Movies To See This Thanksgiving Weekend! 

Two big movies for your Thanksgiving weekend! We have the Disney/Pixar flick “The Good Dinosaur” and the Rocky sequel/reboot “Creed.” Which one is worth your time and money? Take a look at my movie reviews of “The Good Dinosaur” and “Creed.”

Official “The Good Dinosaur” Synopsis

"The Good Dinosaur" asks the question: What if the asteroid that forever changed life on Earth missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct? Pixar Animation Studios takes you on an epic journey into the world of dinosaurs where an Apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely human friend. While traveling through a harsh and mysterious landscape, Arlo learns the power of confronting his fears and discovers what he is truly capable of. (C) Disney

Official “Creed” Synopsis

Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) never knew his famous father,world heavy weight champion Apollo Creed, who died before he was born. Still, there's no denying that boxing is in his blood, so Adonis heads to Philadelphia, the site of Apollo Creed's legendary match with a tough upstart named Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Rocky sees in Adonis the strength and determination he had known in Apollo - the fierce rival who became his closest friend.

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I'm Very Pleased with Independent Spirit Awards Nominees! Check Out Full List! 

Todd Haynes' "Carol" is shaping up to be the movie to beat this awards season. Based on Patricia Highsmith's The Price of Salt, the romantic drama stars Cate Blanchett as an older, married woman who is developing some strong feelings towards a seasonal shopgirl played by Rooney Mara. And the actresses may have to prepare their acceptance speeches! "Carol" leads the pack of nominees for the 31st Independent Spirit Awards!

I'm also very happy that "Tangerine" by Sean Baker received 4 nods for Best Feature, Director, Female Lead (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez), and Supporting Female for Mya Taylor. shot mostly on iPhone, this small-budget wonder is truly what the Independent Spirit is all about!

Some of my few gripes are not a whole lot of love for the fantastic "Room" (just screenplay, female lead for Brie Larson, and editing -- what about the awesome child actor Jason Tremblay?), and that Lily Tomlin was completely shutout for "Grandma!"

As always, we'll find out the winners the night before the Oscars on Saturday, February 27th.

Here's the complete list of nominations for the 31st Independent Spirit Awards:

Best Feature
Award given to the Producer; Executive Producers are not awarded.
"Beasts of No Nation"

Best Director
Cary Joji Fukunaga, "Beasts of No Nation"
Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson, "Anomalisa"
David Robert Mitchell, "It Follows"
Sean Baker, "Tangerine"
Todd Haynes, "Carol"
Tom McCarthy, "Spotlight"

Best Screenplay
Charlie Kaufman, "Anomalisa"
Donald Margulies, "The End of the Tour"
Phyllis Nagy, "Carol"
S. Craig Zahler, "Bone Tomahawk"
Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer, "Spotlight"

Best First Screenplay
Emma Donoghue, "Room"
Jesse Andrews, "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl"
John Magary, Russell Harbaugh, Myna Joseph, "The Mend"
Jonas Carpignano, "Mediterranea"
Marielle Heller, "The Diary of a Teenage Girl"

Best First Feature
Award given to the director and producer.
"James White"
"Manos Sucias"
"Songs My Brothers Taught Me"
"The Diary of a Teenage Girl"

Best Female Lead
Bel Powley, "The Diary of a Teenage Girl"
Brie Larson, "Room"
Cate Blanchett, "Carol"
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, "Tangerine"
Rooney Mara, "Carol"

Best Male Lead
Abraham Attah, "Beasts of No Nation"
Ben Mendelsohn, "Mississippi Grind"
Christopher Abbott, "James White"
Jason Segal, "The End of the Tour"
Koudous Seihon, "Mediterranea"

Best Supporting Female
Cynthia Nixon, "James White"
Jennifer Jason Leigh, "Anomalisa"
Marin Ireland, "Glass Chin"
Mya Taylor, "Tangerine"
Robin Bartlett, "H."

Best Supporting Male
Idris Elba, "Beasts of No Nation"
Kevin Corrigan, "Results"
Michael Shannon, "99 Homes"
Paul Dano, "Love & Mercy"
Richard Jenkins, "Bone Tomahawk"

Best Documentary
"Best of Enemies"
"Heart of a Dog"
"The Look of Silence"
"The Russian Woodpecker"

Best Cinematography
Cary Joji Fukunaga, "Beasts of No Nation"
Ed Lachman, "Carol"
Joshua James Richards, "Songs My Brothers Taught Me"
Michael Gioulakis, "It Follows"
Reed Morano, "Meadowland"

Best Editing
Julo C. Perez IV, "It Follows"
Kristan Sprague, "Manos Sucias"
Nathan Nugent, "Room"
Ronald Bronstein and Benny Safdie, "Heaven Knows What"
Tom McArdle, "Spotlight"

Best International Film
"A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence"
"Embrace of the Serpent"
"Son of Saul"

John Cassavetes Award
Given to the best feature made for under $500,000. Award given to the writer, director and producer; Executive Producers are not awarded.
"Christmas, Again"
"Heaven Knows What"
"Out of My Hand"

Robert Altman Award

Kiehl's Someone to Watch Award
The 22nd annual Someone to Watch Award, sponsored by Kiehl’s Since 1851, recognizes a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by Kiehl’s Since 1851.
Chloe Zhao, "Songs My Brothers Taught Me"
Felix Thompson, "King Jack"
Robert Machoian and Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck, "God Bless the Child"

Piaget Producers Award
The 19th annual Producers Award, sponsored by Piaget, honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity and vision required to produce quality, independent films. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by Piaget.
Darren Dean
Mel Eslyn
Rebecca Green & Laura D. Smith

Truer Than Fiction
The 21st annual Truer Than Fiction Award, sponsored by LensCrafters is presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not yet received significant recognition. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by LensCrafters.
Alex Sichel and Elizabeth Giamatti, "A Woman Like Me"
Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, "Incorruptible"
Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Ali Naqvi, "Among the Believers"

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"Spotlight" Director Tom McCarthy to Receive Sonny Bono Visionary Award at 27th Annual PSIFF Awards Gala 

Tom McCarthy, the fantastic director who gave us the thought-provoking "Spotlight," is going to be honored at the upcoming Palm Springs International Film Festival. He will join Johnny Depp (Desert Palm Achievement Award Actor for "Black Mass"), Brie Larson (Breakthrough Performance Award for the amazing "Room"), Saoirse Ronan (I love her in "Brooklyn" and she is set to receive the International Star Award), and Cate Blanchett (Desert Palm Achievement Award Actress for the twofer "Carol" and "Truth"). I will be live at the red carpet and will give you the very latest! For now, here's the complete press release regarding Tom McCarthy:

Palm Springs, CA (November 24, 2015) – The 27th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) will present Spotlight director Tom McCarthy with the Sonny Bono Visionary Award at its annual Awards Gala. Past recipients of the Sonny Bono Visionary Award include filmmakers Tom Hooper, Danny Boyle, Quentin Tarantino, Richard Linklater and Michel Hazanavicius. McCarthy will join previously announced 2016 honorees Cate Blanchett, Johnny Depp, Brie Larson and Saoirse Ronan. The Awards Gala, hosted by Mary Hart and presenting sponsor Entertainment Tonight, will be held Saturday, January 2, at the Palm Springs Convention Center. The Festival runs January 1-11.

“Tom McCarthy’s latest feature is the critically acclaimed Spotlight, a remarkable film that creates cinematic tension between two institutions, as The Boston Globe investigates the Catholic Church,” said Festival Chairman Harold Matzner. “For his expert storytelling of this subject matter, The Palm Springs International Film Festival is proud to present Tom McCarthy with the Sonny Bono Visionary Award.”

Spotlight is a film about the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning team of investigative journalists, who in 2002 shocked the city and the world by exposing the Catholic Church’s systematic cover-up of widespread pedophilia perpetrated by more than 70 local priests. Presented by Open Road Films, Spotlight was co-written by McCarthy and Josh Singer, produced by Michael Sugar, Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin and Blye Pagon, and stars Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Brian d’Arcy James and Billy Crudup.

McCarthy's list of filmmaking credits include The Station Agent, (which won a BAFTA for Best Original Screenplay and two Independent Spirit Awards) Win Win, The Visitor, The Cobbler, and Up (which earned him an Oscar® nomination for Best Original Screenplay).

About The Palm Springs International Film Festival

The Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) is one of the largest film festivals in North America, welcoming 135,000 attendees last year for its lineup of new and celebrated international features and documentaries. The Festival is also known for its annual Black Tie Awards Gala, honoring the best achievements of the filmic year by a celebrated list of talents who, in recent years, have included Ben Affleck, Javier Bardem, Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Bradley Cooper, George Clooney, Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks, Matthew McConaughey, Julianne Moore, Brad Pitt, Eddie Redmayne, Julia Roberts, David O. Russell, Meryl Streep, and Reese Witherspoon.

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Top 10 Best LGBTQA Films Every Non-LGBTQA Person Should See! 

From "Milk" to "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, of which I'm a proud voting member, has released the Top 10 Best LGBTQA movies every non-LGBTQA must and should see! And I agree with all the selections. Some are brutally and politically honest, some are just fun but all speak volumes about the history of LGBTQA in and around the world of cinema!

Here's the complete press release with the aforementioned list! Do you agree?

November 24, 2015 – Hollywood, Ca.: Just in time for the holidays, as they say . . . the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association ( today announced its membership’s picks for their second “GALECA Ten Best” list: The 10 Best LBGTQA Films GALECA Every Non-LGBTQA Person Should See!

Oscar winners to community classics to modern independent discoveries — there’s a movie for every persuasion here.

Critics from the 120-member organization submitted their personal choices for the list, selecting titles from a list of guidelines. The picks had to be feature-length (70 minutes or longer) narrative films released theatrically in the US. TV movies, documentaries and short films were not eligible.

Our primary goal was to present films that we thought not only best reflected LGBTQA life and history — but which were also cinematically compelling and even groundbreaking. We weren't looking for a traditional list of feel-good, positive portrayals of our world. We looked for love and stars. Laughs and scars. Bad boys, mean girls and veritable wars. We looked at it all.

The films on this list run the gamut, from realism to sensationalism to eye-catching stops in between. They may not always be the most perfect representations of our community, but they are facets. The sheer diversity in this list showcases just how broad LGBTQ entertainment journalists’ interests and influences reach — even via such a narrow category!

Here, in alphabetical order, is:

GALECA’s Ten Best LBGTQA Films Non-LGBTQA Person Should See!

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert:
Twenty-one years ago, Australia brought the world this tale of the outlandish and endearing adventures of two drag queens and a transsexual, a trio who blaze a trail across the Outback to a drag performance at the continent’s center. Mitzi Del Bra (Hugo Weaving), Felicia Jollygoodfellow (Guy Pearce) and Bernadette Bassenger (Terence Stamp) embarked on a clandestine journey fueled by an infectious disco soundtrack (Gloria Gaynor! ABBA!) that would be at home in any good club.

More than portraying drag queens with a sensational truth, director Stephen Elliot’s joyful film glimmered with vibrant visuals and Oscar-winning costume design that remain influential today. Yet amid the lip-syncing, frock-wearing and smack-talking irreverence is a simple story of three men. One wants to be there for his son (Weaving). One wants to escape the misery surrounding the departure of an accepting husband. One just wants to explore life outside the cesspool of the big city without realizing that finding safety so far from home isn't as easy as it seems. A holiday parable, if you will.

(U.S. release date: August 10, 1994. Running time: 104 minutes. Fox Home Entertainment.)

Boys Don’t Cry: A provocative milestone in LGBTQA cinema, co-writer/director Kimberly Peirce’s knockout feature debut relays the true-life story of Brandon Teena (Oscar winner Hilary Swank). Born Teena Brandon, as a young trans man Brandon assumed his male identity and went out looking for love, peace and harmony in the politically repressed community of Falls City, Nebraska. Living in the closet, Brandon found little peace and harmony, but he did find love in the form of a woman, Lana Tisdel (Oscar-nominated Chloë Sevigny). His love and his time here would be short-lived.

Upon release, Boys Don’t Cry opened up widespread dialogue about gender identity, violence toward the LGBTQA community, female sexuality and a lot more that, frankly, too many take for granted as par for the discourse in today’s discussion about queer identity, theory and rights. Let your conversations begin.

(U.S. release date: Oct. 8, 1999. Running time: 116 minutes. Fox Searchlight Pictures.)

Brokeback Mountain: Modern audiences have become increasingly more accepting of gay relationships on the big screen, with much of the credit going to the decades-spanning Brokeback Mountain. Painted with humanity and genuine emotion by master filmmaker Ang Lee, the film followed two ranch hands, Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal), as they find love and fairly graphic passion on a bleak mountainside in 1963. Returning to the “normal" world, over the years they find their hearts crushed by the strictures of society.

Ledger and Gyllenhaal, both nominated for Oscars, are superb crafting scintillating portrayals of tortured gay men at a time that the general public demeaned and isolated them. One the most famous and influential gay dramas ever made, the Brokeback Mountain speaks achingly to the power of love, regardless of gender, and to the unhealthy mandates of a society that builds itself on prejudice and hate. And the ending puts it in the ranks of classic tear-jerkers like Splendor in the Grass.

(Release date: December 9, 2005. Running time: 134 minutes. Focus Features.)

Hedwig and the Angry Inch: The film version of John Cameron Mitchell's stage musical, about an East German singer who attempts to come to terms with the botched sex-change operation that left her with an "angry inch," has rightly developed a cult following. Taking musical conventions and turning them on their bejeweled ear, the movie digs its painted nails into an infrequently celebrated subculture and winds up more than enlightening.

Starring Mitchell in the title role, Hedwig angrily, but astutely, observes the state of gender identity at the turn of the 21st Century, long before the transgender rights movement went into full swing. It's a rousing, intense experience— powered by original, hard-pounding rock tunes — that demands at least one viewing even if said intensity seems initially off-putting. Sorry Dr. Frank-N-Furter, but this is one triumphant, and wicked, little musical.

(U.S. release date: January 19, 2001. Running time: 91 minutes. New Line Cinema)

The Kids Are All Right: In the end, all any of us can hope for is a little piece of this world where we can build a family and live the life we've always wanted. Co-writer/director Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right vividly paints the portrait of a suburban family whose peaceful veneer is cracked by curiosity and doubt. Starring Oscar nominees Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as a lesbian couple whose two children (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) seek out and insert their biological father (Oscar-nominated Mark Ruffalo) into their dynamic, the film tackles common issues facing many modern families.

Equally strong performances from Ruffalo, Wasikowska and Hutcherson make this a wonderful slice of modern-family life, albeit a slightly idealized version. Anyone who champions a functional and loving world will find Kids perfect long-weekend company.

(U.S. release date: July 9, 2010. Running time: 104 min. Focus Features.)

Longtime Companion: That title suggests coziness, but Companion’s subject matter — and effect — is profound. Exploring the AIDS epidemic at a time when film was too afraid to even utter the acronym, this drama, set in the early 1980s, features a group of gay friends as they come to terms with the mysterious disease that is killing them off. The panic and the outcry within the community contrasting, the prejudice and willful ignorance on both sides . . . this is a true tragedy.

The film’s cinematic importance cannot be understated. The film’s studio release, at a time when the fear of AIDS was reaching a nadir, was something of a marvel. Another brick in the wall of hate crumbled. Knowing this film is tantamount to feeling enlightened and enriched.

(U.S. release date: May 11, 1990. Running time: 100 minutes. Samuel Goldwyn Company.)

: Who doesn’t love a clandestine period romance compliments of Merchant-Ivory productions? In 1909, Maurice (James Wilby) meets fellow Cambridge student Clive Durham (Hugh Grant). At first each man is unsure if the other is, well, you know . . . and it’s not like they can ask around to find out. As the two negotiate their feelings, the pressures of society mount until one of them — spoiler ahead — capitulates to the bourgeois society and enters into — oh, dear — a lovelorn marriage. The remaining bachelor moves on, hoping to find the love that does not bare its name.

Director and cowriter James Ivory’s adaptation of E.M. Forster’s novel exquisitely captures the love and longing of young gay men in Edwardian England. From the sets to the scenery to the (Oscar-nominated) costumes, the film is loaded with such style, one may wish it were once again those grand ol’ repressive times. Viewers will relish, though, the progressive-thinking capper. Sit down, swap out Downton Abbey, and pass the cognac.

(U.S. release date: Sept. 1, 1987. Running time: 139 mins. Lorimar Home Video.)

Milk: Featuring a thoughtful, tour-de-force performance by Sean Penn (Oscar’s choice for Best Actor), director Gus Van Sant’s biopic of civil rights icon Harvey Milk — the first openly gay person to be elected to office in California (in 1978) and who was later assassinated by a former colleague — stands as a supremely affecting biopic.

Politics, betrayal, love, lust, jealousy, suicide — Milk’s story was all there in the halls of history, and the screenplay by Lance Black (also an Oscar-winner) brought it to vivid life before our eyes. James Franco charms as one of Milk’s lovers. And, yes, Josh Brolin chillingly evinces the icon’s killer Dan White. But Milk’s message of courage lasts on and on, instilling an image of its firebrand subject as fun, big-hearted, confident and persistent. He’s good company.

(U.S. release date: Nov. 26, 2008. Running time: 128 min. Focus Features.)

My Beautiful Laundrette: Set against the backdrop of Thatcher’s tumultuous and reactionary England, director Stephen Frears’ film tells the tale of two lovers, Omar (Gordon Warnecke), a Pakastani, and his old friend, Johnny (Daniel Day-Lewis), a local gang member. Thanks to Omar, the two begin to run a laundry matt together. But this is lower-class England, where there is always trouble looming for immigrants and young, gay men.

Featuring Hanif Kureishi’s Oscar-nominated screenplay, My Beautiful Laundrette sets itself in a milieu where most films, let alone gay films, fear to tread. Its characters are real working class people with real, hard-to-fix problems. Laundrette also put Day-Lewis, in just his fourth film, on Hollywood’s hot list. For good reason! (U.S. release date: Sept. 7, 1985. Running time: 93 mins. Orion Classics.)

Weekend: One Friday night, Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New) meet at a gay club. The two go back to Russell’s and have sex. From that night on, these two strangers begin to develop an intimate and somewhat intellectual relationship, delving into the nature of identity and love over the course of a weekend. Russell and Glen’s encounter will leave an indelible impression on each other — and viewers as well.

The youngest title on our list, writer-director Andrew Haigh’s second narrative feature was also GALECA’s Dorian Award winner for 2011’s Film of the Year and LGBT-Themed Film of the Year. Obviously, we dig this film. What more do we need to say?

(U.S. release date: Sept. 23, 2011. Running time: 96 min. IFC Films.)

(Compiled by GALECA members John Esther and Wesley Lovell)


The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA) sponsors the Dorian Awards, annually honoring movies and TV programs from mainstream to gaystream. GALECA is comprised of over 120 professional critics, and journalists who cover the worlds of film and/or TV on an active basis for legitimate media outlets — from broad-appealing to LGBTQ-centric — in the United States, Canada and the U.K. Our members write or report for the likes of Out, Vanity Fair, TV Guide, Us Weekly, Buzzfeed, the Associated Press, The Hollywood Reporter, The Wrap and Variety; radio and TV entities including NBC affiliates, CNN, Sirius XM, BBC 2 radio and KGO FM San Francisco; and regional outlets such as The San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, South Florida Gay News and Frontiers L.A.

Meet us here at the corner of Facebook and Twitter!

GALECA is an established 501 C-6 nonprofit (business league classification) with the IRS. We aim to generate camaraderie in an unsettling media environment, champion constructive film and TV criticism and elevate entertainment journalism as a whole. We also strive to remind the world that the LGBTQ-munity has a significant history of helping to improve pop culture at large. After all, how would the world fare without knowing what's campy?

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Hey Palm Springs Friends -- Win Collectibles from "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2!" 

Win prizes from "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2" courtesy of Lionsgate! T-shirts, Mockingjay pins, stickers, double-sided posters and much more! Go to and click "contest" to enter! Good Luck and Join the Revolution!

Here's more info on the prizes:

KMIR News | Palm Springs, California

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