Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Beau Is Afraid, M3GAN Among Golden Scythe Horror Award Winners


The winners of the 2nd Annual Golden Scythe Horror Awards, whose voters included our own Chris Carpenter, were recently announced. Ari Aster’s Beau is Afraid earned the most awards during the ceremony, taking home a total of six including one for Joaquin Phoenix for Best Actor and Ari Aster for Best Director. Danny and Michael Philippou’s Talk to Me took home the biggest award of the night, Best Picture, which also earned Sophie Wilde the Best Actress prize. This year’s supporting acting winners were Nicolas Cage for his batshit crazy turn as Dracula in Renfield and Patti LuPone for her performance in Beau is Afraid.

The complete list of winners follows:

  • Best Picture: Talk to Me
  • Best Director: Ari Aster, Beau is Afraid
  • Best Actor in a Leading Role: Joaquin Phoenix, Beau is Afraid
  • Best Actress in a Leading Role: Sophie Wilde, Talk to Me
  • Best Supporting Actor: Nicolas Cage, Renfield
  • Best Supporting Actress: Patti LuPone, Beau is Afraid
  • Best Original Screenplay: When Evil Lurks
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: Evil Dead Rise
  • Best International Film: Infinity Pool
  • Best Cinematography: Beau is Afraid
  • Best Production Design: Beau is Afraid
  • Best Costume Design: Five Nights at Freddy’s
  • Best Original Score: Evil Dead Rise
  • Best Editing: Beau is Afraid
  • Best Sound Design: No One Will Save You
  • Best Use of Visual Effects: No One Will Save You
  • Best Use of Practical Effects: The Last Voyage of the Demeter
  • Best Makeup & Hairstyling: The Last Voyage of the Demeter
  • Best Poster: When Evil Lurks
  • Best Trailer: M3GAN
  • Best Horror Movie Moment: M3GAN dances in the hallway, M3GAN
  • Best Kill: Trampoline Kill, Thanksgiving
  • Best Slasher: Scream VI
  • Best Title Sequence: Evil Dead Rise
  • Best Remake or Sequel: Evil Dead Rise
  • Best Marketing: M3GAN

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Reverend's Reviews 2023: A Queer Year for Movies

Last year presented unusual challenges for Hollywood and the global film industry. Strikes by both writers and actors halted production for months and delayed the release of some movies. New entries in time-honored franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Indiana Jones, Disney-Pixar animation and Mission: Impossible underperformed, especially in light of their expensive budgets. And then there was the "Barbenheimer" phenomenon, although that turned out to be one — make that two — of the year’s box office success stories.


One could say it was a queer year for movies, both in terms of the historic definition of queer as “strange” or “unusual” and its modern, positive usage by our LGBTQ community. Several of the year’s best productions boasted LGBTQ stories, cast members and/or filmmakers.

Here is this critic’s rundown of the best and worst cinematic offerings of 2023. Please note: As usual, there were a few acclaimed releases I wasn’t able to see before press time including Poor Things, Wonka and Killers of the Flower Moon.

1. Taylor Mac’s 24–Decade History of Popular Music (Telling Pictures and HBO/Max). A simply stunning documentary/theatrical recording of this queer artist’s now-legendary 2016 stage show. Performed over 24 hours but effectively edited down to two while adding intimate backstage moments (including fabulous costume changes), this is the closest we will get to attending Mac’s event that covered American music from 1776 to 2016. Not to be missed and now streaming on Max.

2. Maestro and Rustin (both Netflix). Two revealing, inspiring biopics about queer icons. With Maestro Bradley Cooper directs and stars as conductor-composer Leonard Bernstein, and the film doesn’t shy away from depicting Bernstein’s relationships with men as well as the more challenging aspects of his longtime marriage to a woman. Meanwhile, out actor Colman Domingo was riveting as gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, who suffered and sacrificed much behind the scenes of the 1963 March on Washington but is finally getting his due.

3. Barbie (Warner Bros). I still can’t believe Mattel approved Greta Gerwig’s meta, patriarchy-skewering take on the toy company’s iconic doll but I’m glad they did. Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling were perfectly cast as Barbie and Ken, as were the members of the film’s extensive ensemble playing additional Barbies and Kens. Candy-colored, smart, and utterly delightful.

4. All of Us Strangers (Searchlight Pictures) and Past Lives (A24). A pair of achingly romantic tales that span time, geography and even the philosophical/metaphysical. In the first, a gay man unexpectedly grows in not only a deeper connection with his handsome neighbor but with his long-dead parents. In Past Lives, two childhood sweethearts originally from Korea reconnect at different points through subsequent decades. Both films are beautifully directed, written and acted.

5. The Zone of Interest (A24). Life is perfect for Rudolf Hoss, his wife Hedwig and their children. He is well-paid and well-respected at his job, and they have a lovely home with a spacious adjoining garden. That their home is next door to the Auschwitz concentration camp where Rudolf serves as Commandant serves as the chillingly ironic core of Jonathan Glazer’s gorgeously horrific adaptation of Martin Amis’ novel. Its depiction of how easily nice, intelligent people can do evil things in the interest of a political cause serves as a timely warning today.

6. The Lesson (Bleecker Street) and Saltburn (Amazon MGM). Two sharply written, memorable critiques of class differences that also happen to share the always welcome British star, Richard E. Grant. In both, eager young men become manipulated and/or manipulators in their desire for the best things in life. These films also offer a fair share of homoerotic tension courtesy of attractive actors Daryl McCormack, Stephen McMillan, Jacob Elordi, Archie Madekwe and Barry Keoghan. Keoghan’s climactic “victory dance” in Saltburn is alone worth the price of admission/rental.

7. The Holdovers (Focus Features). Oscar-winning filmmaker Alexander Payne returns to the academic setting of his previous hit Election (1999) for another superb, comedic-dramatic take on interpersonal relations. Paul Giamatti is great as usual as a curmudgeonly teacher who gradually softens after being saddled with a homeless student during Christmas break. This could well become a holiday season classic over time.

8. Mission: Impossible- Dead Reckoning Part One (Paramount). I’ve long enjoyed this venerable film series led by superstar Tom Cruise, although the last two entries fell a little flat for me. However, this latest entry — in which Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and his crew are pitted against an elusive AI bent on world domination — was smart and thrilling. It also features amazing stunts and special effects set pieces. I can’t wait for Part Two!

9. The Blackening (Lionsgate) and Slotherhouse (Gravitas Ventures). These riotously funny horror-comedies took me by surprise. Out talent Dewayne Perkins co-wrote The Blackening’s satiric take on serial killer tropes, while Slotherhouse co-stars both a queer/non-binary actor as one of its sorority girl subjects and an amusingly convincing puppet as its adorable — though psychotic — killer sloth!

10. American Fiction (Orion/Amazon MGM). Jeffrey Wright is typically terrific as a frustrated writer and professor who writes an outrageously stereotypical, black-themed novel out of spite. He then grows even more frustrated when his book becomes a bestselling award-winner! Cord Jefferson makes an impressive feature debut with his direction of this thought-provoking movie as well as his screenplay adapted from Percival Everett’s 2001 novel Erasure.

Of course, not all movies can be so great, sadly. The 2023 movies that most made me want my money and/or time back after watching them are:

1. Cocaine Bear. Though allegedly inspired by a true story, this was simply the most ridiculous film of the year and a waste of several talented actors including the late Ray Liotta, not to mention director Elizabeth Banks. The bad CGI used to create the bears also didn’t help.

2. Fair Play. This has received some acclaim from fellow critics, but I found its plot about partnered/engaged co-workers whose relationship takes a nasty turn after one of them is promoted over the other at work, misogynistic and thoroughly unpleasant.

3. 65. A.k.a. Jurassic Park meets Back to the Future, in which advanced aliens crash land on Earth during our prehistoric past and quickly find themselves dinosaur food. Redundant and ludicrous.

4. Meg 2: The Trench, The Nun II and Transformers: Rise of the Beasts. A trio of repetitive sequels no one needed.

5. Evil Dead Rise. Gruesome, urban-based reboot of the demonic horror series that, to my knowledge, no one asked for.

Here’s to a happy and cinematic new year!

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