Queer Girl Friday: The Queer Lion Contenders at the Venice Film Festival, Ellen Returns to Stand-Up, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Casts First Gay Male Surgeon

I’m Selina, Awards Circuit’s queer Girl Friday for everything LGBTQIA+ on TV…and now, film! With the festival season in full swing, I just couldn’t resist jumping headfirst into the hubbub around some of this year’s biggest LGBTQIA+ centric films, eight of which are vying for the Queer Lion at the Venice Film Festival, an award specifically given to the best queer film of the year. A good showing in the festival circuit can hint at shinier statues to come, after all, so it’s good to keep an eye on whoever wins the Queer Lion. Here are my predictions for the Queer Lion winner, ranked most to least likely:

  1. “The Favourite”Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest offering has been incredibly well-received, and stars heavy hitters Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone. The period drama follows 1700s ruler Queen Anne (Colman) who finds herself in a love triangle with her secret lover (Weisz) and the queen’s new maid Abigail (Stone). “The Favorite” is historical, queer as hell and features some big stars at their peak. Likely to hear more about “The Favorite” even if it doesn’t snag the Queer Lion.
  2. “Zen in the Ice Rift”: This Italian coming of age film has been praised for its “idiosyncratic [statement] of artistic vision,” with GuideLive suggesting it could be coming to American art houses in the future. According to GayStarNews, the film follows Maia, the only girl on a small village hockey team, and Vanessa, the girlfriend of the team captain who runs away from home. Vanessa hides in Maia’s family lodge, and *love* happens. Sounds gay and iconic.
  3. “Suspiria”: Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Dario Argento’s original horror flick is getting mixed reviews, with some saying it’s boring. Ouch. Still, the remake was directed by Guadagnino (“Call Me By Your Name”) and features Dakota Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Tilda Swinton. Could win if praise overpowers the naysayers, but I’m not holding my breath.
  4. “Kucumbu tubuh indahku (Memories of My Body)”: From director Garin Nugroho, “Memories of My Body” centers on a young kid named Juno, who’s left by his father in the village of Center Java. He soon joins a Lengger dancer center where men dance and sometimes dress femininely. Judging by the trailer, this film could be absolutely moving, but there’s not much buzz about it.
  5. “José”: THR describes the coming of age film as “modest but affectingly melancholy.” The film follows gay 19-year-old Guatemalan José, who falls in love with Luis, a man he met online. “José” sounds more like a treatise on being young and gay in a culture that doesn’t accept you, which is a great message, but the film doesn’t seem to pack a punch.
  6. “Bêtes blondes (Real Love)”: A gay love story from Alexia Walther and Maxime Matray that’s sort of a love story and sort of weird adventure in the woods with severed heads. Cineuropa described it as “colourful, dreamy, surreal and whimsically funny.” Visually great, but it lags in the second half of the film. Probably not going to be the winner.
  7. “C’est ça l’amour (Real Love)”: A French-language film by Claire Burger (“Party Girl”), the film follows a father (Bouli Lanners) and his dysfunctional family in a story about . One of the Lanners’ daughters struggles with her sexuality, which becomes a second storyline in the film. I doubt there’s enough material here to award the Queer Lion solely for her storyline, no matter how moving it is.
  8. “Tchelovek kotorij udivil vseh (The Man Who Surprised Everyone)”: A Russian language film from Natasha Merkulova and Aleksey Chupov that features an identity change. The main character Egor finds out he is dying of cancer and takes on the identity of a woman to cheat death, which his family and village have to learn how to accept. Judging by the directors’ statement, there’s no way this one wins a Queer Lion, as it’s more of a fairy tale about death than gender identity itself.

And now, for my tea on the world of TV. “Grey’s Anatomy” is slowly but surely filling in all those vacancies at Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital. The latest newcomer, per TVLine, is Alex Landi, set to join this fall as Dr. Nico Kim, who will be the first gay male surgeon on the series. Yes, we all remember bisexual icon Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) and her lesbian true love Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw), but there’s been a distinct lack of queer men in the surgeons’ ranks of Grey-Sloan. Nico’s entrance to the world of “Grey’s Anatomy” is sure to bring up issues surrounding queerness and masculinity (of the woke and toxic varieties), which hasn’t really been dissected in depth on the series.

Alex Landi.

Because “Grey’s Anatomy” is more soapy romance than medicine in recent years (not that I’m complaining), I’m also wondering if fellow newcomer, ortho god Chris Carmack (“Nashville”) will be Nico’s new beau this season; unfortunately, ABC won’t give us any hints about Nico’s storyline, so we’ll just have to wait and see. Landi, a half Korean, half Italian actor, is a relative unknown in Hollywood, but with those cheekbones, he’ll earn his own McHottie nickname by Christmas.

And finally, get ready for the glorious return of your fave lesbian comic. Ellen DeGeneres has returned to stand-up after fifteen years off. Her new special snapped up by Netflix, is titled “Relatable” and is scheduled for a Dec. 18 debut. The comedian, who’s been more recently known for her eponymous talk show and her voice-acting for a very forgetful blue fish, explained the decision on her talk show’s Tuesday premiere:

 [I’ve gone] back to stand-up. I didn’t do stand-up for 15 years and I decided… I just all of a sudden was like I miss stand-up, I want to do it. So I made a deal with Netflix. And I was working on stand-up all summer. I taped it in Seattle. This is the Benaroya Hall where I was. It was so much fun. I loved it so much.

Ellen’s foray onto the streaming platform will just precede fellow comedian Wanda Sykes, who’s heading up her own hour-long special set to launch in 2019; this will be Sykes’ fifth stand-up special, but her first with Netflix. The only sad part about these comedy specials are their months-away release dates. Guess I’ll just have to rewatch “Sense8” until then…

Who will win the Queer Lion at the Venice Film Festival? Will you be watching “Relatable” this December? Let me know in the comments below!