Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The 13th Annual Movie Dearest Dearie Awards

For the thirteenth year in a row, Movie Dearest takes a look back and celebrates the year that was with a salute to the best in film, television and the stage with the 2019 Movie Dearest Awards, a.k.a. the "Dearies".

And the winners are...

Movie of the Year: Pain and Glory
It is safe to say that we have been obsessed with the unique cinematic vision – the exotic locales, the pastel colors, the richly-drawn characters (especially the female ones) – of Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar since 1988’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. That movie also introduced to us the smoldering screen presence of one Antonio Banderas, then on the cusp of international stardom. Since those days, Almodóvar’s films have won worldwide acclaim and two Academy Awards, and he and Banderas have collaborated on several more films together, crescendoing with our 2019 Movie of the Year, Pain and Glory. This semi-autobiographical character study of a film director in the latter part of his life reflecting on his past while struggling to cope with his present is a story masterfully told as only two artists so attuned to each other could make. Nominated for two Oscars – Best International Feature and a well-deserved first nomination for Banderas – Pain and Glory recently swept Spain’s Oscar-equivalent Goyas, winning seven awards including Best Picture. To that we say: Viva Pedro! - KH

Woman of the Year: Renée Zellweger
Renée Zellweger has been a favorite of ours ever since Jerry Maguire; you could say she had us at “hello”. Mostly absent from the public eye for a while now, she triumphantly returned to A-list stardom last year with her stunning performance of Judy Garland in the biopic Judy. Almost molecularly transforming herself – body, soul, voice – into the beloved movie star/gay icon/show biz legend, she solidified her status as a gay icon in her own right with a performance many are calling legendary. And we all knew that Renée could carry a musical thanks to Chicago, but she pulls out all the stops here, as one must to sing the singular “Over the Rainbow”, not to mention all the other classic songs Garland immortalized. Already a victor at the BAFTA, Golden Globe, Screen Actors’ Guild and Dorian Awards, Renée is the favored front-runner to win the Best Actress Oscar next week. We – along with Judy in heaven above – will be cheering her on all the way. - KH

Man of the Year: Taron Egerton
Like our Woman of the Year, our male equivalent for 2019 starred in a big musical biography as a gay fave who sang about yellow brick roads. But in the case of Taron Egerton, the legend that he was playing – one Sir Elton John – is still alive and the executive producer of the movie. The dreamily handsome and multi-talented Welsh actor more than rose to the occasion, showing off his acting chops, singing skills and even a little dancing in Rocketman, earning the best reviews of his career and a Golden Globe Award. Unfortunately, this was a crowded year for Best Actor and Taron missed out on an Oscar nomination (like, don't go breaking our hearts Academy), but he was still standing as far as the BAFTA, Screen Actors' Guild and Dorian Awards were concerned, not to mention a Grammy nomination for the film's soundtrack (see Movie Music of the Year, below). And we here at Movie Dearest are more than happy to add to the adulation by naming him our Man of the Year. - KH

New Star of the Year: Florence Pugh
Nobody has had quite the breakout year as Florence Pugh did in 2019. Playing three very different characters in three very different movies, she started the year as a mostly-unknown and ended it as an Academy Award nominee. It started in February with the release of the sports biopic Fighting with My Family, wherein she played WWE wrestler Paige. Then came midsummer and the release of Midsommar, the creepy folk horror tale in which she headlined as a troubled young woman who finds herself at the mercy of a Swedish death cult. And finally came December and Greta Gerwig's acclaimed, revisionist take on Little Women. As Amy, usually the least favorite March sister, Florence turned a character who is traditionally spoiled and selfish into one that is spirited and self-aware. The result: her first Oscar nomination. Plus, coming very soon: her Marvel debut in the long-awaited Black Widow, due May, 2020. That's quite a year, and we are very confident that Florence will be having many more good years in the years to come. - KH

TV Show of the Year: Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City
Thank god for Netflix, for without them who knew when we would have been able to return to San Francisco's iconic 28 Barbary Lane again. It's been 18 long years since Showtime's Further Tales from the City, the last time we saw Armistead Maupin's beloved characters from his groundbreaking book series brought to life on screen, so we were binge-ready upon the launch last June of this new 10-episode limited series. Original PBS mini-series stars Laura Linney, Olympia Dukakis and Paul Gross returned as core characters Mary Ann Singleton, Anna Madrigal and Brian Hawkins, joined by everyone's favorite "Mouse", Michael Tolliver, played by Looking's Murray Bartlett, now a hunky DILF with a much-younger boyfriend (Charlie Barnett). Other newcomers included Brian and Mary Ann's daughter Shawna (Ellen Page) and a mysterious woman from Anna's past (Daniela Vega). Admittedly, we were less than thrilled by that logic-defying time shift to the present day and the subsequent presence of those tiresome Instagramming wonder twins, but we were still very happy to see and here more of these tales from this city. - KH

Stage Show of the Year: Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Because we can can can! Although many theatergoers are understandably dubious about the growing number of Broadway shows adapted from the big screen, we were excited at the prospect of transferring Baz Luhrmann's hyper-kinetic 2001 movie musical to the stage. The hit production may spin a primarily (though not exclusively) hetero love story, it has major gay cred behind the scenes, including out book writer John Logan (the Tony Award-winning Red). In the end its romance between idealistic, bohemian songwriter Christian (played by the hot Aaron Tveit) and the doomed "sparkling diamond" Satine (a stunning Karen Olivo) holds universal appeal. Heck, I saw it with a straight couple and we were all holding hands during the emotional climax. The stage version is more serious in tone than the movie but boasts even more pop songs (Beyoncé! Rihanna! Sia!) and amazing choreography by Sonya Tayeh, and without the film's sometimes spastic editing. It's (now ubiquitous) dance medley curtain call is the best I've ever seen. So get ready to can can can when Moulin Rouge! The Musical comes to your area on tour this fall. - CC

Foreign Film of the Year: Portrait of a Lady on Fire
We were mighty impressed by French filmmaker Céline Sciamma's trans/queer film Tomboy in 2011. She has since created a powerful body of LGBTQ work that culminated last year with her scintillating Portrait of a Lady on Fire. A period lesbian romance set on a remote island, it is one of the most physically beautiful movies in some time. Chock full of seaside rendezvous, sensual kisses, smoldering looks exchanged by the fireside and, yes, lovely ladies posing for paintings, it is a feast for the eyes as well as a memorable love story (it fittingly goes into wide release this Valentine's Day). Actors Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel are well-matched as the lovers in question, with both characters poignant victims of circumstance in their 1760 setting. One is able to transcend her situation, while the other becomes tragically trapped in an arranged marriage (after being initially trapped in a convent). Sciamma's latest ultimately serves as a potent reminder of how far women, LGBTQ people and even artists have come in the centuries since. - CC

Documentary of the Year: Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street
Actor Mark Patton had a promising career in mid-1980s Hollywood, having co-starred with Cher in Robert Altman's Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean both on Broadway and on screen. Soon after, he scored the lead in 1985's A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, a much anticipated first sequel to the horror hit. It was a similar success, but Patton's career flamed out instead of igniting due to his not-so-secret homosexuality. 35 years later, Patton is an interior designer living with his husband in Mexico and the sad truth of his mistreatment by Hollywood has been exposed by this frighteningly insightful and frighteningly entertaining documentary. Planned for release later this year, it was honored this past weekend by GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics as the LGBTQ Documentary of the Year. Patton's new designation as the sole male "scream queen" of 80s slasher cinema serves as long-delayed validation, not only for him but for all gay actors of the conservative era who suffered similarly. Thankfully, they don't have to scream for justice or opportunities any more. - CC

Unsung Movie of the Year: The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Joe Talbot's heartfelt, reality-based drama premiered to much acclaim at last year's Sundance Film Festival, with first-timer Talbot winning the fest's Best US Director award. Its look at two lifelong best friends struggling to save an old house from gentrification is a love story on multiple levels, including between the lead male characters. There is nothing specifically/explicitly gay between Jimmie (Jimmie Fails) and Mont (Indie Spirit Award nominee Jonathan Majors) but the refreshing thing about this film is it doesn't matter. Their love for one another is undeniable even if they are straight, and they share a relaxed physical intimacy as well as with Mont's blind grandfather (Danny Glover). The film's "Greek chorus" of street toughs with sensitive sides is another welcome attribute. The low-budget movie was a modest hit when it was released theatrically last summer but certainly deserves a broader viewership (it is now streaming on Amazon Prime). Beautifully directed, written, acted, photographed and scored, we are hopeful The Last Black Man in San Francisco will yet find a sizeable audience. - CC

DVD of the Year: John Waters' Polyester
The Criterion Collection got a little malodorous in 2019 with their Blu-ray release of John Waters' Polyester. The 1981 "smell-odrama" camp classic stars Waters' muse Divine as Francine Fishpaw, a put-upon suburban housewife with a smut-peddling husband, two wretched teen-aged children and a very overdeveloped sense of smell, which audiences are able to share thanks to the "revolutionary Odorama process", i.e.: cardboard scratch-and-sniff cards that were handed out to cinema-goers back in the day and of which Criterion has meticulously recreated for us discerning cinephiles of today. A then-closeted Tab Hunter (a long way from Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates) co-stars as Francine's hunk-of-her-dreams, along with Waters' regulars Edith Massey and a cornrowed Mink Stole. Waters and his cast are also on hand looking back fondly upon the making of this timeless "trash-terpiece" in both archival footage and new interviews found in the bonus features of this disc, a must-have for any true fan of filmic filth. - KH

Movie Music of the Year: Rocketman
We don't often double dip at the Dearies, but a key factor in what made Taron Egerton our Man of the Year was the men behind the music of Rocketman, legendary songwriters Elton John and Bernie Taupin. Featuring over twenty tunes made famous by Sir Elton, this is not your typical rock biopic. Described as a "musical fantasy" retelling of the life of 'Elton John: Superstar', the songs are not just performed as in, say, Bohemian Rhapsody; they are performed. Thus "Saturday Night's Alright (for Fighting)" becomes a dueling dance off, "Honky Cat" is turned into a sexy song of seduction, "Crocodile Rock" literally sends everyone soaring, et cetera. Egerton rocks as the rocket man and is joined on the Grammy nominated soundtrack by such fellow cast members as Jamie Bell (as Taupin) and Bryce Dallas Howard (as Elton's mum). But the ultimate duet is saved for the finale, where the real Elton joins the "reel" Elton on the Golden Globe winning, Oscar nominated end title track "(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again". - KH

The Neil V. Cohen Award for Campy Film of the Year: Knives Out
Our dear friend Neil Cohen, for whom this award is named after in memorium, was a big fan (and prolific playwright) of murder mysteries, not to mention all-star casts who love to chew on a little scenery. So it is with no doubt that we select the box office hit Knives Out as our Campy Film of the Year in his honor. Set in a stately manor described by one character as a "Clue board", we meet the feuding, back-stabbing Thrombey clan shortly after the apparent suicide of their patriarch, eccentric best-selling whodunit author Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). Enter private detective Benoit Blanc (a delightfully over-the-top, Looney Tunes-accented Daniel Craig) to crack the case. Playing various conniving Thrombeys, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Colette, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson and a cable knit-sweatered Chris Evans dig in to director Rian Johnson's intricately plotted, devilishly witty Oscar nominated screenplay, resulting in a wickedly comic romp that is simply to die for. - KH

We hope you enjoyed this year's Dearies and thank you for visiting Movie Dearest in 2019! Here's to 2020...

By Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine, and Kirby Holt, creator and editor of Movie Dearest.

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