Thursday, July 14, 2022

Reverend’s Preview: Celebrating 40 Years of Outfest LA

40 years ago, during the summer of 1982, I was between my freshman and sophomore years of high school. Ronald Reagan was president (ugh) and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial became the biggest movie of the year. I was slowly figuring out I was gay, but sure as hell wasn’t ready to admit it to anyone!

1982 also produced three of the most LGBTQ-positive movies up to that point: Making Love, Personal Best and Victor/Victoria. Before then, most big-screen depictions of homosexuality or queer love were downright condemnatory. The 40 years since 1982 have seen amazing progress for all of us in the LGBTQ+ community, and much of this has been achieved with the help of filmmakers representing us in a positive light.

Not coincidentally, the Outfest LA LGBTQ+ Film Festival is celebrating its 40th anniversary and “40 years of changing the narrative” this week. Since its founding in 1982, Outfest has screened thousands of US and international films for audiences of well over half a million people. It remains the largest and longest-running film festival of any kind in Southern California. Outfest is also the leading queer media arts organization in Los Angeles, and possibly the world.

The fest is back in person and online in 2022. It will incorporate 11 days of LGBTQ+ films, television, special events, parties and more. In-person screenings will once again be held at the Directors Guild of America in West Hollywood plus at various venues across LA, including festival favorite outdoor venue, The Ford Amphitheater. Visit Outfest for tickets and more information.

Presented by Warner Bros. Discover and IMDb, the fest will run July 14th-24th. Opening night, held at Downtown L.A.’s historic Orpheum Theatre, will feature Tony Award winner Billy Porter’s directorial debut Anything’s Possible. The high school-set film follows a young trans student and her love interest as they navigate a romance during their senior year. It stars Eva Reign, Abubakr Ali, Simone Joy Jones, Kelly Lamor Wilson and Broadway star Renée Elise Goldsberry (Hamilton). Porter will be joined opening night by his cast and producer Christine Vachon, who will present Porter with a special Achievement Award for his creative contributions over the years. The fest will also feature appearances by actors Kevin Bacon and Julianne Moore, filmmaker Todd Haynes, author Clive Barker, and Big Freedia, among others.

Outfest LA will conclude on July 24th with a celebration at The Theater at the Ace Hotel in Downtown LA. The closing night world premiere will be of playwright and screenwriter John Logan’s directorial debut They/Them. Oscar- and Tony-nominated Logan has been highly acclaimed for his previous work on the James Bond epics Skyfall and Spectre. His new slasher pic, set at an LGBTQIA+ conversion camp, follows the young residents as they band together against their counselors when an unidentified killer begins claiming victims.

Several centerpiece screenings will also be presented. These include a 20th-anniversary screening of Todd Haynes’ Far From Heaven with Haynes, Vachon and star Julianne Moore set for an in-person Q&A; the documentary Mama Bears, about a community of Christian mothers with an unwavering love for their LGBTQIA+ children; and platinum centerpiece HeBGB TV, described as a “high camp tribute to late-night horror television in the vein of Elvira in which a retro cable box begins programming queer killer content into the home of a brother and sister who’ve stayed up past bedtime.” Yikes!

Reverend was able to preview two other standout films to be screened during the fest. Unidentified Objects, the US Centerpiece on July 20th, stars New Amsterdam’s Matthew Jeffers in a road movie/buddy dramedy. Jeffers plays Peter, a self-described “college-educated, homosexual dwarf who is balding and prone to illness.” His alien-obsessed neighbor, Winona J (not that Winona J), offers Peter $1,700 to drive her from NYC to Canada in 72 hours. We learn she is scheduled for a rendezvous with the interplanetary visitors who abducted her when she was 15, and she doesn’t want to miss it.

Naturally, Peter is dubious but he needs the money. He also needs to fulfill a promise he made to his late best friend, Shay, while he is in Canada. Peter and Winona (played by Sarah Hay) gradually bond, plus the prickly yet lovable Peter has an unexpected fantasy encounter with a hot Canadian at a local bar. Director and co-writer Juan Felipe Zuleta proves himself a talent to watch with his feature film debut. In addition, Unidentified Objects features striking cinematography by Camilo Monsalve and music score by Sebastian Zuleta.

While Reverend was in seminary back in the early 1990’s, more than a few of us had subscriptions to the homoerotic clothing catalog International Male. The straight women and gay students who worked in the seminary mailroom at the time definitely weren’t complaining! Outfest 40 will be also presenting the nostalgic new documentary All Man: The International Male Story on July 16th.

The late catalog, which actually debuted way back in the bicentennial year 1976, was decried by anti-gay cultural critics as “hedonistic,” “tasteless” and “selling sex.” As the documentary reveals in fascinating detail, it ultimately weathered those naysayers as well as the tragic devastation that HIV/AIDS wrought on the catalog’s staff and model pool during the 1980’s-90’s. I never expected to feel proud of International Male 30+ years later, but dagnabit I do thanks to filmmakers Bryan Darling and Jesse Finley Reed. Gay faves Matt Bomer, Drew Droege, Carson Kressley, Jake Shears and fellow LGBTQ critic Frank DeCaro also make welcome contributions.

According to Outfest’s executive director Damien S. Navarro: “We’re excited to host audiences and fans across the city to celebrate just how far queer cinema and entertainment have come. The body of work we have curated from nearly every continent increasingly represents adventurous styles and genres, from vibrant romantic comedies – where the trans lead gets the boy – to horror films that balance the scares and the sexy.”

Congratulations on 40 years, Outfest, and blessings for many more!

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

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

MD Review: Pride and Prejudice

The whole 'upstairs/downstairs' crew of Downton Abbey have returned for A New Era... of withering snobbery, apparently. When last we reveled in the period ecstasy of The Crawleys and Co., they weathered through a Royal visit with cheeky aplomb. Alas, this time out they spend most of the time embracing tired clichés of the rich and the British, with one half of the clan looking down their noses at a silent movie crew on the home front, while the other half go abroad to show up the French ("so French!") on their own turf. Whereas the Downton gang's first big screen outing was like savoring a warm crumpet, the sequel is more akin to taking a big bite of stale custard tart.

MD Rating: 6/10

Downton Abbey: A New Era is now streaming on Peacock.