Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Reverend’s Report: Outfest 2012

Out Glee actor and newly-published children’s book authorChris Colfer brought this year’s 10-day long Outfest festivities in Hollywood to a close Sunday night with the premiere of Struck by Lightning. Colfer not only headlines the comedy but wrote its screenplay, his first. Talk about multi-talented!

By Outfest’s end, several movies had implanted themselves in my consciousness as among the very best that not only Outfest but contemporary GLBT cinema has to offer. These are in addition to a handful of films I was able to preview and acclaim before the fest began (see Reverend’s 2012 Outfest Preview). The standout for me was Matthew Mishory’s Joshua Tree 1951: A Portrait of James Dean, which is notable both for its provocative depiction of an unquestionably bisexual, pre-celebrity Dean and its gorgeous, primarily black-and-white visual style. The mostly speculative bio was photographed by Michael Marius Pessah, who was designated one of Outfest 2012’s “Five to Watch” before the fest began. Also, actor James Preston gives an arresting performance as Dean.
 

A close second for me was Ira Sachs' already highly acclaimed Keep the Lights On, The film won raves at Sundance and the Berlin Film Festival's Teddy Award earlier this year, and it walked away with two of Outfest's most prestigious awards (please find a complete list of Outfest award winners in the comments section below). This authentic, semi-autobiographical saga of two lovers struggling with drug addiction and other challenges over the course of their nine-year relationship is, by turns, heartbreaking and hopeful. Thure Lindhardt and Zachary Booth are exquisite as the on again, off again pair. Keep the Lights On is shaping up to be the gay-interest movie of 2012 and is scheduled for theatrical release beginning in September.

I was thrilled to not only catch That's What She Said, the feature directorial debut of actress Carrie Preston (True Blood, Ready? OK!, Straight-Jacket), but to finally meet Preston after four years of phone interviews and e-mail exchanges. Her hilarious, NYC-set dramedy about female BFFs and their travails boasts a superb turn by Anne Heche, truly the best performance I've yet seen her give. While cut from the same raunchy girl-power cloth as recent hits Bridesmaids and Friends with Kids, That's What She Said has a truer, warmer heart than either of it predecessors.


A reader commented here recently on my interview with Sassy Pants star Haley Joel Osment that it's good to see filmmakers using more average looking/less physically perfect actors in gay-themed films. This was true of several Outfest entries but perhaps most significantly in I Want Your Love. Writer-director Travis Mathews enlisted a full complement of everyday physical types for this thoughtful drama of gay maturity, and they all engage in graphic, non-simulated sex. It's striking, even shocking, but ultimately moving.

As usual, a number of fine documentaries were screened at Outfest, including the highly-touted Vito, Love Free or Die (about out Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson) and How to Survive a Plague. Of those I saw, I was most impressed and informed by United in Anger: A History of ACT UP by Jim Hubbard. While it gets a little long and repetitive in detailing the 25-year history of the pioneering organization, the doc provides valuable insights into the initial years of the AIDS epidemic, the US government's inability/unwillingness to respond effectively, and ACT UP's leadership and often volatile tactics.

All in all, Outfest's 30th anniversary lineup was one of its best to date. Here's to 30+ more years of spotlighting the finest in GLBT cinema.

Report by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

3 comments:

  1. Special Programming Awards



    Special Programming Award for Freedom

    Sponsored by The Mondrian Los Angeles

    I AM A WOMAN NOW, Directed by Michiel van Erp

    For illuminating the stories of the first generation of transwomen who forged their paths with grace, courage, and fabulousness and the pioneering surgeon who changed history for transpeople everywhere, the Outfest Special Programming Award for Freedom goes to I AM A WOMAN NOW, directed by Michiel van Erp.



    Special Programming Award for Artistic Achievement

    Sponsored by Fandango

    SHE MALE SNAILS, Directed by Ester Martin Bergsmark

    For its bold imagination, provocative storytelling, striking imagery and unshakable emotional impact, the Outfest Special Programming Award for Artistic Achievement goes to Ester Martin Bergsmark, director of SHE MALE SNAILS.



    Special Programming Award for Emerging Talent

    Sponsored by Katten Muchin Rosenmann LLP

    Marialy Rivas, Writer/Director

    For crafting a stylistically fearless film to match the excitement, danger and chaos that can erupt with youthful sexual exploration, the Outfest Special Programming Award for Emerging Talent goes to Marialy Rivas, the writer/director of YOUNG & WILD.

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  2. Audience Awards



    Audience Award for Outstanding Documentary Short Film

    Sponsored by Ramada Plaza Hotel West Hollywood

    A FORCE OF NATURE, Directed by Barbara Kopple



    Audience Award for Outstanding Dramatic Short Film

    Sponsored by Wolfe Video

    THE FIRST DATE, Directed by Janella Lacson



    Audience Award for Outstanding Documentary Feature Film

    Sponsored by Greenhouse Studios

    I STAND CORRECTED, Directed by Andrea Meyerson



    Audience Award for Outstanding Dramatic Feature Film

    Sponsored by Innovative Artists

    ANY DAY NOW, Directed by Travis Fine



    Audience Award for Outstanding First U.S. Dramatic Feature Film

    Sponsored by HBO (cash prize of $5,000 from HBO)

    MOSQUITA Y MARI, Directed by Aurora Guerrero

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  3. Jury Awards



    Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Documentary Short Film

    Sponsored by Greenhouse Studios

    THE DEVOTION PROJECT: MORE THAN EVER, Directed by Antony Osso.

    For its sensitive portrayal of enduring love that spans seven decades, the Outfest 2012 Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Documentary Short Film goes to THE DEVOTION PROJECT: MORE THAN EVER, directed by Antony Osso.



    Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Short Film

    Sponsored by CRE – Computer Rentals & AV Solutions

    DOL (FIRST BIRTHDAY), Directed Andrew Ahn

    For its honest exploration of the complexities of culture, family and relationships, the Outfest 2012 Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Short Film to DOL (FIRST BIRTHDAY), directed by Andrew Ahn.



    Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Documentary Feature Film

    Sponsored by Avalon

    WILDNESS, Directed by Wu Tsang

    With beautiful cinematography, a vibrant score and poetic storytelling, this year’s winning documentary succeeded in taking on the complexities of class, culture and difference in a most timely and brave fashion. The Outfest 2012 Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Documentary Feature Film goes to WILDNESS, directed by Wu Tsang.



    Grand Jury Award for Outstanding International Dramatic Feature Film

    Sponsored by The Los Angeles Athletic Club

    MY BROTHER THE DEVIL, Directed by Sally El Hosaini

    For its taut narrative, sensitive interrogation of masculinity, excellent performances by an ensemble cast, and intense cinematic experience, the Outfest 2012 Grand Jury Award for Outstanding International Dramatic Feature Film goes to MY BROTHER THE DEVIL, directed by Sally El Hosaini.



    Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Actress in a Feature Film

    Sponsored by The Avenue Hollywood

    Fenessa Pineda, MOSQUITA Y MARI

    This actress brought nuance and subtlety to a fresh coming of age story. For beautifully capturing the fleeting moments of transition from innocence to curiosity to self-discovery, the Outfest 2012 Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Actress in a Feature Film goes to Fenessa Pineda in MOSQUITA Y MARI.



    Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Actor in a Feature Film

    Alan Cumming, ANY DAY NOW

    For bringing depth, humor, fierce wit, and emotional integrity to a moving portrait of a man who unexpectedly finds a family and the strength to fight for it, the Outfest 2012 Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Actor in a Feature Film goes to Alan Cumming in ANY DAY NOW.



    Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Screenwriting

    Sponsored by Yellow Cab

    Ira Sachs & Mauricio Zacharias, KEEP THE LIGHTS ON

    For masterfully constructing an emotionally honest portrait of a relationship that spans the better part of a decade and artfully weaving the mundane and the momentous, the Outfest 2012 Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Screenwriting goes to Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias for KEEP THE LIGHTS ON.



    Grand Jury Award for Outstanding U.S. Dramatic Feature Film

    Sponsored by Saks Fifth Avenue

    KEEP THE LIGHTS ON, Directed by Ira Sachs

    This film resonated with us for its confidence, complexity, and emotional intelligence. For taking us on a challenging but poetic journey through the landscape of a long-term relationship, the Outfest 2012 Grand Jury Award for Outstanding U.S. Dramatic Feature Film goes to KEEP THE LIGHTS ON, directed by Ira Sachs.

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