Culture Club

What to Watch: A beautician’s ‘Swan Song,’ the trans woman who found OJ & Wrabel in love

Swan Song

Whatever your entertainment needs, we got your back (and hopefully your mind) with Queerty’s weekly “Culture Club” column with some of the highlights of new releases, streaming shows, classics worth revisiting, and what to drink while you watch.

The Step Out: Swan Song

Director Todd Stephens (Another Gay Movie, writer of Edge of Seventeen) returns with this dark comedy starring openly gay Andy Warhol muse Udo Kier. Swan Song follows the story of Pat (Kier), an aged hairdresser now confined to a Sandusky, Ohio nursing home. When Pat learns that one of his favorite clients (Linda Evans, yes, of Dynasty fame) has died, he resolves to come out of retirement to do her hair one last time…for her funeral. Thus begins a wacky—and often moving—journey as Pat escapes the confines of his old age home and shuffles his way across town.

Swan Song finds Stephens moving into more mature territory, and with delightful results: this is his best movie to date. That owes a great deal to Udo Kier’s performance in the lead, who brings a peculiar mix of camp and pathos to his role. It’s also one of his best performances. Pat’s life story—which he shares in a piecemeal fashion with the random people he meets on his walk—in essence, represents that of a whole generation of queer men who suffered in a hostile world of homophobia, AIDS and denial of civil rights. Featuring fine supporting turns from Michael Urie (Ugly Betty), Jonah Blechman (Another Gay Movie) and national treasure Jennifer Coolidge, we recommend Swan Song for its beautiful blend of humor, heart and history. Call it a walk to remember.

In theatres August 6. Streams On Demand August 13.

The Catch: Whirlybird

We fell for this doc at the Sundance Film Festival 2019 where it had its world premiere. Whirlybird profiles Zoey Tur, the trailblazing helicopter news cameraperson who rose to international fame by capturing a number of high-speed police chases, as well as the now-infamous footage of the beating of Reginald Denny during the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. Tur also bested her contemporaries in 1994 when she used her camera and helicopter to track down the fugitive O.J. Simpson in his white bronco in what became known as the most notorious police chase in history. Amid all the success—which included three Emmy awards—Tur, however, nursed a life of pain, courtesy of gender identity issues. She eventually came out as transgender in 2013.

Director Matt Yoka utilizes hours of footage taken from Tur’s personal archives to recount her story as a news icon, and her troubled marriage to fellow journalist Markia Gerrard. That includes footage of Tur verbally abusing and physically threatening Gerrard at moments of high stress aboard their helicopter. Even more amazingly, Tur, Gerrard and their daughter Katy all contribute to the film, recounting their family’s dark days, the incredible pressure of the breaking news business, and the stress that pushed Tur to the brink of insanity. Both admirers and detractors of Zoey Tur will find no shortage of ammunition here, as Yoka does a remarkable job at keeping his film objective, and with some of the most incendiary documentary footage on record. Opinions of Tur will vary from viewer to viewer, which only adds to the movie’s allure. Whirlybird captivates its audience every second with a mix of Los Angeles history, and an incredible, controversial leading lady.

In theatres August 6.

The Jerker: Wrabel with Duncan Laurence “back to back”

Our current crush on pop songster Wrabel continues, heightened by the release of his latest video, “back to back.” As with so much of Wrabel’s work, the song meditates on issues of love, insecurity, and domestic turmoil. This track manages to set itself apart with an upbeat chorus that channels glimmers of hope amid the fear and unrest. Aided by a terrific video directed by Michael Elias Thomas, and with vocals that could give Sam Smith a run for their money, we consider “back to back” Wrabel’s most Top 40-friendly tune yet. Somebody get this man on the air!

Streams on YouTube.

The Adorbs: Ryland James “3 Purple Hearts”

Speaking of adorable videos, a reader tipped us off to this new music vid from queer folk artist Ryland James. Shot over the course of a real-life 18-hour road trip, the video features Ryland and his real-life boyfriend Ryan on a journey to move in together in the same city. The verisimilitude of the footage adds a whole new dimension to the song: these boys are in love, and it’s plain to see. That gives added weight to James’ provocative lyric “Just tell me that, what we have scares you/‘Cause it scares me too.” Rarely do love ballads confess such honesty.

Streams on YouTube.

The Rock: Tony & the Kiki’s “Back in Black”

We’ve fallen in love with queer rockers Tony & the Kiki’s latest track, “Back in Black.” Lead singer Anthony Alfaro has vocals that recall those of grunge giant Chris Cornell and style that channels Dee Snyder at his most outrageous…which is totally OK by us. This latest single finds the group taking the power rock of AC/DC and jazzing it up with surprising results. The final track—which also features a segue into Rufus’ soul standard “Tell Me Something Good”–also showcases the innovation of the group. We recommend giving it a listen as it shows off the band’s great potential, and gets us excited for their debut album release this November.

Streams on YouTube.

The Sip: Whirlybird

via Shutterstock

In honor of our finally getting a chance to share Whirlybird with our readers, we offer up this week’s title-sharing libation.  A sweet mix of smokey whiskey, citrus and effervescence, it’ll have you flying in no time…also possibly making some news.

  • 1 Oz. Whiskey
  • 1 1/2 Oz of Pure Maple Syrup
  • 3/4 Oz. Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tsp Orange Juice
  • 4 Oz. Sparkling Water

Mix together over ice and serve. Optionally, add a lemon twist as garnish.