LGBTQ streaming: What to watch in August

In "The Watermelon Woman," Cheryl Duyne starts a video documentary project investigating Fae "The Watermelon Woman" Richards' history and makes some startling discoveries.
In “The Watermelon Woman,” Cheryl Duyne starts a video documentary project investigating Fae “The Watermelon Woman” Richards’ history and makes some startling discoveries.
Criterion Collection

As the dog days of August descend upon us, there are three terrific films as well as several TV series — both newly released and returning — dropping on streaming channels this month. Here’s a rundown of what to watch.

“The Watermelon Woman” (Criterion)

Cheryl Dunye’s scrappy groundbreaking film — she was the first Black out lesbian filmmaker to direct as well as write, edit, and star in a feature film — is ripe for discovering or rewatching. Cheryl (Dunye) is a video store clerk and budding filmmaker in Philadelphia, fascinated by the (fictional) actress Fae “The Watermelon Woman” Richards (Lisa Marie Bronson). Cheryl starts a video documentary project investigating Fae’s history and makes some startling discoveries about Fae’s life, work, and relationships as well as her own. An episodic film that is both fun and provocative, Dunye features a terrific film-within-a-film, a compelling love story — Cheryl’s relationship with Diana (Guinevere Turner) — and scenes addressing issues of race, gender, and sexuality. Dunye makes cogent points that sometimes we have to search deeper into our own history, and sometimes we have to create it ourselves — as she had done in this classic of independent queer cinema.

“Dos Estaciones” (Criterion)

“Dos Estaciones” is an outstanding Mexican drama set in Jalisco, where workers are harvesting agave for the tequila made in María’s (Teresa Sánchez) factory. But María’s power in the community is weakening. As this potent film unfolds, she tries to save face — and her factory — by hiring Rafaela (Rafaela Fuentes), a savvy and comely young woman she meets at a birthday party. “Dos Estaciones” also focuses on Tatín (Tatín Vera), a self-made transgender woman who runs a salon in town where María gets her hair cut regularly. How these two friends manage their lives forms the spine of this impeccably crafted a drama, made with the same care and attention that María employs when making a bottle of her tequila.

“The Unabridged Mrs. Vera’s Daybook” (VOD)

“The Unabridged Mrs. Vera’s Daybook” is an effusive documentary about San Francisco icons David Faulk and Michael Johnstone, who created the drag character Mrs. Vera and her fabulous, colorful outfits. Director Robert James’ film recounts the backstory of David and Michael, who lived through the AIDS crisis; both are living with HIV. They thrived by creating a “Daybook” of photographs featuring Mrs. Vera and helped establish the “VeraSphere,” a larger community of fans, friends, and followers that join them in the annual Pride Parade. The joy they provide is infectious, and “Mrs. Vera’ Daybook” celebrates the style and charm of these inspiring men and for the uninitiated, this documentary is worth watching.

“Patterns” (Dekkoo, July 27)

“Patterns” is a sophomoric 8-part episodic British series that features a handful of interconnected characters. The third episode is the most appealing as the attractive Lionel (Jack Armstrong) breaks his pandemic routine by ordering a pizza and falling for Foster (Rufus Shaljean), the delivery boy—only to get quarantined together. Foster is introduced in the first episode, which has his boyfriend, Chris (Taylor Marshall) dumping him. Chris then conspires with his friend Kevin (Jake Watkins) to “reverse catfish” a guy on a dating app. The dumb plan does not go as planned, of course. Another multi-episode storyline revolves around the 15-year-old gay Liam (Rufus Gleave) who first comes out to his hunky dad, Preston (Matthew Simpson), and in a later episode tries to find his dad a date. Other tedious episodes depict a reality filmmaking segment, and a female support group. One episode, which features characters breaking fast on Yom Kippur, is played for laughs. Overall, the stories and characters are not very deep, and Foster who is featured in half of them, can be irritating. And while a dozen members of the ensemble cast appear in the last episode, it provides more confusion than closure. The uneven “Patterns” is worth watching only for the eye candy, Armstrong, especially. 

“Heartstopper” (Netflix, August 3)

Season 2 of this charming British series opens with Charlie Springs (Joe Locke) and Nick Nelson (Kit Connor) as boyfriends. They kiss (secretly) at school and more passionately elsewhere. It is as sweet as a dairy milk Oreo chocolate bar (Nick’s favorite; Charlie gives him one for their two-month anniversary). However, Nick finds it difficult to come out to some of his friends and family members. Meanwhile, Charlie’s parents want to restrict the teens’ romance. A subplot had Tao (William Gao) finally admitting his love for the trans Elle (Yasmin Finney), but she has found some new friends in fellow art students, including the trans Naomi (Bel Priestley). This season, the teens go to Paris on a school trip, and various couples — many same-sex — form, and some uncouple. “Heartstopper” chronicles the ups and downs of these relationships with affection, and the series is sure to continue to give its legions of fans all the feels.

“Only Murders in the Building” (HULU, August 8)

Season 3 of this hit series opens with the murder of Ben Glenroy (Paul Rudd), the obnoxious lead of Oliver Puttnam’s (Martin Short) new Broadway play, “Death Rattle.” This drives Oliver and his fellow podcasters, Charles (Steve Martin) and Mabel (Selena Gomez), to investigate — albeit reluctantly. There are some new faces this season, including Loretta (Meryl Streep), an actress in the show, and Ben’s documentarian Tobert (Jesse Williams), as well as some fun cameos that would be criminal to reveal. The trio’s gay neighbor Howard (Michael Cyril Creighton) has some terrific moments as Oliver’s assistant, and his partner Jonathan (Jason Veasey) gets to shine in a cabaret scene. Adding to the queer content is Cliff (out gay Wesley Taylor) who is producing “Death Rattle” with the support of his mother, Donna (Linda Emond). While it gets off to a rocky start, the series hits its stride as it develops, making it another irresistible season.

“H.I.M.” (VOD)

“H.I.M.” is Anthony Bawn’s 2017 series that chronicles two parallel stories. One has Kendall (Rahim Brazil) dealing with his feelings for Tristan (Desmond Fletcher), while the other has his cousin, college freshman Damien (Brandon Karson), getting involved first with Shane (Rocc), a bad boy who seduces him, and then with Shane’s roommate Max (Darren Johnson), a hunky athlete. The series plays out like bad porn, with amateurish acting and situations such as a shower, a library encounter, or a game of strip poker, that are contrived to get the cast naked. Damien does generate some amusement in his direct address to the camera, where he questions what folks say, and while he tries to think “with his brain not his dick,” Bawn’s series clearly focuses on the latter. 


“Trace” is a crudely made and plotted series set in San Francisco and “based off true events” that revolves around a series of murders of gay and bisexual men. Gerald (Allan Wayne Anderson) is married to Kerry (Jennifer France) and having an affair with Joseph (Nate Lovell). When Gerald is murdered, Detectives Williams (Gary LeRoi Gray) and Miller (Eugena Washington) investigate. They question Joseph, and discover he has a double life as a drag performer at a local club. Klaus (Drew Hinckley), a married father of two, also has a connection to Joseph. Other characters include Fredrick (Richardson Pierre), a reporter covering the case, and his husband, Phillip (Danny Royce), a student who once had a class with Detective Williams. Their professor, Harald Freeman (Greg Lucey), acts inappropriately, wanting companionship for assistance with their coursework. The two-part series toggles back and forth in time, which is actually more confusing than clarifying, and viewers will need to look past the microbudget production values, stilted acting, and fake fight scenes. There is at least one decent performance by Nate Lovell, who is a standout in and out of drag, and both Danny Royce and Richardson Pierre are enjoyable to watch whenever they are on screen, but most of the cast lack conviction in delivering their line readings. There are many risible moments, most notably when Klaus confesses, “I like makeup and men,” and his wife Jessica’s (Scarlet Cummings) reaction that is unintentionally hilarious. “Trace” is full of head-scratching moments, which makes this series wholly entertaining as a hate watch.