Thursday night, after a sexy and glorious workday at Amoeba Music Hollywood, my boyfriend Corey picked me up and whisked me away to the premiere party for Outfest, held at the historic Orpheum Theatre in downtown LA.
Outfest is LA’s most popular film festival for the GLBT community. (GLBT stands for Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender and should never be confused with the BLT, a popular sandwich.)
Know the difference - Bacon, lettuce, tomato vs. gay actor, Montgomery Clift
"Outfest is the only nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that the extensive but threatened LGBT film heritage is preserved. Since the beginning of the struggle for LGBT equality, visionary filmmakers have recorded their lives, challenges and triumphs on film. Outfest is committed to saving, preserving and providing access to that precious, affirming heritage for generations to come." - quote from their website
Put another way, this is a chance to see lots of muscle hunks come to terms with bullies and remakes of “Pretty Woman” that could be called “Pretty Women”.
If I sound cynical, it’s because I am, a bit. But that’s not a reflection of Outfest, rather, a problem I often have with queer cinema. I’ve never been a fan of romantic comedies, and because the definition of gay is indicative of sex, so many gay films are “romantic”.
That’s just one issue I have. On the whole, queer cinema suffers from the same things that mainstream films do. Clichés and what-not. It’s particularly discouraging to see gay films that mimic straight films but, you know, with gay people in ‘em. It’s rare to find a film that is distinctively “gay” outside of the love scenes.
That’s not to say there’s no room for light entertainment within queer cinema. Don’t get me wrong! I realize that not everyone wants the films I do – in fact, most people don’t.
Beyond my personal tastes, I absolutely believe it is important that organizations like Outfest exist. It is vital that minorities see themselves represented in media. When I was a kid and still mystified by my own sexuality, seeing gays in film and on TV provided a sense that I was not alone, that there were others like me, and they were successful and unashamed.
Of course, being born in 1974, those glimpses were rare, and it took a real stretch of imagination to feel kinship with kd lang as she got a straight-razor shave from Cindy Crawford. Still, it helped.
The party was populated by the usual crew to be found at such an event. I didn’t see anyone A-list. Tori Spelling mingled as camera crews followed her every move, gathering footage for her “reality” TV show. Perez Hilton stood behind me in the line for free booze. Chi Chi Larue strode through the crowd looking much like Marilyn Monroe would have if she were still alive.
The biggest treat was listening to my man Corey as he talked shop with the people who really keep the Hollywood business functioning. I got to hear a hilarious story about Arianna Huffington from one of her former assistants, but I’m not allowed to tell you about it. You just can’t keep a secret, I’m afraid. You have only yourself to blame.
In honor of Outfest 2007, and because I don’t want you to think I’m homocinemaphobic, I offer up the following films as suggestions of rad things to watch; one for every letter in the aforementioned acronym:
"Dude, your nipple is, like, hella awesome!" Keanu Reeves & River Phoenix
For the ‘G’, I recommend watching “My Own Private Idaho”, Gus Van Sant’s modern take on Shakespeare’s play “Henry IV”. It beautifully explores gay love and desire without offering moral platitudes, and doesn’t content itself with only “gay” issues. Oftentimes funny and always poetic, it also perfectly captures the (sometimes self-destructive) essence of the Northwest grunge scene of the early 1990’s. It also stars the late River Phoenix in one of his finest performances.
Next is the ‘L’. This is a tough one, because there’s actually quite a list of movies I love that qualify. Ultimately, though, I’m going to settle on the classic film “The Children’s Hour”, starring Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Hepburn.
"Darling, I would never confuse you with Katherine..." Shirley MacLaine & Audrey Hepburn
I realize the irony that my choice of lesbian film didn’t actually star a lesbian, but the movie stands as significant. It broached a topic that dared not… urr… film its name…? Furthermore, it starred two A-list celebrities, adding weight and credibility at a time when homosexuality was still widely believed to be a psychological disorder. It is beautifully shot and packs an emotional wallop.
I can’t help but sneak in another film, however. It’s more obscure. “The Sticky Fingers of Time”, written and directed by Hilary Brougher. The story, essentially science-fiction in nature, is still human in a way that reminds me of a Philip K. Dick novel. It’s very low budget but uses this to its advantage and struck me as intriguing, haunting and, how you say, dope.
Terumi Matthews & Belinda Becker in "The Sticky Fingers of Time"
Then on to the ‘B’. B, B, B… hmm. Oh, I know!
“The Hotel New Hampshire”. This gem has a cast of stars a mile long, yet remains surprisingly unknown. This is perhaps due to its acute quirkiness, and storyline which ambles along without clear climaxes, much as our lives do. Alternately hilarious and slapstick, then suddenly tragic, it follows the lives of an eccentric family headed by a whimsical father (played by Beau Bridges) as they find fame, fortune and love, then lose it, then gain it again. (Wow, that sounds awful… I’d never see it if I heard someone describe it that way!)
Jodie Foster makes love to Natasha Kinski in a bear suit! I mean, what more do you need?
It features a very naughty, yet somehow sweet, incest love scene between siblings played by Jodie Foster and Rob Lowe. I cannot recommend this movie enough, even if I can’t recommend it well.
Rob Lowe & Dorsey Wright, working it all out
Finally, the ‘T’. Again, so many to choose from. I’m afraid I’ll get my Fan Club status revoked for not championing “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, but that’s so obvious and anyhow, writing about it would lead to another eight pages of me boring you with nostalgia.
So, I’m going to settle on “Orlando”, Sally Potter’s gorgeous adaptation of the book by Virginia Woolf of the same name.
Superlative actress, Tilda Swinton as "Orlando"
It’s the story of a young man, Orlando, born in Renaissance England. Having been ordered by the aging Queen Elizabeth I (played with humorous gravity by Quentin Crisp) to never grow old and die, he doesn’t, and the film takes us through major time periods unto present day, all the while exploring love and sex as relating to gender.
It is quite simply a visually perfect film. Anyone who delights in set and costume design must take a peak. It stars the amazing Tilda Swinton in the title role. And you get to see her naked, if that matters to you. And it does.
Tilda Swinton, Tilda Swinton, Tilda Swinton, and also, Tilda Swinton
So, there you have some considerations for queer cinema that transcends the usual bunch. If you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to check out Outfest. Just watch out for Tori Spelling’s camera crew, ‘cause those dudes are f**ing all over the place.