Screen Queen

There is little doubt that 2023 was one of the queerest years on record when it comes to LGBTQ films, with Andrew Haigh’s dazzling “All of Us Strangers” receiving most of the praise and attention. With that in mind, 2024 has already gotten off to a good start, beginning with the recent release of the lesbian comedy “Drive-Away Dolls,” currently in theaters.

Said to be the first installment in a trilogy, “Drive-Away Dolls” (Focus), which was originally titled “Drive-Away Dykes” marks Ethan Coen’s solo narrative directorial debut. Co-written by Coen and his out lesbian wife Tricia Cooke (seriously, Google it), “Drive-Away Dolls” harkens back to early Coen brothers films “Blood Simple” (the violence) and “Raising Arizona” (the comedic, rapid-fire dialogue and situations). Additionally, there is the presence of queer characters, something the filmmakers dabbled with in “Miller’s Crossing,” “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” and especially “Hail, Caesar!”

The double meaning of “Fitting In” (Blue Fox), the title of writer/director Molly McGlynn’s second feature film, is a good place to begin this review. Because the main character Lindy (Maddie Ziegler) is a 16-year-old high school, the concept of fitting into the complex and often challenging social situations in which 21st century (or any century, for that matter) teenagers find themselves, the title has that covered with no problem.

One thing you can say about Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody: she’s consistently inconsistent. Since her groundbreaking screenwriting debut in 2007 with “Juno,” her track record has been uneven, with the misses (“Ricki and the Flash,” “Paradise,” and “Jennifer’s Body”) outweighing the hits (“Young Adult” and “Tully”).

Nominated for two Academy Awards (Best Motion Picture and Best Original Screenplay) and currently sitting at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, Celine Song’s first film “Past Lives” (A24) is the kind of debut that only comes along occasionally. There are numerous reasons why “Past Lives” has connected with audiences, but it is certain to find a following among queer viewers because the story could just as easily be told from a same-gender perspective.

One theory about movies released in the winter wasteland of January proposes that these flicks wouldn’t be able to hold their own against others released during more popular movie-going months throughout the year. “I.S.S.” (Bleecker Street), starring out Oscar-winning actor Ariana DeBose, does its part to shatter that myth.

Winner of the 2024 Golden Globe for “Best Motion Picture, Animated,” along with numerous other awards, Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Boy and the Heron” (GKIDS/Studio Ghibli) is the one to beat at this year’s Oscars. At least 30 minutes too long and deserving of its PG13 rating (not meant for young children!), “The Boy and the Heron” is, nevertheless, another unforgettable cinematic experience from writer/director Miyazaki.

The trend of adapting films into stage musicals and then movie musicals has produced hits such as “Hairspray” and misses including "The Producers.” “Mean Girls” (Paramount), falls somewhere in between, although it leans closer to a miss.

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