Saturday, January 14, 2023

"Everything" is Everywhere at the Dorian Film Awards

The wacky mind-bender Everything Everywhere All at Once leads the nominations for the 14th annual Dorian Film Awards, honoring the best cinematic achievements of 2022 as chosen by GALECA, The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics.

With nine nominations (including four acting nods), Everything Everywhere faces off against such other critical darlings as Tár (seven nominations), Aftersun and The Banshees of Inisherin (five nominations each), and they all join The Fablemans in the Film of the Year race.

Presented by GALECA (of which I and fellow Movie Dearest critic Chris Carpenter are members), the Dorian Award winners will be announced on February 23rd.

See the comments section below for the full list of nominees.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Palm Springs Welcomes a Controversial Gay Documentary

The new year is bringing an intriguing new LGBTQ film to Southern California that is stirring up controversy, even though it hasn’t even been released theatrically or on streaming.

1946: The Mistranslation That Shifted Culture is a feature documentary that follows the story of tireless researchers who trace the origins of the modern-day, anti-gay movement among Christians to a grave mistranslation of the Bible in 1946. It will celebrate its local premiere with three screenings during the Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF), which runs today through January 16th. For the screening schedule and tickets or passes, visit the PSIFF website.

Produced and directed by Sharon “Rocky” Roggio, it chronicles the discovery of never-before-seen archives at Yale University which unveil astonishing new revelations and cast significant doubt on any modern biblical basis for LGBTQIA+ prejudice. Featuring commentary from prominent scholars as well as opposing pastors (one of whom is Roggio’s own father), 1946 is at once challenging, enlightening and inspiring.

“The heartbeat of the film are the personal stories of its creators, including my own,” Roggio said. “In a sense, my story is not exceptional. I was raised in a loving home, the daughter of a Christian pastor who believes being gay is a sin. Realizing I was a lesbian at a young age, I carried tension, fear, and spiritual anxiety because of how my family believed.”

Of note, the Executive Producer of 1946 is Daniel Karslake. An award-winning film, theater, and television writer/director/producer, Karslake previously made For They Know Not What They Do, about four families of faith who discover they have a gay or trans child. It premiered in competition at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival and won seven audience awards and three jury prizes in festivals around the world. The doc was a follow up to Karslake’s first film, For the Bible Tells Me So, which premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and was short-listed for a 2008 Academy Award. Entertainment Weekly magazine has more recently listed it as “one of five documentaries that has changed the world,” and it has been translated into more than 20 languages worldwide.

Roggio’s new documentary shows how the word homosexual did not appear in the Bible until 1946, when a group of all-male, all-white, and presumably all-straight scripture scholars mistranslated the Greek words malakoi (meaning “weak” or “soft,” and sometimes misconstrued as “effeminate”) and arsenokoitai (which referred to economic and/or sexual abuse of a younger person). Words that more accurately condemned pedophilia or other abuse of vulnerable people were nonsensically applied to mature men who lie with/have consensual sex with other mature men.

According to Roggio: “I came across the research surrounding the mistranslation of the Bible in 2018, and my life immediately changed. My mission and purpose became clear. This research needed to be brought out into the light. What started off with a few cameras at a conference with a nonexistent budget has absolutely blossomed into a movement that I could not have foreseen. Today, 1946 has an established dedicated team of volunteers who’ve contributed their time, money, and efforts to bring this film to the world.”

Perhaps predictably, some current pastors and biblical scholars have already denounced Roggio’s documentary without even seeing it. Biblical Literalism, however, noted in its review of the film: “While other documentaries have been successful in their attempt to treat the symptoms of homophobia in the church, 1946 is working to diagnose and treat the disease.”

I encourage SoCal viewers to see 1946: The Mistranslation That Shifted Culture this month during PSIFF 2023 and decide for yourself.

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

Monday, January 2, 2023

Reverend's Reviews: The Best (and Worst) of 2022

Here at the beginning of 2023, let’s review what this critic considered the greatest and least cinematic offerings of 2022.

It could be positively considered “the year of the woman,” both in front of and behind the camera. Look for many of these movies to be honored by critic groups including GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, to which I belong, plus Hollywood guilds and the Academy over the next few months:

1. Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24). An endlessly inventive, mind-bending showcase for Asian superstar Michelle Yeoh. She plays a beleaguered laundromat owner who sets out on an unexpected journey through the multiverse in order to stop her estranged lesbian daughter from destroying reality as we know it, complete with time travel-enabling butt plugs and hot dog fingers! It’s a fantastical yet moving odyssey cooked up by talented co-writers/-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (billed simply as Daniels).

2. The Fabelmans (Universal Pictures) and Empire of Light (Searchlight Pictures). Both are intimate stories told against the background of cinema, revealing the medium’s unique ability to inspire and console. They also deal with important social issues: antisemitism in the case of Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical film, and racism in Sam Mendes’ similarly semi-autobiographical story.

3. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (Searchlight Pictures). Emma Thompson shines as a newly-widowed former teacher hoping to experience an orgasm for the first time ever with the help of a sexy, polyamorous escort played by the gorgeous Daryl McCormack. Challenging, amusing and touching revelations result for both of them. Beautifully acted and written (by Katy Brand).

4. The Woman King (TriStar Pictures/Sony) and Women Talking (United Artists/Orion). Women rule, literally and/or figuratively, in these films inspired by true events. Viola Davis co-produced and stars in the first as the titular African warrior who wins the respect of her male ruler and peers. It is a dramatically and visually impressive adventure with an almost-exclusively female crew. In Women Talking, actress turned writer-director Sarah Polley powerfully depicts a group of sexually-abused Amish women (embodied by a terrific cast headed by Rooney Mara) who debate whether to abandon their male-dominated community in protest.

5. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (Neon/Participant). Academy Award-winning documentarian Laura Poitras turned her camera on renowned photographer Nan Goldin for this bracing, inspiring expose. In addition to her art, Goldin has been an activist in the fight against the opioid crisis and the Sacklers, the wealthy family who profited off the overdose-related deaths of thousands before their pharmaceutical company was forced to declare bankruptcy. Before that, Goldin was one of the first sympathetic chroniclers of the AIDS pandemic. She and Poitras’s eye-opening documentary both deserve praise.

6. Pearl (A24). This deliciously deranged prequel to Ti West’s horror flick X, also released in 2022, deepened the genesis of both films’ anti-heroine. Mia Goth goes all-out with her stunning performance as the title character. She smiles, cries, sings, dances, has sex with a scarecrow, and butchers people with delight. One ends up both scared to death of her and wanting to take her home. Pearl also contains many knowing, reverential tributes to classic films of the 1930’s-50’s. I’m rooting for Goth to snag an underdog Oscar nomination for Best Actress.

7. Amsterdam (20th Century Studios) and The Banshees of Inisherin (Searchlight Pictures). Two decidedly offbeat yet powerful portrayals of friendship tested by external and/or internal forces. Sadly, the first was a big-budget flop upon its release despite an all-star cast that includes Christian Bale and Robert De Niro, but I trust it will find more admirers over time. Martin McDonagh’s Banshees is a very Irish tragi-comedy that could win Colin Farrell his first Oscar as a heartbroken, spurned animal-lover who ends up exacting revenge against his former bestie (the also-great Brendan Gleeson).

8. Thor: Love and Thunder (Marvel Studios). Plenty of fanboys will likely take me to task for honoring what they complained was Taika Waititi’s too-comedic sequel, but I was struck by how it balances serious issues around death, loss and grief with all the enjoyably requisite superhero hi-jinks. Besides, Chris Hemsworth’s too briefly-exposed derriere, bathed in golden light, definitely deserves an award of some kind!

9. A Christmas Story Christmas (Warner Bros) and Spirited (Apple Studios). I hereby proclaim two new holiday classics! The first is the lovingly nostalgic, long-overdue sequel — featuring the original, now grownup cast — to 1983’s yuletide tale. The other is a very modern (i.e. hilariously snarky) musical update of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol starring the winning combo of Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell, who both sing and dance impressively! Additionally, last month’s Santa Claus-themed, gory yet heartfelt Violent Night is bubbling just under my top 10.

10. Elvis (Warner Bros) and Tár (Focus Features). Each of these films focuses on a musically-inclined protagonist, one real and one fictional. Both run nearly 3 hours and have their over-the-top moments. However, Austin Butler and Cate Blanchett, respectively, are never less than sensational in the title roles and these movies are pretty darn unforgettable as a result.

Disclaimer: As usual, there were a few acclaimed end-of-year releases I wasn’t able to see before press time, notably Avatar: The Way of Water, Babylon and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.

My picks for the worst movies of 2022, in no particular order of dishonor:

  • The Batman. A ponderous, excessively dark superhero movie no one needed.
  • Hellraiser. A gruesome, unnecessary remake of Clive Barker’s sadistic horror tale.
  • Swallowed. Although gay-themed and original, this is another uncomfortably gruesome horror flick.
  • Bones and All. A young-cannibals-in-love story no one asked for.
  • Triangle of Sadness. A nauseating, over-the-top critique of the uber-rich that has inexplicably ended up on some critics’ best films lists and has even won some awards.

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