This month’s queer-inclusive film and television releases feature an impressive mix of high- and low-brow content — sometimes in the same production.
Featured on March’s watchlist, there’s a heartbreaking film about gay men imprisoned in post-war Germany, new installments of “Batman” and “Bridgerton,” an Andy Warhol documentary with an unconventional approach and more. Rounding things out is an ensemble of stars with serious acting chops offering something new to the “Tiger King” canon.
Also, don’t forget to watch the biggest live television event of the month, if not the year: the Academy Awards ceremony, on March 27. After February’s exciting round of nominations, the night promises to be a big one for both queer actors and cinema.
‘Joe vs. Carole’
Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin haven’t been far from the limelight since introducing audiences to the underbelly of the big-cat world in 2020. Exotic regularly issues well-publicized statements from prison, where he’s serving time for a murder-for-hire plot against Baskin. And Baskin, who seems to be perpetually locked in litigation, grabbed headlines for briefly suing Netflix ahead of “Tiger King” season two.
Now, Exotic and Baskin, along with figures from their inner circles, are getting the star treatment in “Joe vs. Carole,” a new series based on the second season of Wondery’s podcast Over My Dead Body. “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and “Shortbus” creator John Cameron Mitchell gives a deeply nuanced portrayal of Exotic: a man obsessed with fame, revenge and, most of all, love. Matching that complexity, Kate McKinnon does a sympathetic rendition of Baskin, putting emphasis on the big-cat activist’s abusive past. And joining the star-studded cast is none other than Kyle MacLachlan, who plays Howard Baskin: Carole Baskin’s doting husband whose attempts to be levelheaded are easily thwarted by his romantic obsession with his wife.
“Joe vs. Carole” season one premieres on Peacock on March 3. (Peacock and NBC News are both owned by NBCUniversal.)
‘Star Trek: Picard’
More than two years have passed since the Jean-Luc Picard-focused “Star Trek” spinoff first aired and introduced the end-of-season romance between Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) and Raffi (Michelle Hurd). As season two opens, the sudden sapphic spark that ignited between the ex-Borg drone and Starfleet officer has developed into a full-fledged relationship. (Live long and prosper, intergalactic U-Haulers.) But will they be able to survive a tricky workplace dynamic as they join Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the rest of the crew in traveling back in time to confront the Starfleet commander’s longtime foe, Q?
“Star Trek: Picard” season two premieres on Paramount+ on March 3.
After flashing a series of flesh-themed images, set to the song “Heads Will Roll,” the trailer for this new black comedy ends with a character sarcastically uttering the line: “It’s a straight girl’s fantasy come true, right?” So it’s clear from the get-go: This won’t end well.
Taking a page from “Yellowjackets,” the film is a modern dating allegory featuring the year’s hottest pastime: cannibalism. Fed up with the grind of dating apps, Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) has all but given up on meeting someone when she runs into Steve (Sebastian Stan) at the grocery store. Noa’s queer best friend, Mollie (Jojo T. Gibbs), is dubious about the swift romance, and it turns out she has every right to be. But whether or not Mollie will be able to save her friend from Steve, and from herself, remains to be seen.
Stan, who has played everyone from a Marvel superhero to Tonya Harding’s ex, recently portrayed the Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee in Hulu’s “Pam & Tommy,” and Edgar-Jones will be recognizable to many as the star of “Normal People.” Gibbs, whose voice can be heard uttering the half-sarcastic, half-haunting line in the trailer, stars as the lead character in Lena Waithe’s semi-autobiographical series, “Twenties.”
“Fresh” premieres on Hulu on March 4.
The Cannes-winning film from Austrian director Sebastian Meise is based on the real-life victims of Germany’s Paragraph 175, which criminalized all homosexual acts between men from 1871 to early 1994. Set in post-war Germany, “Great Freedom” focuses on the LGBTQ men who, instead of being liberated by the Allies, were transferred directly from concentration camps to prisons.
Franz Rogowski, the star of German auteur Christian Petzold’s “Transit” and “Undine,” plays Hans, a gay man who is repeatedly imprisoned under Paragraph 175. Over the course of decades, he forges a bond with his longtime cellmate, Viktor (Georg Friedrich), who is serving out a murder sentence. While the two begin as natural enemies, in the end, familiarity and despair push them into each other’s arms.
“Great Freedom” opens in U.S. theaters March 4.
The intensely dark new Batman film, starring Robert Pattinson, is being compared to classic noir, serial killer sagas like “Se7en” and “Zodiac” and even the “Saw” franchise — not exactly your typical Caped Crusader fare. Paul Dano plays a particularly unsettling version of the Riddler, a ghoulish psychopath who ensnares Batman by leaving clues along with bodies. Zoë Kravitz joins the cast as Catwoman, a role made famous in its own right by actors Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfeiffer and Halle Berry.
Although Catwoman has long been interpreted as queer and officially came out in the comics as bisexual in 2015, the character has always been played in the films as explicitly heterosexual. But ahead of the release of “The Batman,” Kravitz has made a gesture toward ending that straight-washing. In an interview with the Australian news and entertainment website Pedestrian, the actor confirmed that, at least in her view, her Catwoman is indeed a card-carrying bisexual woman.
“The Batman” opens in U.S. theaters March 4.
‘The Andy Warhol Diaries’
The Ryan Murphy-backed, six-part Netflix docuseries takes a different approach to the infamous pop-art master Andy Warhol: by way of his love life.
The series features the artificial intelligence-generated voice of the late artist, reading portions of the posthumously published “The Andy Warhol Diaries.” From 1976 until his death in 1987, Warhol dictated diary entries to the journalist Pat Hackett, detailing everything from his expenses to love affairs.
Through the entries and interviews with a cadre of Warhol contemporaries and acolytes, director Andrew Rossi makes the point that the artist’s own claims that he was asexual had more to do with his artistic ambitions than actual proclivities. Over the six episodes, the series explores Warhol’s various romances and collaborations, including with interior designer Jed Johnson, Paramount executive Jon Gould, art protégé Jean-Michel Basquiat and Victor Hugo, the divisive, longtime lover of the designer Halston.
“The Andy Warhol Diaries” premieres on Netflix on March 9.
The new dark comedy series “Bust Down” stars Sam Jay, Chris Redd, Langston Kerman and Jak Knight playing the versions of themselves who work in a casino in Gary, Indiana. In an attempt to break out of the monotony of their everyday lives, the comedic foursome dig themselves into a hole by crossing casino bosses and other unsavory characters. (The series’ trailer shows the four literally digging a hole in a nod to the show’s absurdist tone.)
The leads, who also executive produce the series, have written and acted in some of the most relevant comedy shows of the last few years, including “Saturday Night Live,” “Insecure” and “Big Mouth.” Jay, a stand-up comedian and former “SNL” writer, is the host of the HBO late-night show “Pause With Sam Jay,” which ditches the usual talk show formality by throwing hangouts where guests gather to talk — and laugh — about issues related to identity, Blackness and queerness.
“Bust Down” season one premieres on Peacock on March 10. (Peacock and NBC News are both owned by NBCUniversal.)
Evan Rachel Wood’s two-part documentary film, “Phoenix Rising,” made waves when it premiered at Sundance. The film, directed by Amy Berg, features the actor’s journey of recovery and activism, following years of alleged abuse at the hands of singer Marilyn Manson. Although it’s not the first time Wood has spoken out — nor the first time Manson has been accused of abuse — viewers were shocked by a newly revealed allegation stemming from the filming of Manson’s 2007 music video for “Heart-Shaped Glasses.” (Manson has denied all allegations of sexual abuse and has never been charged with a crime related to allegations of such abuse.)
In addition to her advocacy on behalf of victims of abuse, Wood, who came out as bisexual in a 2011 interview with Esquire, has achieved bi-con status over the years because of her candor about her struggles with her identity and sexuality. Although she is best known as the star of the coming-of-age film “Thirteen” and the dystopian series “Westworld,” Wood had another recent Sundance triumph with the film “Kajillionaire,” an American crime drama-comedy featuring queer love.
“Phoenix Rising” parts one and two will be available on HBO Max on March 15 and 16, respectively.
The monsters of Netflix’s popular “Big Mouth” series are getting a workplace comedy spinoff. “Human Resources” is about the work lives of hormone monsters and their fellow creatures — like Shame Wizards and Depression Kitties — whose job it is to usher humans through puberty, childbirth and a variety of life stages. An impressive list of celebrity actors voice the animated characters, including “Big Mouth” alums Maya Rudolph, Jean Smart, Keke Palmer, Thandiwe Newton, Pamela Adlon and Aidy Bryant.
“Big Mouth” breakout star and nonbinary actor Brandon Kyle Goodman is also reprising the role of Walter, a queer lovebug and newly minted lead. In addition to voicing Walter, Goodman is a writer on both series, hosts the weekly conversational podcast “Black Folx” and has a book on Black queerness set to be published in the fall. As if that weren’t enough, Goodman regularly holds Instagram live broadcasts to answer questions about queer sex in an effort to promote sex positivity.
“Human Resources” season one premieres on Netflix on March 18.
The period romance “Bridgerton’’ instantly swept viewers off their feet when it aired on Netflix at the end of 2020. The series is based on the bestselling novels by Julia Quinn, which follow the romantic trials and tribulations of the Bridgerton family, members of the British elite. In season one, the anonymous gossip columnist Lady Whistledown turns society’s attention to the family’s eldest daughter, Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor), who runs away from London’s marriage market and into the arms of a dashing, though intimacy-adverse, duke (Regé-Jean Page).
Season two turns the focus to Anthony Bridgerton, played by openly gay stage and screen actor Jonathan Bailey. Although his “Bridgerton” character is very much heteronormative, the popular heartthrob may just win the series a much-needed LGBTQ fanbase — after a first season almost completely devoid of queer characters. Recently, Bailey dazzled as a guest judge on “Rupaul’s Drag Race: U.K. vs. the World,” enthusiastically cheering on the queens during a musical theater challenge.
“Bridgerton” season two premieres on Netflix on March 25.
‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’
The iconic Michelle Yeoh is at the center of the new sci-fi, kung fu flick from the filmmaking duo collectively known as the Daniels (“Swiss Army Man”). Yeoh plays protagonist Evelyn Wang, a worn-out laundromat operator who is drowning in tax paperwork and familial dysfunction. Her issues with Uncle Sam put her in the orbit of an IRS inspector, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, who is mid-lecture when Evelyn is enlisted to defeat an evil force spreading throughout multiple universes.
From there, Evelyn transforms into a multiverse action star who encounters various versions of her husband (Ke Huy Quan), daughter (Stephanie Hsu) and Curtis. In one universe, Curtis and Yeoh play opposite as hot-dog-fingered lovers who perform a mating dance against a backdrop of pale pink ‘80s decor — complete with a picture-light-illuminated cat portrait.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” opens in U.S. theaters March 25.
In case you missed it …
Since premiering late last year, “Abbott Elementary” has become one of ABC’s most popular sitcoms of all time. The series, created by and starring Quinta Brunson, is a mockumentary about a group of teachers at an underfunded public school in Philadelphia. The educators dole out pointed political commentary with the kind, weary smiles of your favorite overworked elementary teacher.
Joining the cast of sitcom veterans is Chris Perfetti, who plays Jacob, an overachieving teacher who often becomes the butt of jokes for trying too hard with just about everything. Jacob’s coming-out moment in episode eight, which prompted his work wife, Janine (Brunson), to spiral about the difficulty of making adult friends, was praised for its casual realness.
“Abbott Elementary” season one is available on ABC and Hulu.
‘The Last Thing Mary Saw’
The horror film about forbidden love, starring Isabelle Fuhrman and Stefanie Scott, is set in a Calvinist New England community in 1843. While it belongs to the rich canon of lesbian period pieces, it’s also reminiscent of Robert Eggers’ “The Witch,” which launched the career of now-megastar Anya Taylor-Joy.
Mary (Scott) falls in love with her family’s maid Eleanor (Fuhrman), led astray by a book of provocative woodcut illustrations — or that’s their official line, anyway. The two women are scapegoated for their community’s ills and subjected to a puritanical aversion therapy at the hands of the clan’s sadistic matriarch. And that’s just the backstory.
“The Last Thing Mary Saw” is available on Shudder and on demand.
‘All of Us Are Dead’
Netflix’s latest Korean-drama hit is about high schoolers at ground zero of a zombie apocalypse in the fictional South Korean city of Hyosan. A group of fresh-faced actors play the teenagers fighting for survival in their school’s corridors and classroom, as the infection rapidly consumes the city along with their loved ones.
Spoiler alert: In the end, only a few manage to hold on to their humanity, including Jang Ha-ri and Park Mi-jin, who become infatuated with each other while fighting off their flesh-eating peers. While there are many ways in which “All of Us Are Dead” distinguishes itself from genre cinema, lesbians surviving a zombie massacre is definitely one of them.
“All of Us Are Dead” season one is available on Netflix.
Australian actor and pop star Troye Sivan stars in first-time filmmaker Jared Frieder’s coming-of-age dramedy “Three Months.” The film, which is loosely based on Frieder’s life, is set in 2011 and centers on Caleb (Sivan), a gay South Florida teen who learns he was exposed to HIV the week before his high school graduation. Caleb is left to spend the formative summer waiting to find out his status and contemplating the future — regardless of his results.
Sivan, who is back to acting after taking a break to focus on music, recorded two original songs for the film. He’s currently filming the upcoming HBO series “The Idol,” from The Weeknd and “Euphoria” creator Sam Levinson.
“Three Months” is available on Paramount+.
Follow NBC Out on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism