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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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Gender expression is fluid in captivating ‘Paul & Trisha’ doc

Exploring what’s possible when you allow yourself to become who you truly are

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Paul Whitehead and Trisha van Cleef in ‘Paul & Trisha.’ (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

Given the polarizing controversies surrounding the subject of gender in today’s world, it might feel as if challenges to the conventional “norms” around the way we understand it were a product of the modern age. They’re not, of course; artists have been exploring the boundaries of gender  – both its presentation and its perception – since long before the language we use to discuss the topic today was ever developed. After all, gender is a universal experience, and isn’t art, ultimately, meant to be about the sharing of universal experiences in a way that bypasses, or at least overcomes, the limitations of language?

We know, we know; debate about the “purpose” of art is almost as fraught with controversy as the one about gender identity, but it’s still undeniable that art has always been the place to find ideas that contradict or question conventional ways of viewing the world. Thanks to the heavy expectation of conformity to society’s comfortable “norms”  in our relationship with gender, it’s inevitable that artists might chafe at such restrictive assumptions enough to challenge them – and few have committed quite so completely to doing so as Paul Whitehead, the focus of “Paul & Trisha: The Art of Fluidity,” a new documentary from filmmaker Fia Perera which enjoyed a successful run on the festival circuit and is now available for pre-order on iTunes and Apple TV ahead of a VOD/streaming release on July 9.

Whitehead, who first gained attention and found success in London’s fertile art-and-fashion scene of the mid 1960s, might not be a household name, but he has worked closely with many people who are. A job as an in-house illustrator at a record company led to his hiring as the first art director for the UK Magazine Time Out, which opened the door for even more prominent commissions for album art – including a series of iconic covers for Genesis, Van der Graaf, Generator, and Peter Hammill, which helped to shape the visual aesthetic of the Progressive Rock movement with his bold, surrealistic pop aesthetic, and worked as an art director for John Lennon for a time. Moving to Los Angeles in 1973, his continuing work in the music industry expanded to encompass a wide variety of commercial art and landed him in the Guinness Book of World Records as painter of the largest indoor mural in the world inside the now-demolished Vegas World Casino in Las Vegas. As a founder of the Eyes and Ears Foundation, he conceived and organized the “Artboard Festival”, which turned a stretch of L.A. roadway into a “drive-through art gallery” with donated billboards painted by participating artists.

Perera’s film catches up with Whitehead in the relatively low-profile city of Ventura, Calif., where the globally renowned visual artist now operates from a combination studio and gallery in a strip mall storefront. Still prolific and producing striking artworks (many of them influenced and inspired by his self-described “closet Hinduism”), the film reveals a man who, far from coming off as elderly, seems ageless; possessed of a rare mix of spiritual insight and worldly wisdom, he is left by the filmmaker to tell his own story by himself, and he embraces the task with the effortless verve of a seasoned raconteur. For roughly the first half of the film, we are treated to the chronicle of his early career provided straight from the source, without “talking head” commentaries or interview footage culled from entertainment news archives, and laced with anecdotes and observations that reveal a clear-headedness, along with a remarkable sense of self-knowledge and an inspiring freedom of thought, that makes his observations feel like deep wisdom. He’s a fascinating host, taking us on a tour of the life he has lived so far, and it’s like spending time with the most interesting guy at the party.

It’s when “Art of Fluidity” introduces its second subject, however, that things really begin to get interesting, because as Whitehead was pushing boundaries as an in-demand artist, he was also pushing boundaries in other parts of his life. Experimenting with his gender identity through cross-dressing since the 1960s, what began tentatively as an “in the bedroom” fetish became a long-term process of self-discovery that resulted in the emergence of “converged artist” Trisha Van Cleef, a feminine manifestation of Whitehead’s persona who has been creating art of her own since 2004. Neither dissociated “alter ego” nor performative character, Trisha might be a conceptual construct, in some ways, but she’s also a very authentic expression of personal gender perception who exists just as definitively as Paul Whitehead. They are, like the seeming opposites of yin and yang, two sides of the same fundamental and united nature.

Naturally, the bold process of redefining one’s personal relationship with gender is not an easy one, and part of what makes Trisha so compelling is the challenge she represents to Paul – and, by extension, the audience – by co-existing with him in his own life. She pushes him to step beyond his fears – such as his concerns about the hostile attitude of the shopkeeper next door and the danger of bullying, brutality, and worse when Trisha goes out in public – and embrace both sides of his nature instead of trying to force himself to be one or the other alone. And while the film doesn’t shy away from addressing the brutal reality about the risk of violence against non-gender-conforming people in our culture, it also highlights what is possible when you choose to allow yourself to become who you truly are.

As a sort of disclaimer, it must be acknowledged that some viewers may take issue with some of Whitehead’s personal beliefs about gender identity, which might not quite mesh with prevailing ideas and could be perceived as “problematic” within certain perspectives. Similarly, the depth of his engagement with Hindu cosmology might be off-putting to audiences geared toward skepticism around any spiritually inspired outlook on the world. However, it’s clear within the larger context of the documentary that both Paul and Trisha speak only for themselves, expressing a personal truth that does not nullify or deny the personal truth of anyone else. Further, one of the facets that gives “Art of Fluidity” its mesmerizing, upbeat charm is the sense that we are watching an ongoing evolution, a work in progress in which an artist is still discovering the way forward. There’s no insinuation that any aspect of Paul or Trisha’s shared life is definitive, rather we come to see them as a united pair, in constant flux, moving through the world together, as one, and becoming more like themselves every step of the way.

That’s something toward which we all would be wise to aspire; the acceptance of all of our parts and the understanding that we are always in the process of becoming something else would certainly go a long way toward making a happier, friendlier world.

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New Cyndi Lauper doc brings overdue spotlight to queer ally

‘Let the Canary Sing’ captures a unique, era-defining star

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Cyndi Lauper’s remarkable career is revisited in ‘Let the Canary Sing.’ (Photo courtesy of Paramount Plus)

Every era in our cultural memory has given rise to popular artists that helped to define them, but few can be said to have made as definitive an impact as Cyndi Lauper in the early ‘80s. Splashing onto our airwaves and across our television screens (courtesy of the newly minted MTV) with a defiantly upbeat and colorful blast of society-shifting energy, her proclamation that “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” caught the world off guard with a feminist anthem disguised as a good-time party song, and her sense of quirky punk style became an iconic influence over the “look” of an entire decade. In some ways, you could almost say Cyndi Lauper was the ‘80s.

For many people who grew up or came of age during her rise from unknown girl singer to pop music phenomenon, that might be the extent of their knowledge of her life and career. Despite the success (and Grammy Award) she achieved with her first few hits, the ever-roving eye of public attention inevitably moved on to the next new superstar, and her later efforts – while not exactly ignored – never managed to garner as much attention.

That doesn’t mean she has been inactive, though, as her die-hard fans (and there are many) well know; this is especially true in the queer community, where she has long been recognized and celebrated as a staunch ally – which is why it seems apt that Pride month should coincide with the release of “Let the Canary Sing,” a new documentary profile of Lauper that premieres on Paramount Plus this week.

Directed by Emmy-winning documentarian Alison Ellwood, “Canary” takes its name from a comment made by the judge in a legal case that opened the door for Lauper’s stardom – no spoilers here, you’ll have to watch the movie to find out more. It undertakes the telling of a well-rounded and comprehensive life story to cast that stardom in a new light. Maintaining a comfortable sense of chronology, it begins with Lauper’s childhood, growing up in Brooklyn (and later, Queens) in a close-knit family as the middle child of three with a divorced single mother, and follows the trajectory of her life – rebellious, risk-taking teen to driven, passionate artist and activist – through her love of music, her rise to fame, her struggle to evolve in an industry that rewards predictable familiarity, her emergence as an LGBTQ advocate, and her expansion into a genre-leaping artist whose reach has extended beyond pop culture to earn her renown for her versatility. It also covers her accomplishment as the first woman to win a Tony Award as sole composer of the music and lyrics of “Kinky Boots,” the Harvey Fierstein-scripted drag-themed Broadway musical which made a star of Billy Porter – and nabbed her another Grammy (for its Original Cast Recording), to boot. Bolstered by extensive current interview footage with Lauper herself, as well as elder sister Elen, younger brother Fred, and other important figures from her personal and professional life, it finds an arc that reveals its subject as an authentic and uncompromising visionary dedicated to “lifting up” the entire human race.

That would sound hyperbolic – and probably more than a little disingenuous – if Lauper did not come across so palpably on camera. Whether it’s footage from a decades-old Letterman show or newly filmed commentary shot specifically for the film, her “true colors” come shining through (forgive us for that one, we couldn’t resist) to provide ample evidence that, even if she didn’t always know where she was going, she always knew it would be the direction of her own choosing. Indeed, as the movie makes clear, much of the reason behind Lauper’s fade from the pop spotlight was the result of her refusal to repeat herself, to compromise her own path by delivering pale copies of the formula that had made her an “overnight success” after 15 years of trying. Although the documentary doesn’t insinuate this, it’s impossible for us not to suspect that homophobic backlash following her public embrace and advocacy of the queer community – something surely intertwined with her close bond to sister Elen, an out lesbian who is positioned in Ellwood’s film as a key pillar of both emotional and artistic support in Lauper’s life – may have had something to do with the mainstream music industry’s ambivalence toward her as she pursued her artistic impulses beyond the flashy appeal of her debut album. 

In any case, “She’s So Unusual,” as a debut album title, proved to be an ironic foreshadowing of the very reasons she was unable to “stay in her own lane” well enough to remain in the good graces of a public (or, perhaps more truthfully, of record executives) that only wanted more of the same. Lauper has never been one to conform, and it’s made her vulnerable, like so many other unrelenting female voices both before and after her, to the mainstream insistence on reinforcement of the comfortable over the breaking down of boundaries.

“Let the Canary Sing” captures all of this succinctly, yet with layered and sophisticated nuance, as it pays its tribute to a pop icon whose seminal work has continued to resonate after more than 40 years. Unavoidably, perhaps, it sometimes feels like a “Behind the Music” episode or a “puff piece” for an artist about to launch a new project – indeed, Lauper announced a “farewell tour” of 23 cities, as well as a “companion piece” greatest hits album release, on the eve of the movie’s streaming debut – but it pushes past such irrelevant comparisons thanks to the palpable sincerity conveyed onscreen, not only from her, but from all the people in her orbit whose comments about her are included in the film.

Of course, it must be said that anyone who’s not a “Cyndi Lauper fan”, whether by virtue of generational gaps or personal tastes, will probably not be drawn to watch a filmic love letter to her, and that’s a shame. It (and she) has the power to make viewers into true believers not only in her talent, but in her message of acceptance, inclusion, and unconditional love. Part of that, hinges on Ellwood’s skill as a filmmaker and teller of real-life stories, but the lasting impact rests on the persona of the star herself, who exudes a genuine air of transcendence and makes us not only feel instantly comfortable, but completely “seen” and validated, no matter who we are or which spectrum we might be on.

It’s hard to fake the kind of sincerity that makes that possible, and nothing about “Canary” suggests that Cyndi Lauper has any interest in being fake, anyway.

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Lesbian, bi, trans stories dominate queer crop of summer movies

Comic book adaption, horror thrillers, and more on the way

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Megan Stalter stars in ‘Cora Bora. (Photo courtesy Brainstorm Media)

Summer is almost upon us, and that means it’s time to look ahead toward another season of movies – but for queer movie fans, the typical “popular” summer escapist fare might not have quite the right appeal. Not to worry: the Blade is here to offer up our usual list of titles to watch for.

Backspot (May 31, in theaters) Helmed by nonbinary Toronto filmmaker D.W. Waterson in their feature directorial debut, this Elliot Page-produced sports drama has been described as “Whiplash” for competitive cheerleaders. Focusing on ambitious cheerleader Riley (Devery Jacobs of “Reservation Dogs”), it’s a heavily queer-themed coming-of-age tale that weaves romance with hard-hitting “behind-the-scenes” as she and her girlfriend, selected for an all-star squad, square off against a hard-edged head coach (out queer “Westworld” star Evan Rachel Wood) who demands a drive toward perfection – forcing Riley to confront her own crippling anxiety to keep her dreams from crumbling into dust. Also starring Shannyn Sossamon (“A Knight’s Tale”), Kudakwashe Rutendo, Thomas Antony Olajide, and Wendy Crewson

Let the Canary Sing (June 4, Paramount Plus) Billed as “the story of music’s most authentic superstar,” this career-spanning profile of queer-adjacent pop icon Cyndi Lauper from award-winning documentarian Alison Ellwood delivers a chronicle of her ascent to stardom and an exploration of her impact and the legacy that she has bestowed through her beloved music, iconic style, unapologetic feminism and fearless advocacy. There’s not much we can say about this one except that it’s a perfect treat for fans – and an enticing invitation for future fans – to get a close-up look at a legend who has truly earned her status.

Queendom (June 14, in theaters/on demand) Filmmaker Agniia Galdanova is behind this award-winning SXSW documentary, which follows queer Russian performance artist Jenna Marvin as she takes to the streets of Moscow to stage theatrical protests against the country’s Putin-led authoritarian regime – all while working behind the scenes to escape her homeland and flee to a place where her queer identity isn’t a crime. Coming in the middle of Pride month, it’s a potent reminder that – in many parts of the world – queer people still live in fear of homophobic suppression, but it’s also an inspiring story about the risky business of speaking truth to power.

Summer Solstice (June 14, in theaters) It should go without saying that telling trans stories is important right now, and this film from Brooklyn-based director Noah Schamus is exactly the kind we need. Following trans man Leo (Bobbi Salvör Menuez) as he hustles his way through a life of auditions, acting classes, barista jobs, and “situationships,” it segues into a thoughtful exploration of interpersonal gender politics when an old friend – cisgender and straight Eleanor (Marianne Rendón), takes her on an impromptu weekend getaway in upstate New York. Dealing with the new dynamics (and old emotions) of relationships after transition, it’s a movie which goes a long way toward revealing both the commonalities and the unique complications that ultimately make any trans story, told authentically, into a human story.

Cora Bora (June 15) If you’re a fan of Max’s queer-friendly queer-favorite series “Hacks,” you’ll need no introduction to the comedic personality at the center of this “dramedy” from director Hannah Pearl Utt. Out bisexual comedian and actress Megan Stalter stars as a “failed girl musician” who sets out not just to revitalize her career prospects but to win back the affections of her ex-girlfriend – and forges a new life path for herself in the process. Stalter, known mostly for her endearingly painful, over-the-top comedic portrayals of deluded-but-inextinguishable confidence, gets an opportunity to show a much wider range of layers here than she’s been allowed to explore before – but don’t worry: she’s still hilarious! Jojo T. Gibbs, Manny Jacinto, Ayden Mayeri, Thomas Mann, Chelsea Peretti, and queer comedy icon Margaret Cho also star.

Fancy Dance (June 21, in theaters/AppleTV) This debut feature from filmmaker Erica Tremblay is also the eagerly awaited return to the big screen of Indigenous American actor Lily Gladstone, whose Oscar-nominated turn in last year’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” not only made history but made them into a star. Here, they play a queer hustler who becomes the guardian of her niece (Isabel DeRoy-Olson) when her sister disappears. Trying to stay one step ahead of a deadbeat dad (Shea Wigham, “White Lotus”) and an American justice system that is weighted against the rights of Indigenous women, they hit the road into the backcountry of their Oklahoma reservation on a quest to find the missing mother. The “buzz” is already predicting another Oscar nod for Gladstone, but whether or not that’s just Hollywood hyperbole, it’s sure to be one of the summer’s must-see picks.

Sing Sing (July 12, limited theaters/August 2, wide release) Speaking of last year’s Oscar nominees, powerhouse out-gay-thespian-of-color Colman Domingo is the lynchpin of this based-on-a-true-story prison drama about a wrongly convicted inmate at the notorious correctional facility who finds solace in a rehabilitation theater program, mounting productions with fellow prisoners and rising above the crushing isolation of incarcerated life. Intense and topical, yet also inspirational and uplifting, it debuted at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival alongside Domingo’s other starring vehicle, “Rustin” – and his performance in it was praised as superior, Oscar nod notwithstanding. Consider that alone a recommendation to add this Greg Kwedar-directed real-life tale to your watchlist.

Deadpool & Wolverine (July 26, in theaters) It’s rare for us to include a big-ticket comic book film in our list of upcoming queer titles, but we can’t ignore the appeal of this new Marvel entry in which the two title characters are thrown together for a mission that will rewrite the history of the “MCU” forever. Sure, it sounds like a convenient way to hit the “reset” button and take the blockbuster franchise in a new direction – but it’s also the irresistible culmination of a longstanding “man-crush” held by the “canonically pansexual” Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) for X-Man MVP Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), fueled enthusiastically by both stars since long before this clever concept vehicle ever got greenlit. Directed by Shawn Levy, and also starring nonbinary actor Emma Corrin in their first “villainous” role, it features Morena Baccarin, Rob Delaney, Leslie Uggams, Karan Soni, and Matthew Macfadyen, too – and while it may not be highbrow cinema, based on the irreverent, borderline absurdist tone of both the “Deadpool” comics and the previous film installments made from them, it’s likely to be a lot of fun.

Cuckoo (Aug. 9, in theaters) Last but not least, this German-American co-production – a “Shining”-esque horror tale about a family vacationing in the Alps that find themselves endangered after discovering the resort town in which they are staying harbors a web of disturbing secrets – will undoubtedly draw the attention of hardcore horror fans. But it also has strong, built-in queer appeal in the form of its transgender star, Hunter Schafer (“Euphoria”), who takes on her first starring film role as the movie’s “final girl.” Dan Stevens, Jessica Henwick, Jan Bluthardt, and Martin Csokas also star, with direction and screenplay both coming from Tilman Singer.

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