Screen Savor

  • Queer filmmaker Catherine Gund has a history of choosing fascinating LGBT topics for her documentaries.

  • Who doesn’t love pansexual icon Janelle Monáe? The fiercest of divas (sorry Bey) in the music world, there are few who can compare to her when it comes to the inventiveness of her musical creations. As an actress, known for her layered performances in the Oscar-winning “Moonlight” and the Oscar-nominated “Hidden Figures,” she is truly on a path to cinematic stardom.

  • Co-produced by Ryan Murphy, gay actor/director Joe Mantello’s 2020 film adaptation of “The Boys in the Band” (Netflix) is nearly a note for note remake of the classic 1970 William Friedkin movie adaptation of Mart Crowley’s brilliant but brutal stage play.

  • Co-directors Patrick Sammon and Bennett Singer open their documentary “Cured” (Story Center Films) with the viewer discretion warning that it “contains graphic images of past treatments used by doctors to ‘cure’ homosexuality.”

  • Now that “Respect,” the Aretha Franklin biopic starring Jennifer Hudson, has been pushed back to early 2021, you may find yourself craving the cinematic story of a pop diva other than Elton John or Freddie Mercury. You are in luck as we now have Unjoo Moon’s “I Am Woman” (Quiver Distribution), the Helen Reddy biopic, available on-demand and in theaters.

  • If you’ve ever seen Greg Mottola’s marvelous 1996 indie comedy “The Daytrippers,” starring Parker Posey, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, Hope Davis, and the late Anne Meara, then you know that New York City is a great place to try and catch a cheating spouse in action.

  • The special edition Blu-ray reissue of John Hughes’ 1984 directorial debut “Sixteen Candles” (Arrow Video/Universal) is arriving at a fascinating time in our culture.

  • You know how the more a person says something, the more they repeat it whether or not it’s true, people begin to take it as fact?

  • Isn’t it ironic the way that sci-fi/horror movies have been predicting the mass destruction of the human population by alien invasion for years, when it turns out that it was going to be a pair of earthly viruses — COVID-19 and Republicans — that would be the culprits?

  • If you were the least bit disappointed by “Antebellum” (and let’s face it, who wasn’t?), then “Spiral” (shudder.com), airing on AMC Network’s Shudder channel, might be more to your liking. By combining elements from classic modern horror influences, from Polanski to Peele, and adding some specifically queer twists, “Spiral” has the potential to make your head spin — in a good way.

  • It could be said that “Unzipped,” Douglas Keeves’ popular documentary about fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, started a trend.

  • There’s so much familiar territory visited in gay writer/director Thom Fitzgerald’s “Stage Mother”(Momentum) that watching it conjures feelings of déjà vu.

  • She was an unapologetic Black trans woman who educated countless through her activism.

  • Meet Dora. We think she probably got her name because of her heart of gold. 

  • “20th Century Women”(A24) is such a major disappointment; it’s almost difficult to put it into words. In fact, it’s hard to believe that this chaotic mess is the work of writer/director Mike Mills, the man behind the Oscar-winning 2010 gay movie “Beginners.” Where that movie was effortlessly balanced and emotionally on the level, “20th Century Women”is sloppy, forced and unpleasant. It’s a complete waste of the talents of Annette Bening, on par with Ryan Murphy’s abysmal “Running With Scissors.”

  • When Oscar (Connor Jessup) was a little boy, instead of telling him a bedtime story, his father Peter (Aaron Abrams) would give him a “dream.” As he made up the dream for Oscar’s sleep, Peter would also blow up a balloon, hold the opening to Oscar’s forehead and let the air escape. This is a wonderful image and not the most surreal one in “Closet Monster” (Strand Releasing) by a long shot.

  • Greta Gerwig may lack range as an actress, but it’s possible that her real talent lies behind the camera instead of in front of it. With “Lady Bird” (A24), her second full-length feature film as writer/director (and first since she co-wrote and co-directed the 2008 mumblecore movie Nights and Weekends), Gerwig joins the ranks of acclaimed female filmmakers such as Jill Soloway, Nicole Holofcener, Dee Rees, Lisa Cholodenko, Gillian Robespierre and Sofia Coppola.

  • It looks like 2017 could be the year that queer screenwriter and director Mike White (“Year of the Dog”) might just get his first Academy Award nomination and may even take home an Oscar. White, who also has the smudge of “The Emoji Movie” on his screenplay resume, along with outstanding films such as “School of Rock” and “The Good Girl,” wrote director Miguel Arteta’s 2017 film “Beatriz at Dinner,” which has received raves from critics and audiences alike.

  • It’s probably not fair to compare actor Andy Serkis’ directorial debut “Breathe” (Bleecker Street) with the Oscar-winning “The Theory of Everything,” but people will. Both films are based on true stories. Both films deal with young British men who develop significant disabilities in the prime of life. Both films are about the power of love and the strength of the human spirit to overcome the odds. Unfortunately, when comparing both films, it’s “Breathe” that will come up short (of breath).

  • With “God’s Own Country” (Samuel Goldwyn Films/Orion), out actor turned writer/director Francis Lee has crafted one of the most impressive, if somewhat unsettling, debut features of 2017. As the sun rises over the main house of a farm in Yorkshire, England, we hear and then see Johnny (Josh O’Connor) vomiting into a toilet. He’s sick from binge-drinking the night before and his mother Deidre (Gemma Jones) lets Johnny know that he kept her and his father Martin (Ian Hart) up half the night with his being sick.

  • “Call Me by Your Name” (Sony Pictures Classics), gay director Luca Guadagnino’s movie adaptation of Andre Aciman’s 2007 novel of the same name, with a screenplay by gay filmmaker James Ivory, couldn’t have come at a more complicated time. There’s no way to avoid the fact that the film’s central story – a sexual and romantic relationship between two young men, ages 17 and 24, is the kind of thing that keeps evangelicals up at night.

  • A near seamless melding of classic sci-fi/fantasy and contemporary cinematic effects, presented from a modern perspective, Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” (Fox Searchlight) is a story of “love, loss and the monster who tried to destroy it all,” set during the 1960’s Cold War era. Mute Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a “princess without voice,” lives upstairs of a movie theater in Baltimore. An orphan whose voice box was cut when she was a baby, Elisa has a special friendship with gay next-door neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins in a performance worthy of a Best Supporting Actor nod), a freelance commercial illustrator who is the “proverbial starving artist.”

  • Stronger (Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions) is the second big-screen Hollywood dramatization of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, following 2016’s Patriots Day. Like that film, Stronger doesn’t shy away from the gruesome details, while also providing a relatable portrait of what it means to be Boston Strong.

  • It’s not an exaggeration (or an insult) to say that filmmaker Sean Baker has been obsessed with sex in his last few films. “Starlet,” from 2012, focused on the unlikely friendship between two women, one of whom was a young porn actress, while 2015’s “Tangerine,” shot entirely on an iPhone, centers on a transgender hooker.

  • One thing you can say about the French, they know how to make a movie about AIDS. Whereas Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau’s 2016 film “Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo”presented a current look at French gay men dealing with the AIDS epidemic, the informative and devastating “BPM (Beats Per Minute)” (The Orchard), directed and co-written by Robin Campillo (Eastern Boys), takes us back to the early 1990s, and the rise of AIDS activism in Paris.

  • If it struck you as strange that Disney would make not one, but two, animated features set in the Pacific region, then you are probably not alone. While both 2002’s “Lilo & Stitch” and 2016’s “Moana” were Academy Award-nominees, neither took home the trophy. Disney has had a decent run in the 2010s, taking home Oscars in every year but 2011, when Paramount’s “Rango” won.

  • You have to give Reginald Hudlin, director of "Marshall" (Open Road), credit. The man responsible for such non-classics as House Party (starring Kid’n Play), Boomerang (starring Eddie Murphy) and The Ladies Man (starring Tim Meadows, based on his SNL character), wanted to make a different kind of movie than people were used to seeing from him.

  • Keep up with the latest movie releases with SFGN's Gregg Shapiro:

  • The Kenneth Branagh-directed remake of “Murder on the Orient Express” (20th Century Fox), in which Branagh also stars as Agatha Christie’s Belgian master detective Hercule Poirot, inspires its own set of mysteries. For example, why would anyone remake a perfectly good movie? The 1974 version, directed by Sidney Lumet, was considered to be one of the best movies of that year. Ingrid Bergman won her third career Oscar for her portrayal of missionary Greta.

  • “Battle of the Sexes” (Fox Searchlight), about the famed 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, is that rare movie that successfully combines biography, sports and queer subject matter for a thoroughly entertaining and educating experience. First and foremost, credit goes to co-directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Oscar-winner Little Miss Sunshine). Even though we know the outcome (King walloped unrepentant male chauvinist pig Riggs), they managed to make it feel fresh and exhilarating.

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