Who do I want to work with? Who’s out there, like an indie director that excites me and I would want to collaborate with?” And I thought of Todd. I followed him on Instagram so I thought “I’m just going to message him. Why not? It’s 2023, right?” (laugh) So I sent him a DM and told him that I was a fan of his work and I would love to work with him. I’m also a huge horror film fan so I told him I would love to do something in the horror-thriller genre and would he be into it? He was, so we met up and the ball started rolling from there.

CC: That’s great. Are you happy with the finished film?
GD: I am, I am. It’s a classic Todd Verow-style movie. I knew he was a guerilla filmmaker. The way he works is very guerilla style with very few takes, and so when I saw it I was like “Ok, this is a true Verow film.” It was kind of exciting because I believe it was the first time that Todd worked with SAG actors and dealt with the union, if I’m not mistaken, so I was able to bring in actors that I love and wanted to work with. It was really exciting and collaborative, which I loved.

CC: How have audiences been responding to the film?
GD: It’s not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s OK. You want everybody to love your movie, but everybody walks away from it wanting to have a conversation and having questions, wanting to understand certain things. That’s good, people always wanting to talk about it. That’s definitely a plus.

CC: In what ways are you like your character, Rick? And in what ways are you different?
GD: I’m like him in so many ways. I grew up in New York City, I’m Latino. I was in my 20’s in the 90’s and I experienced meeting guys through cruising on the street or in a park or what have you. It’s not like now. I think this generation and the previous generation don’t really know what that’s like, so in that sense I’m a lot like (Rick). I lived that experience, not to the extent that Rick in the movie does. I was very much in the closet as well so that was a similarity. Some of the stuff that happens to my character in the film were experiences that either I had or Todd had. The ways that I’m not like him? I feel like I would have not gotten caught by the character people are now calling “The Vampire.” I feel like savvy Guillermo in the 90’s would have been like “What if I punched him in the face and ran?” (laugh) In the film, Rick gets sort of infatuated by him. He’s frightened by him but at the same time infatuated by him. I feel like I wouldn’t have been that way if I was in that situation, but who knows?

CC: You came out publicly in 2011, according to Wikipedia, which was still pretty rare for a well-known actor at the time. What was the reaction like?
GD: I’m so bad with years but I think it was before 2011. I came out in a magazine called Genre in like the late 90’s. It was when I did Stonewall. My management team told me “You’re going to be asked non-stop if you’re gay once you start doing press, so you’ve gotta figure out if you’re gonna be honest or if you’re gonna be in the closet and say you’re not.” But I was like, “Nope, I’m not lying.” I was 27 when I officially came out to my parents, which was the hardest to do. I had already been out to my friends and I had a boyfriend at the time.

CC: Are there any challenges or obstacles today for out, gay or LGBTQ actors, in your experience?
GD: Honestly, I can only speak for myself and from my experience but if there have been obstacles I haven’t been privy to them. I move forward and do my work and audition for a ton of stuff. Some I get, some I don’t. I honestly try not to think about that. I’m sure there have been some projects that have come up that possibly the producer or director or someone finds out I’m gay and they’re like “Nah, we’re not gonna work with him.” But again, I’m not privy to that so it’s not my problem, it’s their problem. I’ve experienced no problems, no push-back really. I’ve been super fortunate. I think what’s been good for me is that I haven’t kept (being gay) a mystery. I’ve been able to say “This is me, take it or leave it.”

CC: Good for you. What’s your advice for any young LGBTQ actors who want to make it in the industry?
GD: Quit acting right now and go do something else! (laugh) It is such a hard, difficult business to be in. If your heart isn’t in it 150,000% you should stop doing it and think about something else. Truly, like seriously, I’m only in this business and became an actor because I knew in my heart and my soul that I was gonna make it no matter what, and I never had any doubt. Regardless of all the rejection from auditions, which is a normal thing. But it’s difficult and again my advice is if you don’t want this a million thousand percent then go figure out something else, because that’s what it takes. And sleep with as many producers as you can. (laugh) I’m joking!

CC: Well, on that note: What are you working on now? What do we have to look forward to?
GD: (Laugh) I just directed — oh my god, it’s already been about two years — but I directed my first feature film, so now I’m in the post-production process. It’s a movie called Dear Luke, Love Me that a friend of mine, Mallie McCown, wrote. It’s sort of a dysfunctional relationship drama. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. We raised all the money ourselves through a Kickstarter campaign, shot the movie for like a month, and then we did the editing and now we’re in the post-production process. We’re starting to submit it to festivals and stuff so hopefully I’m going to be doing the festival thing for a little while, fingers crossed. And then Todd and I are talking about doing another movie together which, knowing how Todd works, that’s probably going to be the first movie that comes out. He works so fast. You’ll be interviewing us for that movie like in a month. (laugh)

Interview by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film and stage critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.