“50 Years of Queer Cinema”
There was a time, at the first rustlings of the queer movie explosion in the early ’90’s, that I felt compelled to see EVERY gay-themed movie that hit the theaters. Of course, back then it was easier to do. Every time a GLBT movie premiered in NYC, it was an event, and it received a lot of hoopla by the community. Your choices back then were either: (1) see it right away on the big screen, or (2) wait at least six months before it appeared on dusty old VHS. Recently, for better or worse, my feelings have been, literally, “Oh… ‘Another Gay Movie’!” I tell people, “I’m already living an exotic homosexual lifestyle; I don’t need to see it played out on the big screen!” The fun, sassy, smart new book “50 Years of Queer Cinema”, by Darwin Porter and Danforth Prince and released by Blood Moon Publishing, has singlehandedly renewed my interest in the lavender big screen. It will also likely revive any dormant queer cinemaphile’s interest in hitting the theaters again (or at least, keep their Netflix queue busy until 2012). Make no mistake; the explosion of queer cinema has not stopped since the pink genie first burst out of his or her closet-shaped bottle. As the authors say, “For years Hollywood, on screen, has tried to deny the very existence of homosexuals… The depiction of gays on screen, at least officially, began with those silly queers of ‘Boys in the Band’ and moved on to ‘Milk’, the story of a slain gay activist in San Francisco, with a detour across the ridges of ‘Brokeback Mountain’… Since then, however, the so-called Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name can’t shut up, judging from the profusion of gay and lesbian films today.” “50 Years of Queer Cinema” offers reviews of hundreds of movies, ranging from camp classics (“Barbarella”, “Can’t Stop the Music”), to sleeper hits, to mega-rare foreign films and documentaries, to an occasional important XXX flick (the pivotal 1970 film “Boys In the Sand”), and at least one film that is still lingering in distribution hell (“I Love You Phillip Morris”, starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor). Most interestingly, many of the included films have only been released in the past five to ten years, which makes this one of the most up-to-date books in its genre. In addition to reviews, the authors devote entire chapters dedicated to favorite personalities (including Bette Davis, Tennessee Williams, Jack Wrangler, and Derek Jarman, who the authors call, “The Founding Father of New Queer Cinema”) as well as smart and keen-eyed backstories about some of our favorite movies themselves. “Brokeback Mountain”, “Sunset Blvd.”, “Some Like It Hot” (called “the best comedy ever turned out by Hollywood”), and others are included. The book takes revisionist views on the much-maligned 1980 movie “Cruising” as well. (“In the good old days, when New York’s Meatpacking District was still skanky, William Friedkin made ‘Cruising’, and gay people rushed to condemn it. ‘Why?’, we wondered…”) One of “50 Years of Queer Cinema”‘s guiltiest pleasures is a chapter dedicated to three camp classics: “Myra Breckinridge”, Sextette (FYI: Second to “Mommie Dearest”, this is my favorite movie EVER!.), and “Butterflies in Heat” (which was eventually retitled as “The Last Resort”).
Too many non-fiction authors and movie reviewers take themselves WAY to seriously. Not Blood Moon Productions. These guys are movie lovers, celebrity sleuths, and pop culture vultures who have fun with what they do– and it shows! As educational and insightful as the book is, Porter and Prince give the readers what they want to know– including, but not limited to, if there’s any sex or nudity in the films. (Alert: Penis shot ahead!). Some nice touches really boost the book: the shout-out out to openly gay, HIV+ working actor Michael Kearns; a profile of gay porn director Joe Gage, who’s still plying his trade into his early sixties; and a speculative quote by the late Andy Warhol: “Without MOI there would be no queer cinema!” That definitely sounds like something Andy would say. ’50 Years of Queer Cinema” is a mandatory book on the shelf of any movie lover… even if you’re “already living an exotic homosexual lifestyle”!
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