That darned James Franco, always causing confusion, grief, and, well, glee over his sexuality, and this time he makes onscreen boyfriend Zach Quinto suffer in the biopic about ex-gay Michael Glatze, I Am Michael.
It’s just one of the movies and shows features in What To Watch, our biweekly guide to awesome LGBT-interest entertainment in theaters, on DVD and VOD, and streaming and cable.
Now for the rundown!
(Opens January 27th at IFC Center, NYC; Laemmle Music Box, L.A.; The Roxie, S.F.: Wolfe)
The latest film from French partners in filmmaking and life, Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau (Funny Felix) deliver a modern day, real time gay romance that kicks off with a nearly 20-minute long, explicit gay orgy scene in a sex club. Meeting – ahem – during this sequence, Theo and Hugo end up leaving together afterwards, possibly connected on a deeper level than just sex. Then, a revelation: Hugo is HIV-positive, and Theo, not realizing this, didn’t use a condom, so the pair race to a hospital to seek out PEP treatment… and perhaps fall in love while doing so. Truly a gay romance for the post-Looking/Weekend era, this one’s a must-see.
(Opens January 27th)
Having first premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, I Am Michael represents the first teaming up of James Franco and his King Cobra writer/director, Justin Kelly, and tells the true life story of Michael Glatze, an LGBT activist turned ex-gay Christian. Franco plays Michael, who writes for slick (and provocative) gay youth publication XY Magazine, settles into a relationship with boyfriend Bennett (Zachary Quinto), and eventually welcomes a third, college student Tyler, into their bedroom and activism. Yet way beneath the surface, Michael is feeling troubled, fear, panic, and seems to be grasping for an elusive happiness, which he eventually turns to the bible and religion for. However, aware of Michael’s ultra-gay past and high profile, even religion shows reluctance to accept him… A truly committed performance from Franco – yes, with some hot gay action involving Quinto – keeps this from being a Lifetime style movie, and no easy answers are offered. Also available on VOD.
($21.99 Blu-ray/DVD: Altered Innocence)
Lesbian director Pirjo Honkasalo crafted this gorgeously shot, moody, and homoerotic black and white drama back in 2013, which now comes to the US thanks to upstart distributor Altered Innocence. Finland’s entry to the 87th Academy Awards and based on an 1981 novel by Honkasalo’s life partner, Pirkko Saisio, it follows a poverty-ridden teenager named Simo, whose older brother Ilkka must go to prison the next day. An otherworldly, gritty Helsinki serves as backdrop to a night and day of incidents, including an encounter with a stalk-y photographer… Grim yet artful stuff from a queer filmmaker whose work is tragically obscure stateside.
($19.99 DVD; Virgil Films)
After officiating his gay son’s same-sex wedding in Massachusetts 2013, Reverend Frank Schaefer was stripped of his ministerial credentials by the United Methodist Church. Director Scott Sheppard’s documentary explores Schaefer’s story, from determined to avoid the same-sex marriage controversy to his realization that acceptance of his son’s sexuality was paramount in both personal and spiritual life, to the price it extolled on his career and the fight he would undertake against the Church to push it into a more progressive place and future.
($39.99 Blu-ray, $29.99 DVD: Criterion)
One of the most iconic works by gay German director/auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Fox And His Friends is also one of his most explicitly queer works (along with Querelle) and now comes in a souped-up Criterion version. Fassbinder himself stars as the title character, a naive working class Munich resident who wins the lottery. Suddenly flush with cash, he finds himself brought into the gay upper echelon and the target of parasites who would manipulate him, including the son of an industrialist who could save his family’s business by sapping Fox’s fortune (timely, no?). Way ahead of its time in the casual, matter of fact depiction of gay life, Fassbinder’s film, like his best work, is also a biting social commentary – and mercilessly heartbreaking. Restored in 4k, while extras include new interviews with filmmaker Ira Sachs (of Love Is Strange fame), actor Harry Baer, vintage interview with Fassbinder, and more.
(Sundays & Mondays at 9PM: HBO)
In this 10-episode series, Jude Law plays American Lenny Belardo, who is drafted by the Vatican as – hopefully – a hot new Pope that can bring young, more liberal followers to the Church. Alas, Lenny is a real prick, manipulator, and tyrant (hey, at least he’s not orange). Timely, sometimes OTT stuff, and hey, Law is wonderful to look at.
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