(*homocinematically inclined)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Reverend's Preview: Who Ya Gonna Call for LGBTQ Movies? Outfest!


Lesbian lawmakers, real-life gay porn stars, the world’s first lady ghostbusters and sexually-searching Asian Americans will headline some of the most anxiously anticipated movies at Outfest 2016 this month.

The 34th annual Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival runs July 7th-17th at multiple venues in the LA/Hollywood area, including the newly-renovated Ford Amphitheater. The Ford wasn’t available last summer for Outfest’s popular outdoor screenings, of which only one was presented at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

This year’s Outfest audiences will be among the first to check out what they’ve done to the revamped Ford. Five films will be shown there, including the LA premiere of a rebooted Ghostbusters featuring an all-star female cast. Comedy heavyweights Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones inherit the proton packs from their male 1980’s predecessors in an effort to stop evil supernatural forces from taking over Manhattan. They wisely hire Chris Hemsworth of Thor and The Avengers fame as their hunky receptionist, taking over from the decidedly brainier Annie Potts in the original Ghostbusters flicks.

Also screening at the Ford will be Kiki, the fest’s Documentary Centerpiece exploring today’s NYC drag ball scene not unlike the classic Paris is Burning; the world premiere of the fur-infused men’s sequel BearCity 3; Modern Love, another world premiere about a gay couple facing challenges on the eve of their wedding; and the closing night comedy Other People, starring Jesse Plemons (TV’s Fargo and Breaking Bad), Molly Shannon, Bradley Whitford and Silicon Valley’s Zach Woods.

Christopher Racster, Outfest’s Executive Director, and Director of Programming Lucy Mukerjee-Brown wrote in a joint statement: “What better time or place to revel in our own stories — and to discover the commonalities within our own community — than Outfest Los Angeles? Our hope is that you will walk away from this year’s festival with a deeper understanding of the breadth of our community.”

Political Animals, one of the fest’s Spotlight screenings on July 14th, is essential viewing for anyone interested in our LGBT history. It premiered at last month’s LA Film Festival and ended up walking away with both the Jury and Audience Awards for Best Documentary.

Sheila Kuehl, Christine Kehoe, Jackie Goldberg and Carole Migden were the only openly lesbian or gay California state representatives in the 1990’s-early 2000’s. Individually and collectively, they took on Governor Pete Wilson’s 1990 veto of the state’s first gay rights bill, the first effort to ban anti-gay bullying in public schools in 1996, and the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. They also worked on behalf of people with AIDS and established California’s domestic partnership registry.

The inspiring documentary is nicely structured by director Jonah Markowitz, who provides incisive, insightful examinations of each legislator’s personal background as well as their political career. Most dramatically, it literally shows how far California and the nation have come over the last 26 years in accepting their LGBTQ citizens thanks to these four women. The film culminates in a modern-day dinner scene with the quartet at which they humbly declare “we didn’t know we would be such groundbreakers.” Of note, Kuehl is today an LA County Supervisor.

Making its US premiere at Outfest on July 13th will be the long-awaited movie version of Holding the Man. Based on the autobiography of Australian actor and playwright Timothy Conigrave, it recounts the romantic but ultimately heartbreaking love story between Conigrave and John Caleo. After meeting in high school, where Caleo was captain of their football team, the pair forged a relationship that’s been referred to as Australia’s Brokeback Mountain. Name actors Guy Pearce, Anthony LaPaglia and Kerry Fox play supporting roles in this sure-to-be-memorable film.

Women He’s Undressed is another film with roots Down Under screening on July 9th. This fantastic documentary by excellent Australian director Gillian Armstrong (My Brilliant Career, Starstruck, the 1994 adaptation of Little Women) uncovers the little known life of gay, Oscar-winning costume designer Orry-Kelly. Armstrong utilizes both interviews with his still-living peers and dramatic re-creations of episodes from the designer’s life, including his secret affair with Cary Grant.

Rounding out my recommendations of movies to catch at Outfest 2016 are Looking: The Movie, the big-screen conclusion of HBO’s series about three gay friends living in San Francisco; a special screening of 1983’s bisexual vampire love story The Hunger, co-starring the late David Bowie; Spa Night, starring Sundance Breakthrough Performance Award winner Joe Seo as a Korean-American man who discovers his homosexuality when he takes a job at a men’s health club; the US premiere of Outfest UCLA Legacy Project’s revelatory restoration of the 1919 German film Different from the Others, the earliest surviving positive portrayal of a gay protagonist; and King Cobra, inspired by the real-life struggle of two competitors over the career of gay adult superstar Brent Corrigan.

In addition to a star-making performance by Garrett Clayton as Corrigan, the cast of King Cobra boasts James Franco (who also produces), Molly Ringwald, Alicia Silverstone and Christian Slater. Franco will be presented with Outfest’s inaugural James Schamus Award, honoring his considerable efforts to bring LGBTQ stories to the forefront of current cinema, immediately prior to the film’s screening on July 16th.

For the full festival schedule and to purchase passes or tickets, visit the Outfest website.

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

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