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: Dune
If Lawrence of Arabia director David Lean ever made a sci-fi movie, it would probably look a lot like Dune, possibly the most ambitious genre movie since Lord of the Rings. Director Denis Villeneuve cements his place as one of the rising auteurs with his adaption of Frank Herbert’s classic novel about commerce and political machinations in the year 10,191. The sprawling cast list and labyrinthine plot aren’t easy to condense, though the basic gist is thus: in the future, mankind has colonized a huge portion of the universe using a chemical spice as a means of space travel. Said spice is only found on one planet, and two ruling clans vie for control: the brutal Harkonnen, led by a sociopathic Baron (Stellan Skarsgård), and the egalitarian Atreides, led by Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac). Amid the conflict, Leto’s son Paul (Timothée Chalamet) begins to experience prophetic visions, suggesting he could be a long-prophesied super-being.
If nothing else, Dune wins its place as a masterpiece of adaptation, truncating roughly half the novel into its runtime to expand the book’s monomaniacal focus on Paul into a more ensemble narrative. Villeneuve also updates some of the novel’s dated elements, racially and gender-diversifying the cast, and eliminating the book’s homophobia. Herbert’s novel portrays the Baron as an incidental homosexual—something the 1984 film version by David Lynch radically amped-up (seriously…it’s one of the most homophobic movies ever made, folks). Here, Villeneuve keeps the Baron’s sexuality subtle, but evident. Chalamet again proves himself one of the best actors of his generation in the lead, while supporting players David Dastmalchian (as a creepy human calculator called a “mentat”) and Sharon Duncan-Brewster (as a native paleontologist), almost steal the movie outright. With a visual style that resembles a National Geographic from the distant future—brightly-lit images that look totally real, even when CGI—as well as scenes of Chalamet and Isaac scantily clad, we recommend seeing Dune in IMAX wherever possible. The movie is an epic reminder of how magical the cinematic experience can be, and one of the best films of the year.
In theatres and on HBO Max October 22. Seriously though—see it in IMAX.
The Spotlight: Civil War
Director Rachel Boynton examines American polarization over politics and racial history in this excellent new documentary. In Civil War Boynton travels across the country examining how opinions—and indeed, teaching history—of the Civil War and racism vary by geography. In the South, schools tend to teach that slavery and racism had little to do with the war itself, which, they say, was started by northern states wishing to subjugate the south (forget that whole bit about the South seceding from the Union, but nevermind). Residents there, meanwhile, romanticize the Confederacy as a sort of Utopia undone by federal government overreach. Contrast that with the North, where states do teach that the war resulted from disputes over slavery, but don’t always address the issues of systemic racism and bias that still affect African-Americans to this day.
It would be easy to dismiss Civil War as a work trying to shame the south and nationwide white complacency, but Boynton’s camera paints a far more complicated picture. In a masterstroke, the director opts to interview school children of varied ages and races to discuss their own impressions of the Civil War and racism in America. That leads to some very moving passages of personal testimony. Furthermore, Civil War argues that our current age of “alternative facts,” Fox News and OAN has much older roots dating from Reconstruction: the Union might have won the war, and slavery might have been abolished, but the South won the aftermath, finding ways to continue to subjugate African-Americans and keep the racist spirit of the Confederacy alive. It’s a must-see for anyone concerned over racial justice in the United States today, and anyone wondering how politics have become so polarized.
Airs October 24 on MSNBC.
The Creeper: Girl in the Woods
Queer actor Misha Osherovich leads this new young adult horror series about three teenagers battling a mysterious cult and monsters from another dimension. The series follows a group of teenagers in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. Carrie (Stefanie Scott), escapes a supernatural cult that has held her captive most of her life, and joins forces with Nolan (Osherovich) and Tasha (Sofia Bryant) to elude Arthur (Will Yun Lee), a fellow cult member tasked with capturing Carrie. Yet, as the three engage in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse, malevolent spirits begin to plague the town, threatening to destroy everyone and everything.
Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer-style horror and occultism will have a ball watching Girl in the Woods. For queer viewers, the show also offers a good deal of empathy, fleshing out Nolan’s story of questioning gender and sexuality, as well as enduring homophobic harassment. Indeed, as played by Osherovich, Nolan feels the most fleshed-out of all the characters, and his/their storyline also has the most emotional resonance. Besides, it’s a lot of fun to see a queer character on a monster-slaying adventure. Ridiculous, if touching, we give the series our recommendation for Osherovich’s performance, and Nolan’s storyline.
Arrives October 21 on CryptTV and Peacock.
The Meet-Cute: Boy Meets Boy
Director Daniel Sánchez López’s festival favorite arrives on streaming this week, inviting viewers to indulge in its meditations on male on male love. Boy Meets Boy follows Harry (Matthew James Morrison) a hard-partying Londoner about to leave Berlin to return home. Two days before his departure, he meets Johannes (Alexandros Koutsoulis), another handsome man that offers to help him print his boarding pass. The two begin a wandering journey together in search of a printer, and along the way, explore their mutual attraction.
Marketing materials for Boy Meets Boy market it as a sort of queer answer to Before Sunrise, and in general, we agree with that assessment. The entire movie hinges on the chemistry between Morrison and Koutsoulis, and the two establish a very strong, erotic rapport with one another. On the other hand, the story itself has very little in the way of action—most scenes consist of Harry and Johannes engaging in long conversations about love, sex and queer life. That makes for a talky movie in general, though we did find López’s dialogue both sharp and astute. Boy Meets Boy doesn’t exactly break new ground as cinema, though it does feature a sincere, romantic story, and hint that López, Morrison and Koutsoulis all have bright careers ahead. Give the film a watch—we think you’ll agree.
Available on VOD October 26.
The Legit: Broadway in Hollywood Presents: “My Fair Lady” LGBTQ Night
The world of legitimate theatre returns at last, and this touring company of the classic Lerner & Lowe musical welcomes LGBTQ audiences this week with a special reception. For the uninitiated: My Fair Lady adapts queer playwright George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion as a musical. Low-class flower seller Eliza Doolittle dreams of one day living a more charmed life. Speech professor Henry Higgins thinks he can help Doolittle accomplish her goal—simply by teaching her proper manners and elegant speech, which will grant her class mobility. The two develop a complicated friendship as they set about passing Eliza off as royalty…and discovering that men and women needn’t be lovers to have a relationship.
Ok, we’re going on record now by saying, contrary to conventional opinion, there is zero romance between Eliza and Higgins. George Bernard Shaw would agree with us, and wrote several essays explaining why. Chief among our reasons (and one implied by Shaw): Higgins is actually gay, and while Eliza may protest that he doesn’t treat her like a lady, she comes to see his larger point: he wants to treat her as an equal. Keep that rumination in mind while watching this lush new production, directed by Barlett Sher who originally helmed it as a 2018 Broadway Revival. Queer audience members should also take note of a special reception this week, held at the nearby Hard Rock Cafe, which will feature a pre-show mixer, complimentary hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar. Come enjoy some refreshment, meet a cultured new friend, and take in a night of classic—and queer—theatre.
October 26 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Reception begins at 7. Tickets available from Broadway in Hollywood.
The Quickie: Cis-Hets in Queertown
Comedy troupe The Queer Agenda returns with its latest comedy sketch this week, a satire of straight criticisms of LGBTQ people. “Cis-Hets in Queertown” imagines a world where queer people comprise the majority, and have to put up with the icky affections of seeing straight people (gasp) show affection or (double gasp) marry and have families. It’s a cathartic laugh for those of us who have had to (groan) listen to the same kind of ridiculous vitriol from straight people our whole lives.
Streams on YouTube.
The Exclusive Part I: RYALS Forward
Queer recording artist Ryals drops his new album this week, a song cycle inspired by loss of a parent, navigating a foreign society, and enduring a life of homophobia. Far from the downbeat tunes the subject matter would imply, Ryals has composed an energized and sassy compilation of synth-pop, electronica and sexy dance tracks about resilience and personal inspiration. Our favorite track: the piano ballad “My Days,” about filling loneliness with hook-ups and suffering imposter syndrome when successful. The composition and Ryals wailing vocals recall Lady Gaga’s “You & I.”
Streams on SoundCloud.
The Exclusive Part II: Sofi Vonn “is it a crime”
Electronic artist Sofi Vonn releases the video to her latest single this week, a meditation on finding a deep, abiding relationship in a world driven by hook-up culture. With a combination of pop-dance beats and Vonn’s rich, soulful vocals the song inspires us to want to dance in the sun with someone beautiful. That, folks, is not a bad thing.
Streams on YouTube.
The Exclusive Sip: Manila’s Bae Breeze
In honor of Drag Race alum Manila Luzon releasing her own line of SERV pineapple vodka this week, we’ve obtained this exclusive cocktail recipe from the queen herself. Fruity and potent, it has the flavors of a tropical cosmopolitan, perfect for sipping alongside any of this week’s Culture Club selections.
- pineapple vodka
- cranberry juice
- maraschino cherries
Pour vodka in a highball glass with ice. Add a splash of cranberry juice to taste. Garnish with a cherry.