‘Tangerine’ (Dec. 2)
Sean Baker’s indie had great timing. When it came out this summer, it was a film starring trans performers as trans characters that was released at a time when acceptance of transgender people had finally hit the mainstream. But it had more going for it than topicality. Unlike a lot of the LGBT indies of the ’90s, it wasn’t a mere lesson in acceptance. In fact it took the normalcy of its protagonists — sex workers played by sparkplug Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and wallflower Mya Taylor — as a given. It was thus freed to kick back and plow through a very funny farce that was brisk, dirty and serious when it finally, in its last moments, needed to be.
‘Darkman’ (Dec. 1)
It’s hard to believe there was a time when superhero movies weren’t coming out every weekend, and back in 1990 audiences didn’t go entirely nuts for Sam Raimi’s confection about a disfigured scientist who becomes a masked avenger. It was ahead-of-its-time in another way: its hero was played by Liam Neeson, two decades before people realized the fine Irish thespian — three years from “Schindler’s List” — would make a great Charles Bronson 2.0. When he did his “Spider-Man” films, Raimi had to chill out on his usual shtick. Here, with an only modest budget, he goes full tilt boogie with shock zooms with sudden tilts, muscular camerawork and a pitch-black sense of humor. Nothing in the film is as memorable as its villain’s (Larry Drake) penchant for collecting victims’ fingers.
‘Best of Enemies'
The holidays are a great time to pick political fights with your Fox News parents, an act made particularly fun in the age of Trump. Sparring families may find some kind of truce in this doc about two of the greatest political warriors: ultra-rightie William F. Buckley and mega-progressive Gore Vidal, who reluctantly agreed to a series of televised debates during the combustible 1968 Democratic Convention. Things quickly turned ugly, culminating in the unflappable Buckley losing his temper and tossing off a homophobic slur. Enjoyable as it is to watch two articulate types barking at each other, as opposed to today’s knuckle-scraping shouters, it’s also a sad portrait of two people who should have at least been frenemies, but were too stubborn for even that.