Tag Archives: LGBTQ+ movies

Semper Fi

The Inspection

by Hope Madden

We’ve seen it so many times, often very effectively. A sloppy recruit, someone with nothing to lose but himself, does just that during boot camp. Maybe it ends in ambivalence and horror (Full Metal Jacket), maybe it ends in heroism and an unwitting invasion of Czechoslovakia (Stripes), maybe it ends in romance (An Officer and a Gentleman).

While the story that writer/director Elegance Bratton (Pier Kids) tells with The Inspection follows those familiar beats, it’s messier, more frustrating, more honest and more human than all the others together. As it should be, since it is his own story.

Jeremy Pope delivers an astonishing, raw performance as Ellis French, a 25-year-old homeless gay Black man. His mother Inez (Gabrielle Union in the finest performance of her career) cast him out at 16. We meet Ellis on the day he enlists in the Marines.

And you thought Bill Murray was going to have a tough time.

While the steps in the screenplay are familiar – the recruit has much to escape in his day-to-day; he joins and gets to know a group of men of different backgrounds, each of whom will be tested alongside him; he comes out the other side a different man. But Ellis French’s stakes are higher, his difficulties are more dangerous, and the lessons learned along the way probably affect those around him more profoundly than they affect him.

Bratton also pulls away from audience expectation by avoiding the cliché of one-dimensional recruit characters. There’s good and bad, heroism and cowardice, in everyone on the screen. In this way Bratton allows a certain moral ambiguity to seep into the film. That gray area becomes the space for forgiveness to take shape.

What Bratton brings to this well-worn story is an idea perfectly realized by Pope. The Inspection is a showcase for the idea that resilience comes from a balance of strength and forgiveness. French finds ways to forgive what to most would be unforgivable. This is how he perseveres. It’s a beautiful, difficult lesson to learn, even for a viewer. But thanks to that resilience, we have this exceptional film.

Pretty in Pink

Anything’s Possible

by Hope Madden

On the surface, Billy Porter’s directorial debut—the coming-of-age rom-com Anything’s Possible—is pretty traditional fare. High school can be tolerable with good friends, boys complicate everything, being different is the worst, just hold on until you can start it all again at college.

That does describe this film. The only thing differentiating this story from dozens of other high school dramedies littering cinematic history is that our lead, our Gen Z Molly Ringwald, is a beautiful trans girl named Kelsa.

Kelsa (Eva Reign) is starting her senior year and counting the days until she can leave Pittsburgh for her dream school, UCLA. She spends all her time with her two besties, Em (Courtnee Carter) and Chris (Kelly Lamor Wilson), but their balance is thrown out of whack when Em announces she likes Khaled (Abubakr Ali), Kelsa’s secret crush.

Porter and screenwriter Ximena García Lecuona lean hard on formula. The one difference here is that Kelsa is juggling more than most high school seniors, even if she’s determined to convince herself that she is not.

Porter’s sly direction follows Kelsa’s lead. As she’s ready to complicate the narrative by considering how the world is reacting to her not as a teen but as a trans teen, the film redirects its attention. The simplicity of the movie’s structure, its plot, even its performances often work in its favor.

Many viewers will, for the first time ever, see themselves in this comforting adolescent formula. For countless other viewers, normalizing Kelsa’s high school anxieties demystifies and creates empathy.

But is it entertaining? Sure! Reign is a charmer, as is Ali. Support work, especially from the always impressive Renée Elise Goldsberry, as well as a clearly loving look at PittsburgH, give the film a welcome sense of joy. And while there is one extremely ugly comment, on the whole Anything’s Possible never wallows in trauma.

That’s not to say that Anything’s Possible or Kelsa manages to sidestep all the dangers and indignities that face trans teens. But it’s not the focus.

Rather than making a film about the day-to-day oppression, trauma, bigotry and danger facing a trans teen,  Porter and García Lecuona turn our attention to the universal dramas of being a teenager in Pittsburgh. That may not feel groundbreaking or even necessary, but it absolutely is.

Scream Queen

All About Evil

by Hope Madden

Creepy twins! Librarians! Drag queens! These are a few of my favorite things…

The long-lost 2010 cult-film-in-the-making All About Evil brings all this and more to its Shudder debut this week. What’s it about?

The business of show!

Natasha Lyonne is Deborah Tennis, anxious librarian. Deb inherits her dad’s beloved single-screen San Francisco theater and vows to keep it afloat, no matter how. Her plan of action: make grisly, hyper-realistic horror shorts with literary puns for titles.

You’d be surprised how well it works.

Writer/director Joshua Grannell (aka Peaches Christ, who co-stars) surrounds Lyonne with some underground heavy-hitters including Mink Stole and Cassandra Peterson. Between that and the Herschel Gordon Lewis love, All About Evil is a mash note to camp.

Performances and writing fall right in line. It’s community theater bad, but in the best way. Lyonne is in her element, hamming her arc from mousy literary type to vampy directress with Gloria Swanson skill. She’s even more fun when she’s directing her fine crew (Jack Donner, Noah Segan, and Nikita and Jade Ramsey – all so fun).

The underlying story that we need to stop assuming every troubled, white high school boy is a danger to society has not aged well. But Grannell also hits on timeless lessons about cell phone use during a movie (never OK!) and Elvira’s hotness (eternal!).

All About Evil offers clever midnight-movie fun from start to finish. The filmmaker is clearly a devotee of cult and kitsch, a love that brightens every frame of the film. Plus, the film memorabilia! Come for the movie posters, stay for more movie posters, enjoy some madcap campy mayhem in between.