Pray far away
Whatever your entertainment needs, we’ve got you (and hopefully your mind) back with Queerty’s weekly ‘Culture Club’ column featuring some of the highlights from new releases, streaming shows, classics to. review and what to drink while you watch.
The must: pray
We first saw this new documentary on the festival circuit last year, where it left us moved and pensive. Apparently, that did the same for Ryan Murphy and Netflix who have since picked it up to release it. Pray far away tells the story of a group of “ex-gays” who made headlines in the 80s and 90s for claiming to cure homosexuality. This includes the juggernaut Exodus International, the largest of all “ex-gay” ministries. Director Kristine Stolakis conducts interviews with a number of leading figures in the movement, which reveal and expose their own feelings of shame and confusion… and how a cabal of rich, heterosexual men has again abused and used them as political pawns.
Pray far away is a difficult movie to watch both because of its subject matter and because Stolakis treats its characters with such non-judgmental empathy. She treats these former leaders – who have all done terrible things – as victims too, people of devout faith who wanted a better life, a better world, for everyone. Of course, regret does not absolve anyone from terrible deeds, and Stolakis knows that the central questions of Pray far away do not have easy answers. Do these people have blood on their hands? Can they ever deserve forgiveness? Over a year after we first watched the film, we’re still grappling with these questions.
One thing is certain: Pray far away is one of the best movies of the year and a must see for all gay people.
Aired on Netflix August 3.
The exit: Stillwater
Matt Damon (plus his father) is on the front page of this new crime drama from Tom McCarthy, the Oscar-winning writer of Projector and At the top. Still water follows Bill Baker, a blue collar oil rig who is recovering from years of addiction. His lesbian daughter Allison (Abigail Breslin) is rotting in a French prison for the murder of her girlfriend (a premise that seems borrowed in part from the real case of Amanda Knox). Allison claims her innocence, and when a lead emerges as to the whereabouts of the real killer, Bill teams up with bohemian actress / single mom Virginie (Camille Cottin) to clear Allison’s name.
Still water has some twists up its sleeve and features some terrific work from Damon, Cottin and Breslin. Sometimes the film tries to do a little too much, dwelling on Bill’s complicated new relationship with Virginie and his daughter Maya (stage thief Lilou Siauvaud). This leads to a twisty third act, in which a key character disappears without a clear explanation. These criticisms aside, the film harbors strong feelings and complex and interesting characters that showcase the gifts of its actors. The film also raises questions about how perceptions of immigrants, women, and queer people can drive a public narrative in an unfair direction.
A little like Joe bell Last week, Still water will likely have detractors attacking him for a “simple savior” complex. That is not the case here : Still water doesn’t put aside his odd lead, keeping Allison at the center of the story. Bill’s “heroisms” also raise their own questions. Likewise, the desire for redemption drives Bill rather than guilt – he’s not trying to right past mistakes, but rather to prove he’s a changed man. Well done if too long, ambitious, and featuring great characters, we recommend Still water for its casting and its provocative themes.
In theaters July 30.
The Goofy: News from the small town
Queer filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato are producing and directing this new HBO series on an independent television station launching programming on the eve of the COVID-19 pandemic. Small Town News follows station owner Vernon Van Winkle as he realizes his lifelong ambition to launch his own network, KVMP, in the small town of Pahrump, Nevada, which has a population of 36,000. Needless to say, the news ranges from humble to bizarre: KVMP covers everything from dog adoptions to brothels for sale. The station is also attracting its own happy team, including a journalism professor working on the moon as a co-host for a gay publisher fearing he might be the victim of a local hate crime. As 2020 advances, Van Winkle becomes more and more conspiratorial, much to the chagrin of fellow station employees, often with hilarious results.
It’s clear that Bailey & Barbato, themselves curators of an independent network with World of Wonder Presents Plus, feel some kinship with Van Winkle and the staff at KVMP. That doesn’t stop them from raising questions about journalistic integrity, however, especially as Van Winkle espouses crazy theories about COVID, masks, Democrats and stolen elections. In the digital age where anyone can build a platform, even a news agency, no one has addressed the question of who should organize and report the news. Sometimes Van Winkle even seems proud to push the stories the way he’d like to see, regardless of accuracy or questionable sources. With its larger-than-life cast, Small Town News does not miss great bursts of laughter. His darker questions about the integrity and accuracy of information give him added depth and a lingering sense of dread. Rarely is apprehension so fun.
Aired on HBO on August 2.
Reading: I’m not Starfire
Comic book fans won’t want to miss I am not Starfire, the new graphic novel by Eisner Prize-winning author Mariko Tamaki (Harley Quinn: Broken Glass). The story follows Mandy, the strange daughter of the superhero Starfire, who unfortunately did not inherit any of her mother’s powers or beauty. A school project pairs Mandy with the alluring Claire, and sparks begin to spring. Unfortunately, Starfire disappears and Mandy must choose between safety and a chance to save her mother. I am not Starfire deals with the themes of self-loathing, parental domination, teenage awkwardness, and general insecurity that many gay readers will relate to. We recommend it as a funny, queer coming-of-age tale; one that asks deeper questions about how a world of superpowers affects those of us who don’t.
In bookstores now.
The Retro: Transformers 35th Anniversary Edition
Speaking of geekdom, Shout! Factory once again goes above and beyond with this 4K restoration of the cult 1980s animated film, based on the popular toy line. Readers of a certain age will no doubt remember the surreal, sci-fi strangeness of Transformers: the movie… Not to mention the trauma of seeing their beloved characters killed in extraordinary ways. This new Blu-Ray and Ultra HD treatment of the film also features plenty of documentaries that provide a bit of context for the film’s weirdness and enduring legacy. Cast members Susan Blu and Gregg Berger recall the film’s recording sessions, including anecdotes about stars Orson Welles, Leonard Nimoy and Eric Idle, while composers Stan Bush and Vince Dicola pounce on the tape distinctive synthesized original from the film. Things start to make more sense when director Neslon Shin reveals that parent company Hasbro’s mandates, unique music, and distinctive style forced him to approach the film as a surreal art film … which seems right. . The new set also includes a steel case, deleted scenes, storyboards and more, making this new edition an absolute must-have for Transformers hardcore fans and moviegoers. Given the number of gay boys we know are obsessed with 80s nostalgia and perhaps still play with their Transformers toys every now and then, we can’t wait to see this new edition on more than a few Blu-Ray shelves.
Available at Shout! Factory on August 3.
The Jam: Nicolas McCoppin’s “Loverboy”
Queer-crooning heartthrob Nicolas McCoppin returns this week with his latest album, the dance-pop compilation Loverboy (The Heartthrob Edition). The original edition of Loverboy enchanted us last year with its mix of electronica, synthpop and blatant homoeroticism. McCoppin released his first single from the album “Heaven” last month, where it quickly reached the Top 40 of the charts here in the United States. To our liking, however, we revolve around the track “City of Love”, a tender and bouncy ballad about a young gay man who finds his first love in the big city. The release cements McCoppin’s place as a burgeoning queer pop star, and upbeat styles complement deeper, more personal lyrics.
Feed on YouTube.
The sip: Optimus Prime
In honor of Transformers: The Movie turns 35 (Lord help us), we’re bringing you this week’s cocktail: a fruity and strong libation dedicated to Autobot leader Optimus Prime. Prime’s death in the film may have marked many children (including us), but his subsequent resurrection and continued fame deserves a proper salute.
- 1/2 oz raspberry vodka
- 1/2 oz watermelon schnapps
- 1/2 oz peach schnapps
- 1 dash of grenadine syrup
- 4 oz lemon-lime soda
- 1 oz of sweet and sour mixture
- 1/4 oz blue Curacao liqueur
Add the ingredients in that exact order to a highball glass with ice: pucker, watermelon schnapps, peach schnapps and grenadine. Pour in the soda, sweet and sour mixture and curacao. Enjoy layers and sip.