November 6, 2020 at 2:50 pm EST | by John Paul King
Awards season brings queer cinematic delights
Bare, gay news, Washington Blade
‘Bare’ follows a group of dancers as they work on the contemporary dance piece, ‘Anima Ardens,’ which is presented entirely in the nude. (Photo courtesy of DOC NYC)

This year is anything but normal, but we can always count on the film industry to cling to the tried-and-true, and that means November still marks the beginning of “Oscar season,” which means it’s time for those awards hopefuls to start coming our way.

For LGBTQ+ audiences, it’s always an occasion to start scanning the horizon for contenders representing the community – and one early entry this year certainly fits the bill.

“Supernova,” is the second feature from British writer/director Harry Macqueen, which debuted at the San Sebastian Film Festival in September and is slated for release in the UK later this month. Its early reviews are mostly glowing, with particular praise for stars Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci, who portray a longtime gay couple taking a road trip after one of them has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia.

With all the earmarks of the kind of “art film” that Hollywood loves to embrace at awards time, it seems more than likely that this heart-tugging gay romantic drama will be in the running (provided it meets Academy screening requirements in the U.S., of course – no date is currently listed for a U.S. screening before its official release date in January). Certainly, its two stars must be considered as potential front-runners; Firth is already a proven awards champ, and Tucci is exactly the kind of longtime screen stalwart “Oscar” loves to single out with a late-career nod. Their reputations are such that most anyone would have no doubt, even sight unseen, that their performances here would be worthy of recognition.

Still, inevitably, a long-standing and inevitable controversy has already manifested itself in discussions around the casting of these two actors – both superb, yes, but also both straight – in these two plumb gay roles.

There’s no need to launch into an argument about the appropriateness of such casting in 2020; the pros and cons of each side have been well documented in countless other articles, as they will continue to be as long as homophobia is still as much of a force as it is in the film and entertainment industry. Still, it might help gain some perspective (at least in this instance) to remember that “Supernova” is a UK film. While the British movie industry of the past was certainly just as repressive as Hollywood when it came to even the suggestion of anything “homosexual,” in recent years the sexuality of both the actors and the characters they portray has become undeniably less of a “thing.” Out actors like Ian McKellen or Derek Jacobi have moved freely between gay and straight roles for decades, with a younger generation of players such as Ben Whishaw or Russell Tovey following in their footsteps; and while it’s true that there are still some Brit thespians who remain cagey about identifying themselves publicly, those tend to be the ones with an eye toward the potential of Hollywood stardom.

It must also be said that both Firth and Tucci have proven repeatedly that they are capable of portraying gay characters with sensitivity and empathy; we can at least be relatively sure their performances will be delivered with the dignity, the honor, and the humanity that we have every right to expect.

Whichever side you come down on in the debate, you’re not likely to get a look at “Supernova” soon, but it’s something to keep in mind if early handicapping of the Oscar race is your game.

In the meantime, November offers some authentic queer content to keep viewers occupied – especially if you’re a subscriber to Revry, the global LGBTQ+ virtual network that has been providing a steady stream of it since 2016. The platform has just launched the newest addition to its lineup with OML on Revry, the first 24/7 live TV channel exclusively catering to queer womxn (lesbian, bi, trans female, gender non-binary, queer, etc.).

OML has actually been around since 2009 (formerly as “One More Lesbian”), with the mission to become a hub for lesbian members of the LGBTQ+ community seeking visual representation in the media and to allow access to this content on one platform. The channel joins the Revry lineup after having amassed millions of visitors and serving over a half million YouTube subscribers with curated lesbian content, as well as content for a broader queer audience, inclusive of all female and gender-expansive viewers.

OML on Revry features several tentpole attractions for its launch, including both established and brand new original series. One standout offering in the latter category is “Dating ‘In’ Place,” described in publicity as a “socially distant” comedy following two young women who are dating and falling in love during a global pandemic, bringing a femxle-focused comedic spin on the realities of dating in the “new normal” of COVID-era social constructs. Timely and relevant, to say the least, it debuted on Nov. 1, and you can watch the whole thing on demand. If you’re not already a Revry subscriber, it’s a good time to become one.

Lastly, if you’re a fan of male nudity, you won’t find a more intriguing viewing option than “Bare,” a documentary being screened at this month’s DOC NYC festival.

One of the few consolation prizes of 2020 is that such an event, normally out of reach for anyone not able to show up in person, is made accessible to anybody thanks to the necessity of virtual presentation. That’s good news for this fly-on-the-wall, cinema verité-style effort from filmmaker Aleksandr M. Vinogradov, which follows a group of dancers as they work with renowned Belgian choreographer Thierry Smit on his contemporary dance piece, “Anima Ardens,” which is presented entirely in the nude.

The film documents the process of auditioning, rehearsing, and performing the piece, which (for obvious reasons) could easily veer into eroticism; instead, “Bare” is as much anthropological study as it is provocative arts documentary, exposing us – literally – to so much visible male genitalia that it becomes commonplace. This opens up the experience to become a meditation on everything from the aesthetic beauty of the naked form to the dynamics of male power to the simple natural beauty that comes in the interactions of these men as they become gradually more at ease with being “bare” – in every sense of the word. The result is a powerful and transcendent film that might, on the surface, seem no more profound than a high-end coffee table book, but that end up having the potential to change your relationship with nudity – both your own and everyone else’s – by the time the final credits role.

Yes, the dancers are fit and attractive, and yes, they are mostly, if not all, gay men. In the end, those things matter, of course, but they are immaterial in the face of the film’s perspective on nakedness – and the body itself – as the “last bastion of personal freedom.”

If that’s something that appeals to you – and why wouldn’t it? – you can get tickets to the Nov. 11 online screening of “Bare” on the DOC NYC website at docnyc.net.

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