This month there is a mix of queer films for streaming, from dramas and documentaries, to comedy, horror, and even a webseries — but it is a mixed bag; many of the films are flawed. Here’s a rundown of what is on.
“Once a Year on Blackpool Sands” (now available on VOD)
“Once a Year on Blackpool Sands” is largely set in 1953 — there is a clunky and unnecessary AIDS-era framing device—as it recounts the love between Eddie (Kyle Brookes) and Tommy (Macaulay Cooper) as they spend a week at a queer-friendly Blackpool B&B. Eddie hopes to run away and live openly as a gay man, but Tommy is more reluctant, inclined to return home and conform to social expectations. How these two men negotiate their relationship forms much of the film’s story, and tender scenes of them sharing a bath and making love are contrasted with more dramatic moments of them grappling with the realities of being out. A subplot involves James Elbridge (Dominic McCavish) who is summoning up the courage to walk along the pier as Phyllis. Based on real people (and writer-director Karlon Parris’ play), this inspiring film can feel a bit hokey, but its messages about courage and pride are still valuable, and Brookes is magnetic in the lead role.
“Fortune Feimster: Good Fortune” (now available on Netflix)
“Fortune Feimster: Good Fortune” is the lesbian comedian’s latest stand-up special, where she explains how she is “different than what meets the eye.” Feimster reveals that she is — wait for it — not butch. She even goes to great pains to explain why she can’t fix a car or be an adult in a crisis. Feimster does, however, describe her proposal to her girlfriend Jax Smith and all that went wrong with her romantic efforts. Adding to her commentary on dating and relationships, she recounts her polite reaction when she got a proposition from swingers and the circus-themed wedding her mother had. One of the best segments in “Good Fortune” has the comedian unpacking a response she received from a man who reached out to her about his thoughts on her marriage, and “what happened in Des Moines,” that makes Feimster reluctant to return to that Midwestern city. Filmed in Chicago at the Shakespeare Theater, this hour-long special is often amusing and showcases the comedian well, and her expressions are often pricelessly funny.
“Bromates” (now available on Demand)
“Bromates” is a straight guy comedy as both Sid (Josh Brener) and Jonesie (Lil Rel Howery) move in together after their respective girlfriends dump them. However, one of their lifelong buddies is Runway Dave (out gay Brendan Scannell) a gay man who has a skin care regimen and a purse and is often the wingman for his friends to meet women. But to the film’s credit, Runway Dave is not entirely a gay cliché. Yes, he’s into bears, but he works in Black Ops military so can help with a rescue mission when his friends get into a sticky situation. “Bromates” is absolutely unsophisticated and rarely funny, but Scannell stands out in the cast.
“Loving Highsmith” (November 1 on all major digital platforms)
Lesbian novelist Patricia Highsmith is probably as well known for her books as she is for the film adaptations of her books — “Strangers on a Train,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” and “The Price of Salt” aka “Carol,” among others. This documentary portrait showcases the writer, who dressed and acted masculine, and wrote mainly about men. (She was butch from a young age, as a photo of her as a child with a cigar indicates.) When she published “Carol,” a story about a young woman who has a love affair with a married lady, Highsmith penned it under a pseudonym so as not to be identified as lesbian. More importantly, she gave the 1952 novel a happy ending, which was unheard of at the time. “Loving Highsmith” explores some of the attitudes about homosexuality in the 1950s, and how folks had to be subversive to survive. However, “Loving Highsmith” may be best appreciated by those who are unfamiliar with the author’s personal life as director Eve Vitija only briefly touches on Highsmith’s alcohol use, her racism and antisemitism, and tax issues, which were prominent late in her life. This film is about as deep as a Wikipedia entry on the author.
“Blood-Red Ox” (VOD, digital November 8)
“Blood-Red Ox” is out gay filmmaker Rodrigo Bellot’s stylish, sexy, and strange psychological horror film about a gay couple Amir (Mazin Akar) and Amat (coproducer Kaolin Bass) who travel to Bolivia to visit Amancaya (Andrea Camponovo). On the way to her house, they encounter an injured ox, a bad omen, for sure. Before long, things get weird. There are images of blood-covered bodies. Amat has vivid dreams and visions of oxen. And scenes and dialogue are repeated, which can provide a hallucinatory effect. (One sex scene between the guys features superimposition, as if to suggest a real out-of-body experience.) However, Amir becomes truly unsettled when Amat does not recognize him, and after they have a physical fight, Amat goes running off, naked, into the woods. Will he return — and in what condition? “Blood-Red Ox” folds in on itself, with various scenes being replayed sometimes with different characters. It is both compelling and confusing, but Bellot keeps thing open to interpretation, filling his film with myths and symbols and potent images — not the least of which are the attractive actors often clad only in their underwear.
“Being Thunder” (On VOD and Digital November 11)
“Being Thunder” is a respectable documentary about Sherente Harris, a genderqueer Indigenous teenager in the Narragansett tribe. Director Stéphanie Lamorré observes Sherente’s courage to live authentically while seeking to gain the acceptance of others. Sherente’s family is remarkably supportive, and scenes of them together show their collective strength and resilience — especially when Sherente faces discrimination at Powwows, or recounts stories of racism and homophobia. The film chronicles Sherente’s efforts to get into college and observes family and tribal ceremonies. It is a drawback that “Being Thunder” is clumsily filmed and edited, but Sherente’s spirit still comes across clearly.
Adam in Fragments (Dekkoo, November 17)
“Adam in Fragments” is an ambitious webseries about the title character (Beau Swartz), a down-on-his-luck hustler who reconnects with Felix (Francisco Antonio), his “vetter” — because pimp is such an ugly word. Felix takes all of Adam’s earnings, and Adam charges by the condom, not the hour. When Adam and his friend Lucy (Keiva Bradley), who also works for Felix, try to exit sex work, things get dicey. “Adam in Fragments” is crudely made and overacted, but the short episodes are engaging. Scenes of Adam being interviewed, or his various assignations with his clients, fail to reveal anything new about sex work, but they do serve the ideas about Adam’s self-worth as well as his sense of freedom and control (or lack of either). While Adam’s arc is neither hard-hitting nor sexy, “Adam in Fragments” is moderately enjoyable.