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