The question of who’s got your back is at the heart of this week’s episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and it nearly gets lost amid an otherwise curiously early-season ball challenge that probably sets the new record for the most runway lewks in Drag Race herstory. Ru’s franchise has, from the very beginning, established that no queen can really make it without a solid support system, even if it comes in the form of a highly engineered reality TV series on the prowl for tissue-clutching moments of emotional vulnerability. Queens who’ve been subject to self-sabotage have seen their stars rise with a reintroduction to the camaraderie of the workroom. Queens who’ve refused to pay testament have found themselves in the midst of a bitch edit faster than you can say “Shante, you stay…for the editors’ manufactured drama.”
And so it is that “The Last Ball on Earth” opens with Monique Heart feeling some type of way about her teammate Mayhem Miller, who she believes threw her under the bus as they were getting critiques on the main stage following last week’s dating app commercial challenge. Mayhem flubs through Lashawn Beyond’s immortal catchphrase, almost landing it: “This is not about RuPaul’s Friend Race.” And Monique, who’s still acting like the victim of a gaslighting from the judges, quotes the Bible: “What’s done in the dark will be brought to light, Mother Darling.” Must be from the Book of Ruth Pointer.
The mini-challenge this week is worthy of standing alongside season two’s windblown Civil War shoot or season five’s water-tank fantasia. Each of the queens has to mimic a celebrity photobomb, which leads to Monique grabbing Nick Jonas’s bom bidi bom, Blair St. Clair flashing the paparazzi next to Beyoncé at the Met Gala, and Kameron Michaels holding an “I’m with Stupid” sign behind Donald Trump as the president looks straight into the solar eclipse. As that last gag suggests, Ru’s feeling political this week, and beyond wearing a suit that, in its sheer ugliness, looks just about like what any normcore person would presume The Vixen means when she says “political art” is her style of drag. The maxi-challenge is predicated on the double-underlined fact that global warming is going to kill us all. It’s the Last Ball on Earth, and the categories are: “Alaskan Winter Realness,” with beach bod-bearing bikinis; “Miami Summer Realness,” serving up fur and all else to keep the South Beach frostbite at bay; and “Martian Extravaganza Eleganza,” for the first ball stomp on Mars. Forget Paris, the whole world is burning!
As the queens frantically work to assemble 33—count ’em, 33!—runway outfits, the theme of support systems in the world of drag emerges, like Sharon Needles and Phi-Phi O’Hara, in full angel-devil garb. In the category of angel is last week’s winner, Asia O’Hara, who, as a full-time costume designer who’s already wowed the judges with her outside-the-box Tweety Bird look, everyone expects to have this week’s challenge all sewn up. Rather than presage another victory lap, Asia’s workroom footage shows her helping a number of girls thread their bobbins, make difficult fabrics work for their couture, and get into various lumpen rough drafts to see if they’ll ultimately fit. (The editors, somewhat predictably, give Eureka busting out of her zipper some extra screen time.) Anyone who doesn’t already see the storm clouds brewing has never watched this show before.
The flipside of Asia’s portrait of drag support comes from Miz Cracker, clocking in on this week’s rivalry storyline by, out of nowhere, asking Aquaria to answer for nebulous rumors that she has a sugar daddy. Rather than fling an Absolut cocktail in Miz Cracker’s mug and declare “I don’t have a sugar daddy. I’ve never had a sugar daddy. If I wanted a sugar daddy, yes I could probably go out and get one, because I am—what?—sickening! You could never have a sugar daddy because you are not that kind of girl,” Aquaria flatly retorts that she doesn’t, and that anyone who thinks she does is wrongly assuming that, just because she looks like a million bucks, that must mean someone out there is playing the Norman Blachford to Aquaria’s Andrew Cunanan.
More time than usual is understandably spent in the workroom this week, but all I could remember by the end of the episode was Monét X Change trying, in vain, to convince Monique and Asia that British accents used to be closer to American accents hundreds of years ago, and it wasn’t the American pilgrims who lost theirs after skipping the pond. Monique and Asia are beside themselves—“Booboo, no, Booboo! You know that the Queen of England sent them over here!”—but the research is actually on Monét’s side. Anyway, this is the sort of linguistics lesson I expect (and crave) from a show that made a catchphrase of “She done already done had hers’s!”
On the runway, there are truly more outfits than can be catalogued, and it takes a full 15 minutes just to get through them. But the look that truly tops them all is Ru’s own—her head fully encased in jellybean-colored fabric save for her ponytail and a pair of big, cherry-red lips. I won’t even begin to try to pick out the night’s highlights and lowlights, as the onslaught ends up making it seem a lot like most of the selections are clumping together in the middle of the pack. That being said, and no tea no shade, if anyone’s going to be accused of having a sugar daddy among this season’s girls, I’m surprised no one’s leveling the charge against Kameron Michaels. After last week’s Maleficent-inspired feathered raven outfit and three equally rich-rich-anybody-rich looks this time around, Kameron’s edit is starting to feel like a whistle past the graveyard. Or, if you prefer, like the reaction the hottest dude at a C-minus gay bar sometimes gets, with the rest of the room pretending to be too good for the guy because he instantly makes the room feel insecure.
In the end, Asia’s looks are routinely dismissed as humdrum. She’s told, even if her heart was in the right place, that she should’ve spent less time helping everyone else out and more helping herself. Similarly, Monét should have spent less time spelling out the history of the Queen’s English and more figuring out how to make her expensive but rigid vinyl fabric work. Asia gets a “bless your heart” pass, and Monét is the one who has to face off in a Lip Sync for Your Life against her fellow New York queen Dusty Ray Bottoms, who clearly hasn’t connected anything with the judges except for dots. And what a lip sync it is, one that calls to mind how season four’s Dida Ritz made the cameras even forget The Princess was on the same stage. Like that LSFYL, it doesn’t even matter how good or bad Dusty Ray Bottoms is (though she is caught at one point doing The Hammer, which is forever NaGL). Monét plugs into the song—Nicki Minaj’s “Pound the Alarm”—in a way that gives both her and the house life, at one point flawlessly interpreting the song’s fake-out drop with an abortive split leap. It’s her stage, and the rest of us are just holding up dollar bills (and cut-up sponges) from the floor below.
For more recaps of RuPaul’s Drag Race, click here.
Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Adapted Screenplay
After walking back almost all of its bad decisions ahead of this year’s Oscars, there’s no way AMPAS isn’t going to do the right thing here.
Eric and I have done a good job this year of only selectively stealing each other’s behind-the-scenes jokes. We have, though, not been polite about stepping on each other’s toes in other ways. Okay, maybe just Eric, who in his impeccable take on the original screenplay free-for-all detailed how the guilds this year have almost willfully gone out of their way to “not tip the Oscar race too clearly toward any one film.” Case in point: Can You Ever Forgive Me? winning the WGA’s adapted screenplay trophy over presumed Oscar frontrunner BlacKkKlansman. A glitch in the matrix? We think so. Eric and I are still in agreement that the race for best picture this year is pretty wide open, though maybe a little less so in the wake of what seemed like an easy win for the Spike Lee joint. Nevertheless, we all know that there’s no Oscar narrative more powerful than “it’s about goddamn time,” and it was so powerful this year that even the diversity-challenged BAFTAs got the memo, giving their adapted screenplay prize to Lee, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, and Kevin Willmott. To bamboozle Lee at this point would, admittedly, be so very 2019, but given that it’s walked back almost all of its bad decisions ahead of this year’s Oscars, there’s no way AMPAS isn’t going to do the right thing.
Will Win: BlacKkKlansman
Could Win: Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Should Win: BlacKkKlansman
Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Original Screenplay
This season, Hollywood is invested in celebrating the films they love while dodging the cultural bullets coming at them from every angle.
You know, if it weren’t for the show’s producers effectively and repeatedly saying everything about the Academy Awards is terrible and needs to be changed, and the year’s top-tier contenders inadvertently confirming their claims, this would’ve been a comparatively fun and suspenseful Oscar season. None of us who follow the Academy Awards expect great films to win; we just hope the marathon of precursors don’t turn into a Groundhog Day-style rinse and repeat for the same film, ad nauseam.
On that score, mission accomplished. The guilds have been handing their awards out this season as though they met beforehand and assigned each voting body a different title from Oscar’s best picture list so as not to tip the Oscar race too clearly toward any one film. SAG? Black Panther. PGA? Green Book. DGA? Roma. ASC? Cold War. ACE? Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Even awards-season kryptonite A Star Is Born got an award for contemporary makeup from the MUAHS. (That’s the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild, not the sound Lady Gaga fans have been making ever since A Star Is Born’s teaser trailer dropped last year.)
Not to be outdone, the Writers Guild of America announced their winners last weekend, and not only did presumed adapted screenplay frontrunner BlacKkKlansman wind up stymied by Can You Ever Forgive Me?, but the original screenplay prize went to Eighth Grade, which wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar. Bo Burnham twisted the knife into AMPAS during his acceptance speech: “To the other nominees in the category, have fun at the Oscars, losers!” In both his sarcasm and his surprise, it’s safe to say he speaks on behalf of us all.
As is always the case, WGA’s narrow eligibility rules kept a presumed favorite, The Favourite, out of this crucial trial heat. But as the balloting period comes to a close, the question remains just how much enthusiasm or affection voters have for either of the two films with the most nominations (Roma being the other). As a recent “can’t we all just get along” appeal by Time’s Stephanie Zacharek illustrates, the thing Hollywood is most invested in this season involves bending over backward, Matrix-style, to celebrate the films they love and still dodge the cultural bullets coming at them from every angle.
Maybe it’s just tunnel vision from the cultural vacuum Oscar voters all-too-understandably would prefer to live in this year, but doesn’t it seem like The Favourite’s tastefully ribald peppering of posh-accented C-words would be no match for the steady litany of neo-Archie Bunkerisms spewing from Viggo Mortensen’s crooked mouth? Especially with First Reformed’s Paul Schrader siphoning votes from among the academy’s presumably more vanguard new recruits? We’ll fold our words in half and eat them whole if we’re wrong, but Oscar’s old guard, unlike John Wayne, is still alive and, well, pissed.
Will Win: Green Book
Could Win: The Favourite
Should Win: First Reformed
Watch: Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir, Starring Honor Swinton Byrne and Tilda Swinton, Gets First Trailer
Joanna Hogg has been flying under the radar for some time, but that’s poised to change in a big way.
British film director and screenwriter Joanna Hogg, whose impeccably crafted 2013 film Exhibition we praised on these pages for its “disarming mixture of the remarkable and the banal,” has been flying under the radar for the better part of her career. But that’s poised to change in a big way with the release of her latest film, The Souvenir, which won the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Prior to the film’s world premiere at the festival, A24 and Curzon Artificial Eye acquired its U.S. and U.K. distribution rights, respectively. Below is the official description of the film:
A shy but ambitious film student (Honor Swinton Byrne) begins to find her voice as an artist while navigating a turbulent courtship with a charismatic but untrustworthy man (Tom Burke). She defies her protective mother (Tilda Swinton) and concerned friends as she slips deeper and deeper into an intense, emotionally fraught relationship that comes dangerously close to destroying her dreams.
And below is the film’s first trailer:
A24 will release The Souvenir on May 17.