Wednesday, September 14, 2022

MD Review: The Gods Must Be Crazy

Who would have thought that the first Marvel Cinematic Hero to make it to a fourth solo flick would be Thor? The hunky hammer-wielder has evolved (devolved?) from a bleached-eyebrowed himbo to a buffoonish, beer-bellied bro since he debuted 11 years ago. And the latest adventure of the Asgardian Avenger, Thor: Love and Thunder, does little to change that. By Odin's beard, why did anyone ever tell Chris Hemsworth he was funny?

MD Rating: 6/10

Thor: Love and Thunder is now streaming on Disney+.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Reverend’s Preview: A Tale of Two LGBTQ Film Festivals

San Diego and Long Beach aren’t exactly sister cities, since they are separated geographically by 110 miles, but their LGBTQ communities may grow closer this September 8th-11th via the communal experience that movies provide. Both cities will be celebrating their long-running LGBTQ film festivals during the same weekend. They will also be serendipitously screening several of the same noteworthy productions.

FilmOut San Diego’s 22nd Annual LGBTQ Film Festival will feature award-winning films from the Sundance, SXSW and Berlin Film Festivals, along with independent features and a variety of short films. Events will be held at the San Diego Natural History Museum (THE NAT) and the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA), both located in San Diego’s historic Balboa Park. For complete festival ticket info, screening updates, sponsorships and volunteer information, visit the FilmOut San Diego website.

To the north, the 29th annual QFilms Long Beach is also set for September 8th-11th at the city’s historic Art Theatre and neighboring LGBTQ Center Long Beach on 4th Street. A panoply of LGBTQ+ onscreen representation will be exhibited through feature films and documentaries plus short films showing the lives of every member of the LGBTQ+ alphabet. Tickets to screenings, filmmaker Q&As, VIP experiences and parties are now on sale at the QFilms Long Beach website.

Among the movies both fests have in common is All Kinds of Love. It will serve as QFilms’ Opening Night event with writer-director David Lewis (who is also a Pulitzer Prize-winning editor at the San Jose Mercury News) and cast members in attendance. Amid the backdrop of the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision to uphold marriage equality, a longtime gay couple gets divorced just as everyone else is getting married. After his commitment-phobic husband divorces him, stuck-in-his-ways Max tries to start over; actors and real-life couple Matthew Montgomery and Steve Callahan play the pair. When Max becomes accidental roommates with a younger hip nerd who is as romantically challenged as he is, sparks fly. All Kinds of Love is a fun romantic comedy that celebrates the endless possibilities of queer love, whether it involves an intergenerational romance, a middle-aged interracial throuple, or an artistic trans man looking for love in all the wrong places. It will screen as the Men’s Centerpiece during FilmOut San Diego on Saturday, September 10th.

Meanwhile, FilmOut SD will open with the athletically-inclined drama In From the Side on Thursday, September 8th. As the members of a gay rugby team in London try to push past rivalries to score an elusive win, a secret affair simmers among them. Following a drunken encounter, two players begin an adulterous relationship and must conceal their growing feelings or risk destroying the team they love. Mark (sexy Alexander Lincoln) finds himself unable to avoid the appeal of teammate Warren (the equally sexy Alexander King), who sets off every red (or in rugby, yellow) flag: the cocky attitude, the emotional unavailability, the long-term boyfriend. But the real drama occurs off the field as infidelities, heartbreak and unimpeded passions dominate the playbook. Visual effects artist Matt Carter makes a very impressive feature directorial debut. Not only did he direct and co-write it, he edited it, composed the music, served as cinematographer and co-produced!

The acclaimed, nostalgic documentary All Man: The International Male Story will be shown during both FilmOut SD and QFilms. In San Diego, it will serve as the grand finale Closing Night event on Sunday, September 11th. It will screen in Long Beach on Saturday, September 10th. While this writer was in a Roman Catholic seminary back in the early 1990’s, more than a few of us gay students had subscriptions to the homoerotic International Male. (And the straight women who worked in the seminary mailroom at the time definitely weren’t complaining!) The late clothing catalog, which actually debuted way back in the bicentennial year 1976, was decried by anti-gay cultural critics as “hedonistic,” “tasteless” and “selling sex.” As the documentary reveals in fascinating detail, it ultimately weathered those naysayers as well as the tragic devastation that HIV/AIDS wrought on the catalog’s staff and model pool during the 1980’s-90’s. I never expected to feel proud of International Male 30+ years later but, dagnabit, I do thanks to filmmakers Bryan Darling and Jesse Finley Reed. Gay faves Matt Bomer, Drew Droege, Carson Kressley, Jake Shears and fellow LGBTQ critic Frank DeCaro also make welcome contributions to the doc.

Two other prominent features are also scheduled to be shared by FilmOut and QFilms. Michelle Ehlen’s Maybe Someday will be the Women’s Opening Night Film in Long Beach and the Women’s Centerpiece in San Diego. It tells the story of Jay, a non-binary 40-something photographer, who moves across the country to start their life over again in the midst of separating from their wife. Along the way, Jay takes a detour to stay with her high school best friend who she used to be secretly in love with. Jay also befriends a charismatic gay man who has long given up on love. Struggling to move forward with the next chapter of their life, memories of the past resurface as Jay grapples with the inevitable cycles of love, loss and letting go.

The award-winning documentary Mama Bears is an exploration of the journeys taken by Sara Cunningham and Kimberly Shappley, two conservative Christian mothers whose profound love for their LGBTQ+ children has turned them into fierce advocates for the entire queer community. It also focuses on Tammi Terrell Morris, a young African-American lesbian whose struggle for self-acceptance perfectly exemplifies why the mama bears are so vitally important. The movie uses social media posts, home movies, photographs, interviews and cinema verité footage to explore the complex intersections of politics, religion, faith and unconditional love.

For its Closing Night screening on Sunday, September 11th, QFilms has scored a coup: an advance screening of Universal Studios’ Bros, the first romantic comedy from a major studio about two gay men maybe, possibly, probably, stumbling towards love... emphasis on the maybe. Starring Billy Eichner, the first openly gay man to co-write and star in his own major studio film, it features an entirely LGBTQ+ principal cast including Luke Macfarlane, Ts Madison, Guillermo Díaz, Guy Branum and Amanda Bearse. Bros was directed by Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) from his screenplay with Eichner, and produced by comedy titan Judd Apatow (Bridesmaids). Bros isn’t scheduled to open in theaters until September 30th, so QFilms will be one of the first places to see it on the big screen.

Not to be outdone, FilmOut will screen The Sixth Reel, a new comedy co-directed by and starring the iconic Charles Busch. A down-on-his-luck movie collector (Busch) discovers a legendary lost film and becomes entangled in an outrageous adventure to deliver it to the right hands before it is lost forever. Busch is an American actor, screenwriter, playwright and drag performer known for his appearances in plays and films (including Psycho Beach Party and Die, Mommie, Die!). His best-known play is The Tale of the Allergist's Wife (2000), which was a Tony-nominated success on Broadway.

Numerous other recommended feature and short films will be screened at both festivals during their shared weekend, so be sure to visit their respective websites. According to Carlos Torres, executive director of The LGBTQ Center Long Beach: “While special interest groups try to legislate our existence away, it is more important now than ever to see representations of our LGBTQ+ lives on screen.” And to partially quote the opening of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times.” This will most certainly be true of FilmOut San Diego and/or QFilms Long Beach 2022.

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