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Filmfest D.C. has strong LGBT content again this year

Festival will present 80 films from 45 countries

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Filmfest D.C., gay news, Washington Blade

Cynthia Nixon and Jennifer Ehle as Emily and Lavinia Dickinson in ‘A Quiet Passion.’ (Photo courtesy Music Box Films)

Over 11 days from April 20-30, Filmfest D.C. will present 80 films from 45 countries on four screens around the city. According to founder/director Tony Gittens, “as a reflection of our times, this year’s festival has taken on a special focus on issues ripped from today’s headlines in hopes of increasing clarity and civil discourse.”

The festival kicks off with “This Is Our Land,” a political drama by Belgian director Lucas Belvaux. In this timely tale, a self-employed nurse gets embroiled in nationalist politics when she runs for the mayorship of her small town in northern France.

The festival closes with “Lost in Paris,” a charming comedy in the tradition of such great clowns as Jacques Tati, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. The film stars the husband/wife team of Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel (who also wrote and directed the movie) as an unlikely duo trying to track down a missing woman (Emmanuelle Riva from “Amour”) in the City of Lights.

“Lost in Paris” will screen at the Embassy of France. For security reasons, all tickets for this screening must be bought in advance online at filmfestdc.org; tickets for all other programs can be purchased online or at the door.

In between these two very different movies are several films that focus specifically on the international LGBT experience. Written and directed by Cuban filmmaker Carlos Lechuga, “Santa & Andres” has already generated significant international controversy. Last December, the film was pulled from the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana after it was rejected by Cuba’s state-run film institute. Earlier this year, Lechuga pulled the film from the Havana Film Festival New York after the festival organizers shifted the award-winning film from the official competition to a special non-juried presentation.

“Santa & Andres” deals with a contentious topic, the mistreatment of homosexuals and dissidents by the Castro regime. Although the film is fiction, it is inspired by the lives of several gay writers such as Reinaldo Arenas, René Aziza and Delfin Prats. Set in 1983, the film tells the story of Andres, a gay novelist who is under house arrest, and Santa, a local woman who is sent to guard him.

Set on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago during Carnival season, “Play the Devil” is an incisive coming-of-age story about Gregory, a gifted high school student who is caught up in a tumultuous relationship with a wealthy businessman. Written and directed by Bahamian Maria Govan, the film is both a gripping drama and a nuanced exploration of masculinity, privilege and sexuality.

Set right here in Washington, “Check It” is a powerful documentary about a group of LGBT youth who form a gang to protect themselves. They quickly become known as one of the fiercest gangs in the city, but a group of mentors try to steer their fierce sense of style into careers in the fashion industry.

Also set here is “The Messengers” by D.C.-based filmmaker Lucian Perkins. In this moving and thoughtful documentary, Perkins tells the stories of the patients and staff at Joseph’s House, a welcoming hospice for HIV/AIDS patients. A Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer for the Washington Post, this is Perkins’ first full-length documentary.

In “A Quiet Passion,” maverick queer auteur Terence Davies, known for his gritty European dramas, turns his lens on a very different locale: the Dickinson household in 19th century Amherst, Mass. Cynthia Nixon (best known for playing Miranda in “Sex and the City”) gives a powerhouse performance as reclusive poet Emily Dickinson.

Some of the other festival highlights include “Family Life,” a Chilean comedy about the romantic and domestic misadventures of an untrustworthy house (and cat) sitter; “Footnotes,” a retro French musical set in a luxury show factory; “The Hippopotamus,” a wry English comedy based on the novel by openly gay author Stephen Fry; “Lipstick Under My Burkha,” a feminist satire on gender relations in India that has been banned by that country’s Central Board of Film Certification; and “The Stuff of Dreams,” a fanciful retelling of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”

There are also three programs of shorts. Short Cuts 1 and 2 focus on international themes. Lunafest shines a spotlight on short films by, for and about women.

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A lesbian thriller, ‘Scream’ returns, and more film, TV options for spring

A host of queer programming on tap for upcoming season

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Rachel Weisz in ‘Dead Ringers.’ (Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios)

Spring is always an exciting time for queer fans of film and TV, as the entertainment industry shifts its eye to the future and begins to roll out the eagerly awaited movies and shows it has in store for us in the upcoming year. This year is no exception – but while there are several exciting titles announced for 2023’s cinematic lineup (like the Anne Hathaway-starring lesbian thriller “Eileen” and Dan Levy’s directorial film debut “Good Grief”), many of their release dates are slated for later in the year or still to be determined. 

That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few good options for queer movie buffs looking for some “spring fresh” cinema, and the Blade has compiled a few suggestions.

MOVIES

The First Fallen (Digital/DVD, available now)

A Brazilian release from 2021 making its debut on US screens, this 1983-set historical drama from writer/director Rodrigo de Oliveira follows a group of small-town LGBTQ men and women as they face the first wave of the AIDS epidemic. We haven’t seen it ourselves yet, but it comes with a five-star Rotten Tomatoes rating and the subject matter strikes a deep communal chord. Johnny Massaro, Renata Carvalho, and Victor Camilio lead the cast.

Lonesome (Digital/DVD, available now)

Another import making its way to U.S. screens, this Australian Outback-meets-big-city romance from director Craig Boreham explores “sexuality, loneliness and isolation in a world that has never been more connected” through the story of a country boy (Josh Lavery) who, fleeing from small-town scandal, arrives in Sydney and meets a city lad (Daniel Gabery) with secrets and struggles of his own. In their new acquaintance, the two young men “find something they have been missing, but neither of them knows quite how to negotiate it.” We don’t want to spoil anything, but since this festival-circuit favorite was praised by reviewers for its masterful use of erotic storytelling, it’s safe to assume they figure it out.

Scream VI (In theaters March 10)

The rebooted horror franchise – originally created by queer screenwriter Kevin Williamson, who in an interview around 2021’s “Scream V” said the movies were “coded in gay survival” – picks up where it left off, as the four survivors the latest Ghostface killings leave Woodsboro behind to start a fresh chapter. Melissa Barrera, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mason Gooding, Jenna Ortega, Hayden Panettiere, and Courteney Cox return to their roles, joined by Jack Champion, Henry Czerny, Liana Liberato, Dermot Mulroney, Devyn Nekoda, Tony Revolori, Josh Segarra, and Samara Weaving.

Another chapter in the ‘Scream’ saga is coming this spring. (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

The Tutor (In theaters, March 24)

Recently out “Stranger Things” star Noah Schnapp hits the big screen in this eerie thriller from writer Ryan King and director Jordan Ross, in which an in-demand tutor (Garrett Hedlund) accepts a lucrative offer to take on the son of a wealthy elite family (Schnapp) as his pupil and finds himself becoming the object of an unsettling obsession – a situation that quickly escalates toward the sinister as his creepy new student threatens to tear apart the life he is building with his newly pregnant wife (Victoria Justice) before it even begins. Ekaterina Baker, Jonny Weston, Michael Aaron Milligan, Exie Booker, and Ashritha Kancharla also star.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (In theaters March 31)

Yes, the venerable RPG (that’s “role-playing game,” for the uninitiated) played on the tabletops of countless Gen X nerds is coming to the screen once again, this time as a big-budget sword-and-sorcery adventure starring Chris Pine, “Bridgerton” hunk Regé-Jean Page, bi “Fast & Furious” star Michelle Rodriguez, queer actor Justice Smith, and Hugh Grant. Planned as the ambitious launch point for a “multi-pronged” franchise that includes a graphic novel tie-in, an upcoming television spin-off, and a slate of future installments across these and other forms of media, it’s an eagerly awaited roll of the 12-sided dice in an unpredictable market already saturated with tent-pole style entertainment options. After years in development and multiple COVID-related delays, moviegoers – doubtless including millions of queer fantasy fans – will finally get to decide whether or not it was worth the gamble.

Renfield (In theaters April 14)

The renaissance of Nicolas Cage continues with another franchise-ish new action-fantasy, this one more in the in the horror vein – a vein injected with a healthy dose of humor by director Chris McKay (“The Lego Movie”) and screenwriter Ryan Ridley. Nicholas Hoult (“A Single Man,” “The Great”) stars as the title character, the long-suffering lackey of Count Dracula (Cage, in a role it was inevitable he would eventually play), who discovers an unexpected new outlook on life when he falls in love with a traffic cop (Awkwafina) in modern-day New Orleans. Ben Schwartz and Adrian Martinez round out the cast of what looks to be a highly entertaining tall-tale blend of gothic vampire camp and quirky comedic reinvention. As for the LGBTQ connection, well, “Dracula” author Bram Stoker was reputedly queer, and that’s a good enough excuse to give this promising romp a chance.

Little Richard: I Am Everything (In theaters and VOD April 21)

A must-see for fans of both documentaries and classic rock ’n roll, not to mention anyone interested in the story of a unique individual charting his own course of self-expression in a world that wasn’t ready for what he wanted to be, this richly illuminated film profile from director Lisa Cortés was the opening night documentary selection at this year’s Sundance Festival. Framed as a story of “the Black queer origins of rock ’n roll,” it aims to dismantle “the whitewashed canon of American pop music” by positioning its titular subject – whose “real” name was Richard Penniman – as an innovator who forever shaped the genre with his irresistibly flamboyant style and persona. Offering a wealth of archive and performance footage alongside interviews with family, musicians, and cutting-edge Black and queer scholars, the film brings us into an icon’s complicated inner world, “unspooling” his life story with a comprehensive sense of scope and a keen eye for important detail.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (In theaters April 28)

Fifty-three years after its publication, Judy Blume’s iconic piece of YA fiction comes to the screen for the first time in this adaptation from writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig starring Rachel McAdams and featuring Abby Ryder Fortson as the title character – a sixth-grader who moves to a New Jersey suburb from New York City with her mixed-faith parents (one Christian, one Jewish), prompting her to go on a coming-of-age quest for her religious identity. A touchstone for generations of young readers, the original novel has been a perennial source of controversy – not only does it depict a child allowed the freedom to choose their own religious beliefs, it contains frank discussions of “taboo” issues relatable to young teen girls, like menstruation, bras, and boys. Naturally, that means it has been included, along with other classic titles from among Blume’s work, on countless lists of “banned books” across the five decades since it first saw print. That is more than enough reason to go out and support this female-led screen adaptation with your box office dollars, as far as we’re concerned.

TELEVISION

When it comes to the small screen, spring 2023 brings not as many new shows of queer interest as it does the return of queer favorites we’re already hooked on, like the second seasons of both Showtime’s grim-but-gripping girl scout survival series Yellowjackets (March 24) and HBO’s sweet-and-gentle Somebody Somewhere (April 23). As with the movies, there are numerous upcoming titles that pique our interest, but many of them have yet to announce a premiere date. We’ll include the most enticing of those in our list of new TV series below, so you’ll know to watch for them, but keep in mind some or all of them may not come until later in the year.

Daisy Jones & the Six (Prime Video, now streaming)

Prime Video just dropped is this 10-episode limited series adaptation of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel about the rise and fall of a fictional rock group in the Los Angeles music scene of the 1970s, which frames its profile of the Fleetwood Mac-inspired titular band in a pseudo-documentary style and tracks the reasons behind their break-up at the height of their worldwide fame. Offering an attractive cast led by Riley Keogh, Sam Clafln, Camila Morrone, Suki Waterhouse, Will Harrison, Josh Whitehouse, and Timothy Olyphant, and an iconic period setting and subject matter guaranteed to inspire some fabulous costumes, if nothing else, this one has sufficient queer appeal to make our list.

Swarm (Prime Video, March 17)

Speaking of fictional re-imaginings of real-life music icons, multi-hyphenate “Atlanta” creator Donald Glover and playwright/screenwriter Janine Nabers offer up this darkly satirical horror series about fan obsession, centered on a young woman named Dre (Dominique Fishback) who goes to deadly extremes in her “stan-dom” of a certain pop star. No, the star in question isn’t Beyoncé, but her fanbase calls itself “the Swarm,” so you can draw your own conclusions from that. It’s a provocative premise that’s bound to ruffle some feathers, but that’s precisely what gives co-creator Glover his well-deserved reputation for delivering edgy, genre-defying content. All we can say is that if it’s half as unnervingly delightful as the first two seasons of “Atlanta,” we’re on board. Chloe Bailey, Damson Idris, Rickey Thompson, Paris Jackson, Rory Culkin, Kiersey Clemons, and Byron Bowers also star.

Marriage of Inconvenience (Dekkoo, April 6)

Subscribers to gay male-targeted streaming service Dekkoo can look forward to a romantic comedy described as “a 21st century gay version of ‘The Odd Couple’” centered on two mismatched strangers who enter a witness protection program and must pretend to be happily married to each other to keep their identities hidden from the people who want them dead. Series writer/creator Jason T. Gaffney stars as a messy, street-smart dropout with anger issues opposite David Allen Singletary as an even-tempered English professor conditioned to living an orderly, carefully structured life. They have nothing in common and they can’t stand each other, but at least they’re both gay – which, as we all know, is still no guarantee they’ll be able to find common ground. With a clearly campy premise like this, it should still be fun to watch them try.

Dead Ringers (Prime Video, April 21)

Rachel Weisz does double duty in this reimagined expansion of director David Cronenberg’s classic 1988 thriller about identical twin gynecologists who dupe unsuspecting patients into participating in their perverse sexual fantasies. The twist? While Cronenberg’s film featured a pair of male siblings, this one flips the gender of its creepy twins – and in so doing, opens up a whole plethora of queer possibilities to be explored. As anyone familiar with the original already knows, it’s a story full of twisted psychology and grotesque body horror, not for the faint of heart. We can’t wait.

Love & Death (HBO Max, April 27)

Queer fan favorite Elizabeth Olsen (“WandaVision”) stars in this true crime miniseries about real-life “good Christian” Texas housewife Candy Montgomery, who claimed self-defense at her murder trial after taking an axe to the wife of a man with whom she was having an extramarital affair. The lurid story has already been told (in last year’s “Candy,” with Jessica Biel as Montgomery), but with writer/producer David E. Kelley – whose back catalogue includes a host of successful shows from “Doogie Howser, MD” to “Big Little Lies” – behind it, we can be sure that this version will have a unique quality of its own. Jesse Plemons (“Breaking Bad,” “The Power of the Dog”) co-stars as the other half of Candy’s illicit and ill-fated romance, with Lily Rabe as his unfortunate wife; Parick Fugit, Elizabeth Marvel, Tom Pelphrey, Krysten Ritter, and Beth Broderick also star. In this case, perhaps, the queer appeal comes from the irony of watching supposed “good Christian” types engage in the kind of depraved and detrimental behavior they regularly condemn everyone else for – and that’s good enough for us.

As for the shows with launch dates still TBD, the standouts include:

The Idol (HBO) – a buzzy series starring Lily-Rose Depp as an aspiring pop star and Abel “the Weeknd” Tesfaye as the self-help guru with whom she becomes involved. Supporting players include Dan Levy, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Hank Azaria, and musicians Troye Sivan and Moses Sumney.

Ripley (Showtime) – a limited series adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s classic 1955 novel “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” with out Irish actor Andrew Scott as its charming-but-sociopathic anti-hero; likely to bring the original story’s gay subtext to the screen much more directly than the 1999 film adaptation starring Matt Damon, it also stars Johnny Flynn and Dakota Fanning.

Fellow Travelers (Showtime) – Matt Bomer and Jonathan Bailey star in this adaptation of Thomas Mallon’s book about two men who begin a volatile clandestine romance while working for the government during the 1950s McCarthy era. Allison Williams also stars.

Glamorous (Netflix) – Created by Jordon Nardino (“Star Trek: Discovery”) and Damon Wayans Jr., this Brooklyn-set drama centers on a gender-non-conforming youth (Miss Benny) who falls under the wing of a high-fashion makeup mogul (Kim Cattrall), and features guest stars like Matt Rogers, Joel Kim Booster, and Monét X Change.  Sounds fabulous.

Happy viewing!

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‘Everything’ lands queer endorsement as movie of the year

Dorian Awards add to momentum for breakout film as Oscars near

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Jamie Lee Curtis and Michelle Yeoh in ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once.’ (Photo courtesy of A24)

For Oscar handicappers – or anyone else who loves movies and enjoys playing the yearly game of picking favorites and predicting winners during Hollywood’s glitzy awards season – last weekend’s presentation of the Screen Actors Guild Awards was a crucial event.

As the last “big” awards ceremony before Academy Award night (which takes place this year on March 12), the SAG Awards’ film category winners are often seen as a clear indicator of which films and performers have the momentum to win there, too. It’s not surprising they should be seen as significant, but this year, thanks to some history-making wins (including firsts for Asian-American talent and a single movie’s sweep of all but two of the film categories), there was even more reason to pay attention.

SAG was not the only organization to bestow its film awards last week, however. Though they received less fanfare, the 14th Annual Dorian Awards – announced on Feb. 23 by GALECA, the Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics – offered a slate of winners that reflected a queer eye on the films of 2022; and while they might not be as much a barometer for the tastes and attitudes of the industry insiders who vote for the big film awards, it should be noted that its choices align surprisingly often with those of SAG and the rest of mainstream Hollywood.

That’s partly because, although they do include a handful of LGBTQ-specific categories, the Dorians don’t just honor queer films. GALECA’s voters – a group of more than 400 professional queer entertainment critics, journalists, and media icons – look at the same movies as their straight colleagues; they present the Dorians (named as a nod to iconic queer writer Oscar Wilde and his most famous literary creation) as a way “to remind bigots, bullies and our own communities that the world often looks to the Q+ eye for unique and powerful entertainment,” and to ensure that a queer perspective is represented amid Hollywood’s yearly bestowal of honors. While there have been notable divergences, such as the occasional queer title like “Carol” or “Call Me By Your Name” supplanting their more hetero-friendly competitors for Film of the Year, recent Dorian honors have tended more to mirror the mainstream consensus than defy it.

This year is no exception. “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” the genre-splicing serio-comic sci-fi sleeper whose jaw-dropping sweep at the SAG show has made a similar triumph at the Oscars feel all but inevitable, also scored a lion’s share of honors from the Dorians, winning in seven of its nine nominated categories – even achieving the triple feat of being chosen as Best Film, Best LGBTQ Film and Most Visually Striking Film. For Lead Film Performance – all nominees, regardless of gender, vie for a single award in the each of the two acting categories – Yeoh, long embraced by queer fans, edged out not only Blanchett but favored male competitors like SAG winner Brendan Fraser and Golden Globe winners Colin Farrell and Austin Butler, while co-star Ke Huy Quan continued his inspiring victory lap by being chosen for Supporting Film Performance. Rounding out their movie’s tally, filmmakers Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert won in both the Director and Screenplay categories. As a bonus, while technically awarded for “EEAAO,” Yeoh was also the winner of the Wilde Artist Award, a special Dorian given yearly “to a truly groundbreaking force in film, theater and/or television,” and fellow cast member Stephanie Hsu was named as Rising Star of the Year – honors almost certainly fueled by their work in “EEAAO.”

In other categories:

The UK import “Aftersun,” Charlotte Wells’ thoughtful father-daughter tearjerker starring Paul Mescal, which also is also nominated for Best Picture and Best Actor Oscars, was awarded the Dorian for Best “Unsung” Film.

“All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” director Laura Poitras’ searing documentary about famed bisexual photographer Nan Goldin and her mission to shame the Sackler Big Pharma dynasty for profiteering on America’s opioid crisis, took both Best Documentary and Best LGBTQ Documentary; it’s also Oscar-nominated as Best Feature Documentary, the only queer-related doc to have made the cut there.

In the Best Animated Film category, the Dorians went against the tide by choosing “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On,” the charming and deceptively absurd stop-motion “mockumentary” adapted from a widely popular series of YouTube shorts, over “Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio.” Both films are competing at the Oscars, as well.

For Best Non-English Language Film, the Dorians did what the Oscars cannot by picking “RRR” – the epic Telugu-language musical adventure fantasy about two South Indian rebels fighting to push British colonials from their homeland in the 1920s, rendered ineligible for the Academy’s equivalent category by India’s failure to submit it as the country’s official entry for consideration as Best International Feature. The film, a worldwide box office sensation from S.S. Rajamouli (India’s most commercially successful director), did snag an Oscar nomination in the Best Song category for “Naatu Naatu.”

Though “Tár” – a critically acclaimed but divisive cinematic portrait of a fictional lesbian symphony conductor accused of serial sexual misconduct in the workplace – ended up as an also-ran in most of its nominated categories, it didn’t go away empty-handed; composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, also nominated for her work on “Women Talking,” took home the award for Best Score. A former Oscar winner (for 2019’s “Joker”), she failed to earn an Academy nomination this year for either film.

In a category unique to the Dorians, the cheeky horror prequel “Pearl,” which starred co-writer Mia Goth as an ax-wielding wannabe in 1918 Texas, took the double-edged honor of Campiest Film of the Year. Other nominees included “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” and Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis,” as well as the aforementioned “RRR.”

Finally, a relatively new special Dorian honor, the GALECA LGBTQIA+ Film Trailblazer Award, went to nonbinary actor-singer Janelle Monáe (also a nominee for Best Supporting Performance for “Glass Onion”), whose win puts her in the company of groundbreaking LGBTQ directors Isabel Sandoval and Pedro Almodóvar, both former winners, as a queer pioneer in the ever-evolving cinematic medium.

As for how much influence the Dorians might have on Oscar voters, even most of the GALECA membership would likely say “not much.” That’s not the point, however; indeed, the increasingly frequent parallel between their picks and those of their mainstream compatriots might well be better interpreted as a reminder of the LGBTQ community’s role as “tastemakers” for the wider world. We’ve always been there, even when we were kept out of sight, helping to shape the aesthetic that dominates popular culture, and the fact that our tastes – as filtered through the representative cross-section of GALECA’s members, at least – are now so often represented in the content that achieves the industry’s highest honors is cause enough to celebrate.

As GALECA Executive Director John Griffiths puts it, “No matter what’s going on in the mind of a certain Florida governor and his ilk, the best movies, and TV too, will only continue to reflect what’s going on in the real world—and parallel ones too. Looking at our nominees and winners, you can let out a nice, deep breath.”

The complete list of Dorian winners and nominees is below:

Film of the Year
Aftersun (A24)
The Banshees of Inisherin (Searchlight)
Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24) – WINNER
The Fabelmans (Universal)
Tár (Focus Features)

LGBTQ Film of the Year
Benediction (Roadside Attractions)
Bros (Universal)
Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24) – WINNER
The Inspection (A24)
Tár (Focus Features)

Director of the Year
Todd Field, Tár (Focus Features)
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24) – WINNER
Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin (Searchlight)
Sarah Polley, Women Talking (United Artists)
Charlotte Wells, Aftersun (A24)

Screenplay of the Year
Todd Field, Tár (Focus Features)
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24) – WINNER
Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin (Searchlight)
Sarah Polley, Women Talking (United Artists)
Charlotte Wells, Aftersun (A24)

Non-English Language Film of the Year
All Quiet on the Western Front (Netflix, Amusement Park)
Close (A24)
Decision to Leave (Mubi, CJ Entertainment)
EO (Sideshow, Janus Films)
RRR (DVV Entertainment, Variance Films) – WINNER

Unsung Film of the Year (To an exceptional movie worthy of greater attention)
Aftersun (A24) – WINNER
After Yang (A24)
Benediction (Roadside Attractions)
The Eternal Daughter (A24)
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (Searchlight)
The Menu (Searchlight)
Emily the Criminal (Vertical/Roadside Attractions)

Film Performance of the Year
Cate Blanchett, Tár (Focus Features)
Austin Butler, Elvis (Warner Bros.)
Viola Davis, The Woman King (Sony)
Danielle Deadwyler, Till (United Artists)
Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin (Searchlight)
Brendan Fraser, The Whale (A24)
Mia Goth, Pearl (A24)
Paul Mescal, Aftersun (A24)
Jeremy Pope, The Inspection (A24)
Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24) – WINNER

Supporting Film Performance of the Year
Angela Bassett, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Disney, Marvel)
Hong Chau, The Whale (A24)
Jaime Lee Curtis, Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24)
Dolly De Leon, Triangle of Sadness (Neon)
Nina Hoss, Tár (Focus Features)
Stephanie Hsu, Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24)
Barry Keoghan, The Banshees of Inisherin (Searchlight)
Janelle Monáe, Glass Onion: Knives Out (Netflix)
Keke Palmer, Nope (Universal)
Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24) – WINNER

Documentary of the Year
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (Neon) – WINNER
Fire of Love (Neon, National Geographic)
Good Night Oppy (Amazon Studios)
Moonage Daydream (Neon)
Navalny (Warner Bros.)

LGBTQ Documentary of the Year
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (Neon) – WINNER
Framing Agnes (Kino Lorber)
Moonage Daydream (Neon)
Nelly & Nadine (Wolfe Releasing)
Sirens (Oscilloscope)

Animated Film of the Year
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (Netflix)
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (A24) – WINNER
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (DreamWorks, Universal)
Turning Red (Disney, Pixar)
Wendell & Wild (Netflix)

Film Music of the Year
Babylon – score by Justin Hurvitz (Paramount)
Elvis – score and music production by Elliott Wheeler; the music of Elvis Presley; various artists (Warner Bros.)
RRR – score by M.M. Keeravani (DVV Entertainment, Variance Films)
Tár – score and curation by Hildur Guðnadóttir (Focus Features) – WINNER
Women Talking – score by Hildur Guðnadóttir (United Artists)

Visually Striking Film of the Year
Avatar: The Way of Water (20th Century)
Babylon (Paramount)
Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24) – WINNER
Nope (Universal)
RRR (DVV Entertainment, Variance Films)

Campiest Flick of the Year
Babylon (Paramount)
Bodies Bodies Bodies (A24)
Elvis (Warner Bros.)
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (Netflix)
Pearl (A24) – WINNER
RRR (DVV Entertainment, Variance Films)

Rising Star Award
Austin Butler
Frankie Corio
Stephanie Hsu – WINNER
Gabriel LaBelle
Jenna Ortega
Jeremy Pope

Wilde Artist Award
To a truly groundbreaking force in film, theater and/or television
Cate Blanchett
Billy Eichner
Janelle Monáe
Keke Palmer
Michelle Yeoh – WINNER

GALECA LGBTQIA+ Film Trailblazer Award
Janelle Monáe

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Goldin doc captures both ‘Beauty’ and ‘Bloodshed’

Laura Poitras produced and directed Oscar-nominated documentary

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Photographer Nan Goldin takes on Big Pharma in 'All the Beauty and the Bloodshed.' (Image courtesy of Neon)

As the yearly Hollywood awards cycle heads into its final weeks before culminating with the Oscars on March 12, most of the public attention is — as always — focused on the movies in the so-called “major” categories, while the ones in the others are, if not completely overlooked, placed lower on the priority list for film fans looking to catch up on all the nominees before the big night.

As the shrewdest fans know, of course, some of the best filmmaking often goes unsung because it happens in the kind of films that win awards in categories deemed irrelevant by most of the people in the mainstream. Unfortunately, that description most frequently seems to apply to documentaries — and this year, a standout among the crop of potential Oscar winners comes from within that eternally underappreciated genre.

Nominated for Best Documentary Feature, producer/director Laura Poitras’ “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” is a movie that tells two stories. In part, it’s a chronicle of the remarkable personal history of photographer and artist Nan Goldin, who rose to prominence in the “respectable” art world through the images that she took of herself and her friends — often in candidly intimate situations — in the post-Stonewall queer underground of ‘70s and ‘80s lower Manhattan; told in Goldin’s voice and through her own vast archive of images, it charts her life and career from emotionally traumatic childhood to esteemed artist, while reminding us that she was as much a participant in the heady lifestyle she documented as she was a witness.

While Goldin’s life and career would be more than ample as the singular focus of a documentary, though, Poitras’ movie has an even bigger purpose in mind. In service of that goal, it interweaves its subject’s personal narrative around the saga of P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) — an organization she founded in 2017 after revealing she was in recovery from an addiction to prescribed opioids which almost led to her death from an overdose of fentanyl — and its high-profile protest campaign against the Sackler family, a billionaire pharmaceutical dynasty known internationally for its generous art patronage, who through its company Purdue Pharma were principle architects of America’s staggering opioid crisis. Moving back and forth between these two threads throughout the film, Poitras frames Goldin’s struggle to hold the Sacklers accountable within the context of the formative life experiences that shaped her into an activist, while making sure to give her subject due acknowledgment for the then-shocking celebration of queer life and sexuality in her work at a time when such things were still seen through the cold filter of anthropological distance or simply being denounced outright for violating social taboos.

As to that, many viewers will undoubtedly be drawn to “Bloodshed” by the prospect of revisiting the fabled era of Goldin’s early heyday through her up-close-and-personal pictures and footage, and they will not be disappointed. The film includes plenty of both, illuminated by the artist as she recounts the memories behind them; it offers poignant glimpses at a few future icons and fallen stars (lost-but-not-forgotten queer icons from her circle, like Cookie Mueller and David Wojnarowicz, are among those lovingly profiled by Goldin as she narrates her reminiscences), gives us an inside look at a seminal time and place in counterculture history, tantalizes us with provocative images of a sexually liberated lifestyle and throws us into the front lines of AIDS activism and the political battle over government funding of the NEA.

For those more interested in direct biography, there is also copious material on Goldin’s personal life. These sequences cover her memories of a dysfunctional childhood growing up with an older sister who would later die by suicide, her delinquent youth in and out of foster homes, her battery at the hands of a jealous lover, the horror of watching her community ravaged by AIDS while the rest of the world stood by and watched, and the crushing devastation of her opioid addiction.

Yet while these various parts of Goldin’s story may carry weight of their own, “Bloodshed” ultimately transfers it all into its saga about her effort to exact palpable retribution against the Sacklers — something her position as a world-renowned artist made her uniquely situated to do. Following her organization through a series of brilliantly orchestrated actions in which — borrowing a page from ACT UP — they staged dramatic protests at museums who had taken donations from the disgraced philanthropic dynasty, the movie deploys footage from these events to capture the raw sense of danger experienced within them with the kind of thrilling immediacy unachievable through journalistic observation or dramatic recreation. It’s this Robin Hood-esque story of taking back from the rich and amoral that drives Poitras’ movie and gives it an emotional structure, making it more than just another profile of an influential artist.

That doesn’t mean it relegates Goldin’s work as a photographer into the background. On the contrary, the bulk of the imagery we see comes from Goldin herself; even the footage of the protests was shot by P.A.I.N. for documentary purposes before Poitras had even become involved. Still, the filmmaker deserves full credit for assembling these photos and home movies into a finished product, and while it’s clear that “Bloodshed” is the result of intense collaboration between documentarian and subject, it’s also clear that her understanding of the material and her nuance in presenting it are essential elements in creating the cumulative power— and the surprising sense of urgency — that it delivers.

As for her subject, Goldin’s importance as both an artist and as activist come across plainly, but those were never in doubt. The film’s biggest surprise, perhaps, is the compassion visible at the heart of her activism, manifesting through her desire to use the privilege and influence her art has given her to help balance the scales between the powerful elite and the marginalized masses they exploit — a compassion reflected even in the revelation of her former life as a sex worker, which she discusses publicly for the first time here out of solidarity with other sex workers and to help reduce the stigma around sex work. 

While juggling two separate-but-complementary stories might come at the risk of a disjointed focus, “Bloodshed,” thanks to Poitras’ seemingly symbiotic alignment with her subject’s aesthetic and sympathies, manages to weave its dual threads together in a way which not only makes sense, but uses them in concert to convey a fiercely radical worldview — one which resonates deeply in a contemporary social environment not too different from the one in which Goldin and her fellow sexual “outlaws” were flaunting their defiance of repressive, bigoted cultural norms not just in their work but in their everyday lives. Now, as then, a younger generation confronted with unbridled corporate greed and widening economic inequity, not to mention a conservative strategy of reverse cultural engineering through backlash and legislation, has been triggered to reevaluate its priorities. 

It’s not surprising. After all, as Goldin says in the film, “When you think of the profit off people’s pain, you can only be furious about it.”

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