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Tap that Grindr cuddle buddy of yours – winter is officially here, and brr, it’s time for some Netflix and chill. Or HBO and chill. Or Blu-ray and chill. Whatever your media of choice, here’s a peek into some films and TV shows you can use to lure your lover du jour into “watching a movie.”
Steven Soderbergh, hetero creator of things gays want to see, like Channing Tatum stripper movies and Michael Douglas and his as-portrayed-by-Matt-Damon boytoy in “Behind the Candelabra,” also knows you’ve been wondering where the hell Sharon Stone has been. Sure, the actress who introduced me to lady parts thanks to “Basic Instinct” went brunette for 2013’s Rob Epstein- and Jeffrey Friedman-directed eponymous “Deep Throat”-centered feature “Lovelace,” as in porn star Linda Lovelace, and more recently had a brief stint as a film agent in Golden Globe winner James Franco’s “The Disaster Artist,” but Stone’s mesmeric presence has been sorely lacking from screens of all types. But Soderbergh’s limited six-episode tube run of “Mosaic,” a twisty crime procedural filtered through the filmmaker’s famous iridescent blue and mustard yellow hues, is just the canvas for Stone to paint with every dramatic shade contained within her successful socialite character, Olivia Lake, a world-famous children’s book author who, on the surface, has the TV version of what a very lonely woman needs: a picturesque compound in the ski town of Summit, Utah, and a gay confidante, who is, as if Soderbergh is trying to out-gay himself once again, played by Paul Reubens, aka Pee-wee Herman. And then there’s “Mudbound” star Garrett Hedlund, who portrays Joel, a budding artist Olivia offers to mentor by giving him a place to live at her lodge because a) it’s convenient b) he’s hot and young, and she wants to feel both again. Stone still gets too-little screen time, and the series eventually dissolves into a patience-testing and ultimately frustrating game of whodunit – if you like closure, this isn’t the series for you – but when it comes to casting eye candy and beloved gay childhood idols, at least Steven Soderbergh was looking out for you.
“Battle of the Sexes,” Blu-ray/DVD
During a time when women are asserting their power, bringing the glass-ceiling-shattering victory of lesbian tennis trailblazer Billie Jean King over chauvinist Bobby Riggs to today’s still-gender-unequal world makes total sense. A #TIMESUP icon before #TIMESUP was a hashtag, King (played by an emotionally rich and captivating Emma Stone) harnessed immense anti-establishment defiance, campaigning for anti-gender discrimination law Title IX and, the next year in 1973, crushing Riggs (Steve Carell) during their iconic, televised match – a win for King, and an even bigger win for women’s rights, female athletes and queer acceptance. The match was coined the “Battle of the Sexes.” Also, a great name for a film, as “Little Miss Sunshine” filmmaking-duo Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton realized – especially when “Battle of the Sexes” coincidentally encapsulates the gender wars of the 2016 presidential election. But here’s the great thing: Faris and Dayton have also made one of the queerest films of 2017. Fully acknowledging that King’s stifled relationship with a woman, hairdresser-turned-lover Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough), weighed heavily on her, it’s also evident that their intensely sensual relationship was a crucial personal victory for King, as she’d come to see her own body as more than just a tennis-playing machine. “Billie Jean King: In Her Own Words,” wherein King reflects on her social justice work, her Riggs-winning strategy and her forecast for gender equity, stands out among a modest set of special features.
“End of the F***ing World,” Netflix
Boy meets girl, boy wants to savagely kill girl. Yes, welcome to the weirdly swoon-worthy romanticism of “End of the F***ing World,” Netflix’s bingeable Wes Anderson-meets-“Bonnie and Clyde” series based on Charles Forsman’s graphic novel in which two teenage runaways flee their wrecked home lives and neglectful parents for greener pastures and the occasional bludgeoning. Impressively played by 22-year-old Alex Lawther, star of the new IFC Film “Freak Show” (based on James St. James’ novel and starring as gender non-conforming alongside Bette Midler and Laverne Cox), James is a 17-year-old self-proclaimed psychopath whose greatest childhood thrill involved knifing cats and hamsters, and now he’s out for blood again – human blood. Enter Alyssa (an icy-but-empathetic turn from Jessica Barden), his amusingly acerbic schoolmate. Has he found the one? Throughout the show’s charmingly breezy, venturesome and beautifully scored eight episodes – during which James has an unexpected urinal experience with an older man that has Alyssa questioning his sexuality, and a pair of everyday lesbian cops try to track them down – his plans for Alyssa unthread as their romantic and deadly kindred-spirit bond see them through to the show’s bitter, bloody good, you’re-gonna-cry end.
Behold every last glorious strand of Jennifer Lawrence’s constantly transforming hair – silky waves! French braids! – as Darren Aronofsky’s dark allegorical descent into Trumpland and man’s ravaging of Mother Nature takes you to new crazy places. Just try looking away from the director’s maddening and mysterious follow up to “Black Swan” as a grippingly freaked J. Law wanders her home in the same manner I imagine our own president does every day in his, trying to understand what’s up with the fact that her artist husband (Javier Bardem) has opened their door to strangers who are maybe, probably – OK, definitely – up to no good. Those strangers are ominously portrayed by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, and if there’s any other reason to squirm through this messy rabbit hole of doom and gloom and insane plot points, it’s to watch a sketchy Pfeiffer steal scenes as the vaguely titled character “Woman” (J. Law is, you guessed it, the eponymous “Mother”). Inhabiting the role of horny housewife with a delicious mean streak, Pfeiffer sets her scenes on fire as the film blazes a dreary path of political commentary that sometimes feels like an art student’s final project gone awry. His commitment to the absurd and chaotic is certainly, at the very least, commendable. But guys, that hair…
“The Breakfast Club,” The Criterion Collection, Blu-ray
John Hughes’ quintessential coming-of-age classic, “The Breakfast Club,” is as timeless as the misfit archetypes the late filmmaker sought to explore and subvert when he wrote and directed one of teen-hood’s greatest artistic depictions. Simply put, few filmmakers are as synonymous with the ’80s as Hughes. Within the depths of his everyday characters – in “The Breakfast Club,” specifically, that includes Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez), Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall), John Bender (Judd Nelson), Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) and Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy) – we could see ourselves, or the people we once were (the writer-director’s Duckie in “Pretty in Pink” was an early queer idol). The empathy-engendering, zeitgeist-capturing “The Breakfast Club” encouraged generations of fronting schoolkids – and, perhaps, the adults they eventually became – to let their true colors show. Criterion Collection’s new Blu-ray release respectfully offers the film’s most comprehensive set yet, delivering on all levels: a superb 4K restoration, along with new sit-downs featuring Sheedy and Ringwald, who acknowledges Hughes for being an early supporter of nonconformist leading ladies.
As editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBT wire service, Chris Azzopardi has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyonce. Reach him via his website at http://www.chris-azzopardi.com and on Twitter (@chrisazzopardi).