Sometimes bad films are so bad they become iconic: The Room (2003), Michelle Visage’s favourite Showgirls (1995) and even the nightmare-fueled Cats (2019) have become cult classics. On the other side, sometimes great films have huge success and go on to be universally acclaimed by critics and audiences alike: think Citizen Kane (1941), The Godfather (1972) and even Titanic (1997). The least memorable films sit right in the middle: never good enough to be truly great, but never bad enough to be iconically awful. Stage Mother is one of those films. [...]
Paraíso Perdido is Portuguese for paradise lost. Set almost exclusively at night in a Brazilian cabaret club lost in time, I could think of no more appropriate a name. Paraíso Perdido (Monique Gardenburg, 2018) follows the lives of a family who own and work at the club after which the film is named. We also meet other performers ーa kind of extended familyー and are introduced to the scene through Odair, a policeman who is given the club’s flyer by a speeding motorcyclist. Odair acts as a way-in for the spectator, and we discover the club, the family and their secrets alongside him. The more time he spends there, the more we all learn about this twisted family touched by tragedy. [...]
Oof, this one hits you by surprise. But at the same time, you sort of know exactly what’s going to happen. Don’t worry, I’ll come back to this later on… The Mudge Boy (Michael Burke, 2003) tells the story of 14-year-old Duncan and his struggle to find himself and his people in non-descript rural America. We follow his emotional journey with one volatile town bully, Perry, as they move towards something akin to friendship, or maybe more…! (You know what this blog is about, right?) [...]
Coming into this, I think I was promised something like But I’m a Cheerleader: The Musical, in Spanish. What I got was, if you can believe this, so much more and so much wilder than that. My thoughts throughout were, to quote lovely fifth alternate Alyssa Edwards, 'what the fuck is going on in here on this day?' Avoiding any major spoilers, I will try to explain ー though I’m not sure to what extent that will be possible.
Two minutes in and it's already an assault on the senses: from scribbled scrapbookish title sequences, to waivering cameras, via both voiceovers and on-screen dialogue. Sis, it's a lot. We get the film's eponymous best friends: gay boy Ely and straight girl Naomi (a classic combo, let's be real). A supposed central plot point is introduced: their 'no kiss list': a collection of boys they both fancy and are thus off limits' And there begins a visual introduction to the world we'll be living in for the next hour and a half: two perfectly quirky (and conveniently adjacent) young adult bedrooms in the heart of an idealised and colourful New York City. Okay, yes, it's a lot for eyes and ears to deal with, but at least we can say for certain that the scene is set. [...]
Theatrics. Glamour. Jewels. Capes. Astrology. And mucho, mucho amor. That is camp. That is queer. And that is Walter Mercado. Watching this documentary, it almost felt like a spoof; like this person, this character, couldn’t have existed and thrived as he did in the 1970s-2000s Americas. How had I never heard of him before? Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado (Cristina Costantini & Kareem Tabsch, 2020) narrates a part-chronological part-thematic biography of the Puerto Rican TV astrologer. At first the documentary teases its way towards a mysterious disappearance ー where did he go, what happened to him, is he even still alive? [...]
Marsha P Johnson was a black trans woman (self-identifying as a drag queen, the language which existed at the time) who was, at the very least, militantly active in the 1969 Stonewall Riots. There are conflicting accounts about whether she “threw the first brick”, but thanks to Stonewall, and countless other protests over her lifetime, she is one of the reasons we have Pride. Every queer person should know who she is. She is gay liberation. She was The Moment. Thankfully, this documentary paints a vivid picture. [...]