What to Watch — Rue Is Back, Coming Out in South Africa & Anya Taylor-Joy Time-Trips

by Frank J. Avella

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday January 27, 2022

With the January doldrums, COVID fears, and word of an upcoming blizzard in the Northeast, many of us are staying put in front of a wide-screen TV (once again). There are a number of titles on the small screen — and some in theaters, for those willing to brave the elements — that may be worth seeking out.

But what to watch? Here's a list of current (and soon-to-come) titles, ranging from following the drug-driven, teen angst of "Euphoria" (a show with more penises per pixel than any other); Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand scheming in Joel Coen's visually stunning "The Tragedy of Macbeth; and the intense coming-out/coming-of-age South African film "Moffie."

'Euphoria' Season 2



Ansel Pierce appears in the Season 2 opener of HBO's "Euphoria" for less than 30 seconds and has only one line, but is already stealing all the limelight on social media. Why? Because he goes full-frontal and is proudly telling anyone who will listen (gay men) that it's no prosthetic. If you just tune in for nudity and sexual content, there is always plenty of that. But it's also a beguiling sit. Zendaya as Rue is so good, and has way more to offer than being drugged out, so I hope they do more with her and her relationship with Hunter Schafer's Jules this season. As for Jacob Elordi's Nate, more of him is always a treat (though the actor doesn't like to be seen as a sex object... perhaps another profession, then?). 

"Euphoria" season 2 is currently on HBO and streaming weekly on HBO Max

'Last Night in Soho'




Edgar Wright's sumptuous film is a visual treat, but I recommend a second viewing to truly appreciate it. Wright lays out a perfect setup to an extraordinary conclusion. The less said the better, except that fashion student Thomasin McKenzie arrives in London only to be transported back to the '60s to experience what Anya Taylor-Joy is experiencing. Toss in the gorgeous Matt Smith, Dame Diana Rigg in her final film performance (worthy of an Oscar nomination) and a soundtrack loaded with Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield, Cilla Black, and Sandie Shaw ditties, and you have magic — the kind made for queer folk. Oh, and AT-J performing "Downtown" is an instant classic! Crank up the volume and watch in HDTV. Extras include deleted scenes, featurettes, and commentaries. 

"Last Night in Soho" is currently available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital.

'The Tragedy of Macbeth'



Did we need another "Macbeth?" Thanks to Joel Coen's love for the visual medium and the brilliant casting of Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand, yes! It's revelatory to watch a rather weary Lord and Lady who are finally given their "shot" after decades of having to bow to others. At last, they have an opportunity to have it all. And they totally bungle it, through greed and unpreparedness. And yet, watching that unhinged desire is glorious, and there's more than an element of camp there as well. These two titanic actors are simply stunning. Both get better with each screen performance. And director Coen has a blast paying homage to films of the past in this gorgeous black and white reimagining. 

"The Tragedy of Macbeth" is currently streaming on Apple TV. 

'Cyrano'




The celebrated stage musical of "Cyrano" by playwright Erica Schmidt and The National has been adapted into a wholly engaging, yet unsettling, film directed by "Atonement's" Joe Wright. This is one bold, ballsy concoction with Peter Dinklage in the title role. His performance is why the phrase "tour de force" was invented. He's eschewed the nose, but has tremendous ... eloquence — especially when it comes to expressing his thoughts (on paper, at least). Haley Bennett and Kelvin Harrison Jr. provide wonderful supporting turns.

"Cyrano" begins limited theatrical engagements Jan. 21, 2022, before opening wide in February. 

'Munich — The Edge of War'



One can get lost swiping through Netflix film offerings, but there is a gem that has gotten buried in the recent overload: Christian Schwochow's terrific cusp-of-WWII spy thriller "Munich — The Edge of War," boasting fab lead performances by George MacKay ("1917") and Jannis Niewöhner ("Jonathan"), as well as a grand turn by Jeremy Irons as Neville Chamberlain. In the film, which is based on the best-seller by Robert Harris, MacKay is a political aide to the Prime Minister whose duty to country is paramount. Niewöhner is a former Nationalist, now working secretly against the Nazis. The two onetime university mates must come together to, well, try and save Europe. And, for the gay boys, beyond Niewöhner's gorgeous matinee idol looks there is an undercurrent of a deep crush that the MacKay character has on him that is fascinating to peel away at. 

"Munich — The Edge of War" begins steaming on Netflix on Jan. 21, 2022.

'The Gilded Age'



"I'm not concerned with facts, not if they interfere with my beliefs," bellows Agnes van Rhijn, the matriarch of the old money family at the center of HBO's "The Gilded Age," set in 1882's NYC and created by Oscar winner Julian Fellowes ("Gosford Park"), the man who gave us "Downton Abbey." Agnes is played to snobbish, Dowager-light perfection by Christine Baranski. This captivating new series will have "Downton" fans smiling wickedly, since parallels with certain characters are obvious. Yet, "Gilded" has an "Age of Innocence"-esque idea of challenging protocols, as well as ruthlessly setting tradition against innovation. It also sets about tackling issues like race and same-sex love in an age when image was everything. Louisa Jacobson (the youngest Streep daughter), Carrie Coon, Denee Benton, Cynthia Nixon, handsome Harry Richardson, and a slew of Broadway's finest actors do fine work. There are so many solid supporting characters in the first five episodes that only a few of their lives have been explored, so this series has a good run ahead if it catches on. And it should.

"The Gilded Age" Series premieres on HBO Jan. 24, 2022. 

'Moffie'



Shout Factory releases Oliver Hermanus's powerful "Moffie" on Blu-ray and DVD. (The word "moffie" is akin to "faggot" in South Africa.) The intense film explores a young gay man's coming of age on the Angolan war front in the early '80s, when being queer was treated as an illness that needed to be cured. Hermanus's examination of self-hate and bizarre homoerotic soldier camaraderie fascinates, as does his presentation of harsh homophobia. At the movie's heart is a brief but enveloping love story between our lead, Nicholas (an impressive and yummy Kai Luke Brummer), and an unconventional squad member, Stassen (Ryan de Villiers), with whom he spends a hot night in the trenches. The film also flashes back to the shame young Nicholas is forced to feel for lusting after men. The Blu-ray and DVD come with Bonus features.

"Moffie" is available on Blu-ray and DVD on Jan. 25, 2022.

'The Piano' (Criterion Collection Blu-Ray)



Jane Campion's seminal 1993 film "The Piano," is given the Criterion treatment with tons of goodies, including interviews galore with the writer-director as well as star Holly Hunter. This is a newly restored 4K digital transfer that is as breathtaking as Stuart Dryburgh's Oscar-nominated cinematography. Campion won the screenplay Academy Award for this film, and may win her first directing Oscar this year for the queer-tinged "The Power of the Dog." "The Piano" is told from a refreshing feminist perspective and, like a lot of Campion's work, has a sensuality to it that is brazen. The way the camera caresses Harvey Keitel's ass, for instance — who would ever think he'd be seen as a sex object? (Hunter calls him a noble lion in an interview.) Campion seems to understand sexual attraction and isn't afraid to delve deep in this exquisite, lyrical look at one woman's triumph over the patriarchy. This Criterion edition is loaded with special features you can treat yourself to, including a few chats with Campion. 

"The Piano" is available Jan. 25, 2022.

'Shortbus' (15th Anniversary 4K Re-release) 



In 2006, John Cameron Mitchell ("Hedwig and the Angry Inch") introduced "Shortbus" to the world, and it was jarringly refreshing in its delve into the psyches of a gaggle of emotionally stunted New Yorkers via their sex lives (gay, straight, bi) in the most honest of ways. Now, 15 years later, Oscilloscope is gifting us a 4K restoration and theatrical re-release, and the film is just as bold and startling as when it first came out — maybe more so, because we have become more puritanical when it comes to depicting sexual situations onscreen, even in indie films. Sook-Yin Lee, Paul Dawson, Lindsay Beamish, PJ Deboy, Raphael Barker, Peter Stickles, Jay Brannan, Justin Vivian Bond, and a host of ambitious players do intrepid work. And you aren't soon to forget the "Star Spangled Banner" rimming scene! "Shortbus" is what a Robert Altman porn film might look like. 

"Shortbus" opens at the IFC Center in NYC on Jan. 26, 2022 
Los Angeles Special Screenings at The Nuart on January 18th and 19th, followed by additional LA engagements this winter.

'Compartment No. 6' ('Hytti nro 6')



Finland's International Feature Entry (shortlisted) and the Grand Prize Winner at the Cannes Film Festival, Juho Kuosmanen's absorbing "Compartment No. 6" focuses on two people from very different backgrounds who share the same train car on a trip across rural Russia. Seidi Haarla is a Finnish archeology student who has apprehensively left her too-popular lesbian lover to embark on a dangerous journey to explore rock paintings. She's forced to bunk with a crude working class Russian, Yuriy Borisov, and, eventually, the two bond. The film, like the relationship, has a strange charm, and before you know it, you are enthralled. 

"Compartment No. 6" opens in theaters on Jan. 26, 2022.

Frank J. Avella is a film journalist and is thrilled to be writing for EDGE. He also contributes to Awards Daily and is the GALECA East Coast Rep and a Member of the New York Film Critics Online. Frank is a recipient of the International Writers Residency in Assisi, Italy, a Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship, and a NJ State Arts Council Fellowship. His short film, FIG JAM, has shown in Festivals worldwide (figjamfilm.com) and won awards. His screenplays (CONSENT, LURED, SCREW THE COW) have also won numerous awards in 16 countries. He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild. https://filmfreeway.com/FrankAvella https://muckrack.com/fjaklute