Amoeblog

'Clueless' Screens at Hollywood Forever Aug. 28 to Benefit Los Angeles LGBT Center

Posted by Amoebite, August 18, 2015 01:24pm | Post a Comment

clueless screening

Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Out Under the Stars series will screen Amy Heckerling’s ’90s teen classic Clueless on Aug. 28 at Hollywood Forever.

Tickets start at $20 and are available here. Doors are at 7 p.m., and the screening starts at dusk. Picnics on Hollywood Forever’s lawn are encouraged (beer and wine are fine to bring).

Amoeba will be on hand with a booth and tent, featuring the prize wheel. We’ll have gay cinema and rainbow Amoeba T-shirts for sale, so come by and say hello!

The screening is presented by Los Angeles Women’s Network and Young Professionals Council. Proceeds from the event benefit the Los Angeles LGBT Center. For more information on the center’s services, please visit lalgbtcenter.org.

Clueless, starring Alicia Silverstone as a superficial but well-intentioned teen living in Beverly Hills, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. DJ Casey Alva will spin tunes before the screening, and Elisa Donovan (who plays Amber Mariens in the film) will make a special guest appearance. Don’t miss it!

Watch the original Clueless trailer below:

Hollywood Forever is located at 6000 Santa Monica Blvd. in Los Angeles.

No sound no tell, Gay Cinema in the silent era

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 31, 2009 12:12pm | Post a Comment

Frederic Lord Leighton's Flaming June

June, in addition to being Vision Research Month, Fireworks Safety Months, Light the Night for Sight Months, National Candy Month, Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month, Cancer in the Sun Month, Dairy Month, National Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Month, National Iced Tea Month, National Pest Control Month, Safety Month, Scleroderma Awareness Month, and Zoo and Aquarium Month, is also Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, first established by Bill Clinton back in '00. Therefore, I may in the coming weeks blog about iced tea or become aware of Scleroderma, but for now I will focus on Gay Cinema.

One of the first things I noticed about gay people's feelings toward Gay Cinema is that they're almost all negative.  Exceptions are usually foreign films, which are almost invariably downers. The first year Amoeba observed Gay and Lesbian Pride month in the movie department in the form of a display, we all had an uncomfortable chuckle about the unfailingly depressing storylines of the films we featured. Films based on the lives and deaths of famous gays like Joe Orton, Brandon Teena, Oscar Wilde and James Whale all ended tragically. And here I thought gay meant happy!


The history of Gay Cinema is quite unlike most minority driven alternatives to Hollywood. Unlike American Asians, blacks, Latinos and Natives -- whose identities have always been fairly obvious (except in cases of passing) -- gays have always had the option of remaining invisilble. Therefore, gays were never required to sit in the back of the bus, attend special schools or live in segregated neighborhoods. In the silent film industry, most gay actors understandably chose to hide their identitites. Though there are few overt representations of homosexuality in silent films -- mostly in European films -- most are merely hinted at. More importantly, however, the contributions of gays both in front of and behind the camera are many and noteworthy.


In 1895, Irish celebrity, genius, comic, dandy and second-most-read author in the English language, Oscar Wilde, was arrested on charges of "gross indecency." On the stand, he eloquently defended his position:

      "The love that dares not speak its name" in this century is such a great affection of an elder for a      
      younger man as there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the very basis of his
      philosophy, and such as you find in the sonnets of Michelangelo and Shakespeare. It is that deep 
      spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect. It dictates and pervades great works of art, like     
      those of Shakespeare and Michelangelo, and those two letters of mine, such as they are. It is in
      this century misunderstood, so much misunderstood that it may be described as "the love that 
      dares not speak its name," and on that account of it I am placed where I am now. It is beautiful, it is
      fine, it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it. It is intellectual, and it
      repeatedly exists between an older and a younger man, when the older man has intellect, and the
      younger man has all the joy, hope and glamour of life before him. That it should be so, the world
      does not understand. The world mocks at it, and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it."

The courts were unmoved and Wilde was sentenced to two years hard labor, which destroyed his fame and person. Given the climate of the time and the relative ease at concealing their sexual orientations,  Gay Cinema was, in most cases, coded and subtextual for many years. In the US, depictions of homosexuality were forbidden in by the censors. Thus there would be no minority-serving alternatives along the lines of Asian-American Cinema or Black Cinema for decades to come. As a result, what is Gay Cinema is much more up for debate in a way that other minority cinemas are not and arguing about what/who is/isn't gay seems to be practically a pastime.

     

Then as now, Hollywood was full of gay and bisexual actors such as William Haines, Edmund Lowe, Lilyan Tashman, Alla Nazimova, Charles Bryant, Clifton Webb, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and Louise Brooks. In order to keep up appearances, many paired up in front marriages, sometimes with straights and other times with gays of the opposite sex. For the most part, many were widely known to be gay or bisexual within Hollywood.



A few gay actor made no efforts to hide their preferences. Tallulah Bankhead, for example, was one of the few actresses to live her life completely out of the closet, bragging that she bedded Greta Garbo, Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Crawford. But most actors stayed in the closet for their own safety. When an actor's homosexuality was too well known, violence often resulted. When William Haines and his boyfriend Jimmy Shields were too obviously gay, they were attacked by an angry mob. Minority gays seemed to have it twice as bad. Luis Antonio Damaso de Alonso not only had to anglicize his name to Gilbert Roland to be accepted within Hollywood, he also married a woman in order to maintain his commercial appeal as a "Latin Lover." Another Latino actor, Ramon Novarro, ended up being beaten to death.



Gays behind the camera were uninteresting to celebrity worshippers and therefore mostly ignored by scandal rags. As a result, they often went to less trouble to hide their homosexuality than those in the public eye. Gay directors of the silent film era include Edmung Goulding, F.W. Murnau, James Whale ("The Queen of Hollywood"), Jean Cocteau, Mauritz Stiller and the completely uncloseted, butch Dorothy Arzner. That's not to say they didn't sometimes run afoul of scandal. Gay director George Cukor was arrested at least once on vice charges, although his connections got them dropped and the scandal rags said nothing of it. Few risked depicting homosexuality overtly, instead relying on subtle gay subtexts that went past the offendable. Nonetheless, there is evidence that some of their careers were impacted by knowledge within the industry of their homosexuality, with several finding difficulty sustaining careers despite their commercial viability.


1890s
Some argue that the first gay film is 1985's Dickson Experimental Sound Film, directed by William Dickson. It's also the first known sound film. The film depicts Dickson playing "Song of the Cabin Boy" whilst two men dance. Some have argued that there is no actual suggestion that the dance partners are meant to depict a couple but, "The film depicts Dickson playing 'Song of the Cabin Boy'," and it does, in its seventeen seconds, include more homoeroticism than the entire Philadelphia. In Vito Russo's The Celluloid Closet, he asserts (without citation) that the film was known as The Gay Brothers although the term "gay" was rarely used to refer to homosexuals in the Gay '90s.


1900s
I don't think reading L'éclipse du soleil en pleine lune as gay actually requires much in the way of mental acrobatics. Not that it offers much in the way of overtly sympathetic portrayals of homosexuality, just a camp chuckle and some amazing pre-CGI special effects.


1910s
Some have suggested that Alice Guy-Blaché's Algie the Miner depicts the first obviously gay character. I would argue that he's merely a sissy, an archetype not always associated with homosexuality as it is now. In A Florida Enchantment, characters ingest magic seeds which turn them gay for comedic effect.



When Sweden's Mauritz Stiller (himself gay and best known for Sir Arne's Adventure) directed Vingarne, he depicted the first overt and non-comedic gay (and bisexual) characters. Commissioned by sexologist Magnus Hirschfield, Anders als die Andern followed a few years later as a protest against the infamous Paragraph 175. After stirring up controversy, it was subsequently restricted to audiences in the medical profession.

Algie the Miner (1912), A Florida Enchantment (1914), Vingarne (1916), Anders als die Andern (1919)

1920s
Germany ruled the gay roost in the 1920s, thanks in part to the atmosphere of the Weimar Republic. Mikaël was Carl Theodor Dreyer's adaptation of the same novel that had previously been turned into Vingarne. Alla Nazimova purportedly requested that Salomé's parts be entirely cast from gay performers. The resulting film, a highly stylized, decadent visual feast, was a financial flop.

   

Salomé (1923), Mikaël (1924), Jean Cocteau, fait du cinema (1925), Gesetze der liebe (1927), Geschlecht in fesseln - Die sexualnot der gefangenen (1928), Die büchse der Pandora (1929), Das tagebuch einer verlorenen (1929)

In conclusion, whilst gay actors and directors may've kept all things gay hidden (for the most part) in the silent era, it's hopfully obvious that they nonetheless played a considerable role in advancing all aspects of film as an important art, paving the way for everything from the cult, gay experimental films in the early sound era to the mostly not-worthy-of-a-raised-eyebrow gay films of the present.

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Yellowface -- Hollywood Chinese

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 18, 2007 09:34am | Post a Comment
Famed Asian-American rights activist Ngoc-Thu Thi Nguyen and I watched this documentary about depictions of Chinese in Hollywood film called ... Hollywood Chinese. I love observing how Hollywood deals with all races and ethnicities. Sometimes it's hilarious and sometimes it's pretty appalling and then there's the rare occasion on which it rings true, which usually catches me by surprise. The development of an Asian-American Cinema has interesting similarities and differences with more often discussed and documented minority film genres like Black Cinema and Gay Cinema, which sprang up to tap into markets Hollywood mostly ignored for decades. In the 1948 case of the U.S. vs Paramount the government ruled against the studios and they were no longer allowed to control the studios, the distribution and the theaters and Hollywood opened up, to a degree, to the minorities which they'd systematically ignored up to that point.

 

Early Gay Films

Race Films

In the Classic Hollywood era, Chinese women (like all Asians) were generally played by white actresses as shy, subservient innocents totally devoted to their white lovers. Chinese men were usually portrayed as cruel, buck-toothed, long-fingernailed mystics who delighted in tormenting the white heroes who'd fallen for their women. Or, they were depicted as simple, asexual, buck-toothed peasants who almost always wear a queue. Either way, it's only the women that are sexualized.

Of course, a lot of uncomfortable humor and unpleasantness arises from the way the actors portray Chinese, which Hollywood Chinese shows in great cringe- and laughter-inducing clips. One particularly funny scene in Arthur Dong's documentary is taken from Dragon Seed, which features white actors speaking in a varied assortment of accents (none even attempting to sound stereotypically Asian), including Canadian, Austrian, Russian, Katherine Hepburnian, western accents and more. Once pointed out by the film, it proves so distracting you wonder how audiences were able to follow the dialogue at all.

  

It's also shocking to see how actors like Lon Chaney (noted for his amazing observation and make-up skills) managed to make himself look more like a bespectacled macaque or a Westside Botox disaster than a human being of any variety. Only Christopher Lee seems to have the slightest awareness of epicanthic folds and even (especially) "well-meaning" portrayals result in discomfort for modern viewers.  Austrian-born actress Luise Rainer makes the argument that anyone should be able to play anyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, as long as they're able to portray them convincingly, which she feels she and her Jewish co-star did admirably, one supposes, in The Good Earth. In the Q & A after the screening, Nancy Kwan made the same argument, claiming that she was discriminated against recently when auditioning for a Latina role.

But the question is, who's deciding what's convincing? Nancy Kwan has a pretty thick Chinese/British hybrid accent and doesn't look typically Latina by any stretch (although there are, of course, significant numbers of Latasians). Conversely, white actresses seem to find scooting around like a wind-up doll with furiously batting eyelashes a convincing depiction of Chinese women. Personally, if I were trying to pass as Chinese, I would talk only in an outdoor voice and ask my white friends to not park in front of my house, but that's just my experience and I'm not an actor. Besides, the fact remains that there's never been a shortage of Chinese actors willing to play Chinese extremely convincingly, just a shortage of roles in which they've been allowed to do so.

To me the most interesting revelation of Hollywood Chinese, as a lover of early film, was its discussion of recently discovered attempts at creating an independent Asian American film industry. The Curse Of Quon Gwon, filmed by Marion Wong in 1916, is now acknowledged as the first Chinese-American movie.

 
                                   Curse of Quon Gwon                                                    Marion Wong

Had Wong's films been successful, there may have been another interesting chapter in minority and independent films. From 1915 to 1947, black filmmakers and actors produced 500 "race films" which were among the first financially successful independent American films. Perhaps with a much smaller minority and, one assumes, smaller potential audience, Asian-American cinema somehow just wasn't viable until Chan Is Missing.

The main shortcomings of the film are its reliance on a completely color-by-numbers Ken Burns-ish presentation which makes you feel like you should be watching it on PBS and not in a theatre. Talking heads, that incredibly familiar sort of clarinet-heavy score and lots of stills being panned across and zoomed in on upon make it feel made for TV. It's always disappointing when a documentary chooses that easy, tired look. The information is good though. It's great, however; to hear Nancy Kwan, James Hong, Wayne Wang, Christopher Lee, Ang Lee and the rest's observations and anecdotes but it's presented in such a visually dull fashion that it almost seems like it'd make a better book if it weren't for the amazing clips (that I wish there were significantly more of).

I also wondered why they focus just on depictions of Chinese. The director is Chinese but the film made the point that once you're in America, being Chinese is trumped by being Asian and Japanese play Chinese, Vietnamese play Indians, and (of course) white people play everything. The specifics of ethnicity are blurred, erased and distorted. Therefore I'd have liked the scope to open up a bit more and then we could've been treated to more perspectives (like France Nuyen!) and more clips illustrating the same issues (e.g. Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi). I don't think it would've drastically changed the nature of the film-- just added some insight and accounts of a few more Japanese and Korean actors.

And my last gripe is that the structure seems rather haphazard. It bounces around, back and forth through time, dropping and then revisiting films again as they come up again randomly in different actors recollections. A small thing. Anyway, May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month so just wait until it's on KCET or KOCE. The information is interesting, the look isn't so much.

When it was over we went to Palms Thai. We saw Amy Tan eating.

I Pass For Chinese:



 *****

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