HOUSTON VOICE • DECEMBER 29, 2000
The state of queer film in 2000
was the key word for
films with gay and
lesbian content this year
by STEVE WARREN
At this time last year much of the
awards buzz was focused on films with
strong queer components: AMERICAN
BEAUTY, BOYS DON'T CRY, BEING
JOHN MALKOVICH, ELECTION and
THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY.
This year's counterparts are fewer and
weaker—witness BEFORE NIGHT FALLS,
BEST IN SHOW, BILLY ELLIOT and
WONDER BOYS. They're clearly not as
For example—GLADIATOR, where the
main kink is brother-sister incest; QUILLS,
in which the Marquis De Sade will screw
anything but has a strong hetero preference
and SHADOW OF A VAMPIRE, with F.W.
Murnau implied to be bisexual, but his only
identified sexual partner is a woman.
It's not that there weren't plenty of
queer and near-queer films out there, just
that they weren't as good this year. But neither were the straight ones.
The overall output of the movie industry may have reached an all-time low in
quality, or at least in the lack of really high-
quality films—including queer ones. We
wanted equality and we got it, damn it!
The queerer the movie the fewer screens
it opens on, as a general rule. We got
crumbs in a few wide releases: a gay male
cheerleader in BRING IT ON; Kip Pardue
(who was way out in "But I'm a
Cheerleader") letting his teammates think
he's gay after kissing one of them in
REMEMBER THE TITANS; and Ashton
Kutcher and Seann William Scott wrestling
shirtless and locking lips in DUDE,
WHERE'S MY CAR?
Queer directors working in the mainstream also made us settle for less. Don
Roos put a gay supporting character
(Johnny Galecki) in BOUNCE, as did
Stephen Daldry in BILLY ELLIOT. Gus Van
Sant says Sean Connery's character in
FINDING FORRESTER is a closet case, if
you read between the lines. (Why else is he
watching those boys through binoculars?)
Joel Schumacher threw some nice butt
shots into TIGERLAND, and if Terrence
Davies stayed faithful to Edith Wharton
there's naught but a gay sensibility in THE
HOUSE OF MIRTH.
That left John Waters to carry the rainbow flag in the disappointing CECIL B.
DEMENTED, in which a diverse group of
radicals kidnapped a fading movie queen
to strike a blow for independent cinema.
Before you get too depressed let me give
you the good news.
Four queer filmmakers got at least
mixed-to-good reviews for their debut features, which received decent distribution
and did some crossover business: GREG
BERLANTI for THE BROKEN HEARTS
CLUB, JAMIE BABBIT for BUT I'M A
CHEERLEADER, JON SHEAR for URBA-
NIA and NISHA GANATRA for CHUTNEY POPCORN.
Overseas our newest greatest hope is
FRANCOIS OZON, who had two good
films in limited U.S. release this year, the
twisted fairy tale CRIMINAL LOVERS
and the filmed Fassbinder play WATER
DROPS ON BURNING ROCKS. He's
building quite a body of work but not much
of an American following.
Gay Canadian JEREMY PODESWA followed ECLIPSE with THE FIVE SENSES,-
in which the character representing smell
Longtime favorite documentarians ROB
EPSTEIN and JEFFREY FRIEDMAN had a
fine new entry, PARAGRAPH 175, about
queers in the Holocaust.
Another personal-and-professional couple, FENTON BAILEY and RANDY BAR-
BATO scored a one-two punch with THE
EYES OF TAMMY FAYE and 101 RENT
Our lavorite fag hag, MARGARET
CHO scored with her San Francisco-filmed
concert, I'M THE ONE THAT I WANT.
If you've never heard of, let alone seen
some of the films I mention it may be
because they haven't been shown here,
or have had a festival or campus
screening or an unpublicized week at
an art house.
Many will yet show
up—in a theater, on cable
or in the video store.
As usual there wasn't
much for lesbians, besides
CHUTNEY POPCORN and
BUT I'M A CHEERLEADER.
The German docudrama
AIMEE & JAGUAR was tops in
that limited field, and there was
cause for at least some rejoicing
in DR. T AND THE WOMEN
when (spoiler ahead, if you
haven't seen it) KATE HUDSON ended up with
LIV TYLER. There's a lesbian moment in
REQUIEM FOR A DREAM but it's
degrading, not romantic.
Mike Figgis' failed experiment TIME
CODE gave us JEANNE TRIPPLEHORN
("Basic instinct") and SALMA HAYEK as
lovers, but Hayek was having an affair with
a man—the slut!
JULIANNA MARGULIES and KYRA
SEDGWICK were happier together in
WHAT'S COOKING? as they endured a
family dinner. Yet another lesbian couple,
CALISTA FLOCKHART and VALERIA
GOLINA, didn't make it to theaters this
year because MGM stupidly sold THINGS
YOU CAN TELL JUST BY LOOKING AT
HER to Showtime instead. Watch for it next
Stage fare didn't translate too well to the
screen. David Drake's THE NIGHT
LARRY KRAMER KISSED ME, directed
by Tim Kirkman ("Dear Jesse"), though
well done was too late to be topical and too
early for nostalgia. Charles Busch's PSYCHO BEACH PARTY, as directed by
Robert Lee King, was a thorough disappointment.
How about novels? Marcel Proust's life
and work got an interesting going-over by
Raul Ruiz in TIME REGAINED. Julian
Schnabel took an almost equally oblique
approach to the autobiography of gay
Cuban poet-novelist Reinaldo Arenas in
"Before Night Falls."
Peter Cameron's THE WEEKEND
was poorly adapted by director Brian
Skeet, despite some bright
moments in the mother-daughter
bitch fights between GENA
ROWLANDS and BROOKE
Shields also turned up as a
beard for ROBERT
DOWNEY, JR. in James
Toback's BLACK AND
WHITE. Downey also played gav
in WONDER BOYS, where he
(here's another spoiler) brought
out "Spider-Man"-elect TOBEY
MICHAEL CAINE was gay in
MICHAEL MCKEAN and JOHN
MICHAEL HIGGINS in BEST IN SHOW,
which also finally got JENNIFER
COOLIDGE and JANE LYNCH to act on
their obvious mutual attraction.
CRAIG FERGUSON wasn't very funny
as a gay Scottish hairdresser in THE BIG
TEASE. HAROLD PERRINEAU, JR. was
more entertaining as the drag comic relief
in WOMAN ON TOP, certainly better than
WING CHEN as the transgendered butt of
questionable humor in CATFISH IN
BLACK BEAN SAUCE.
Some highly anticipated films were
early-year disappointments. Just the idea of
NATHAN LANE playing BETTE
MIDLER'S (as Jacqueline Susann) husband
should have been enough to make ISN'T
SHE GREAT funny, but nothing could.
Bette bombed again a few weeks later in
DROWNING MONA, which opened the
same day as the MADONNA muddle THE
NEXT BEST THING, in which she had a
baby with best friend RUPERT EVERETT.
No wonder he's going back to Oscar Wilde!
Two queer fantasies about gays in the
military came from different parts of the
world. Each received some praise from
knee-jerkers who cream over subtitles, but I
didn't like Claire Denis' BEAU TRAVAIL
or Nagisa Oshima's TABOO.
Less arty but guiltily pleasurable was
BURLESK KING, the latest "macho
dancer" movie from the Philippines. Even
more dreadful by cinematic standards but a
big crowd-pleaser in its native Thailand
was THE IRON LADIES, the fact-based
story of a queer team that won the national
It could attract fans of feel good movies
if it reaches our shores next year. GUINEVERE TURNER ("Go Fish") co-wrote
MARY HARRON's adaptation of AMERICAN PSYCHO, giving herself a sex scene
with Christian Bale and another woman.
Other edgy films with more queer content were Miguel Arteta's CHUCK &
BUCK, written by and starring Mel White's
son, MIKE WHITE, as the childlike gay
protagonist; BENJAMIN SMOKE, a documentary about a queer (in more ways than
one) Atlanta poet/musician; and
Constantine Giannaris' FROM THE EDGE
OF THE CITY, showcasing the body (and
incidentally the acting ability) of STATHIS
PAPADOPOULOS as a Greek hustler of
At the end of the year Strand released
another terrific package of shorts, BOYS
LIFE 3. One of those shorts. Lane Janger's
comedy JUST ONE TIME, has already
been expanded into a feature, which began
hitting theaters a few weeks earlier.
All in all—and that's far from all—there
was nothing on theater screens this year as
good as QUEER AS FOLK—either version,
even though Showtime betrayed us by cut-
* iu> MwlMI