Outfest Film Festival starts July 9 in Los Angeles and it seems there is definitely something for everyone who is LGBTQS – the “s” is for straight.
While there are still dozens of films I’ve yet to see, I thought I would share some of the narrative features and documentaries that are standouts. Many of these movies shouldn’t be limited to an LGBTQ audience – their stories of humanity, humor and interesting plots should have universal appeal.
NARRATIVE FEATURES – THE TOP 10 LIST:
1. “That’s Not Us” won me over at Frameline with its story of three couples – one gay, one lesbian and one straight – who enjoy a weekend at a beach house. The movie seems so earnest and natural that I really felt like the actors must have known each other for a long time. In a film in which conflicts and surprises come out, it was thoroughly enjoyable and I was so happy I caught some of the cast and co-writer when they were in San Francisco. See our interview.
2. “Those People” also is a standout – and I feel so lucky to be able to catch the director and one of the stars in San Francisco. It’s a beautiful story of a handsome young man who is torn between his unrequited love for his best friend and the free spirited musician he meets along the way. Director/writer Joey Kuhn has reached deep into his heart to bring forward a story of angst, love and everything in between.
3. “Beautiful Something” from San Francisco resident Joseph Graham shares his interwoven stories of love, obsession and life lessons in a deeply layered, well crafted feature that turns vignettes into a story that has real connections – with the audience and within itself. Director Graham and star Brian Sheppard sat down with us to discuss the movie. Watch our interview here: http://bit.ly/1dYDXVp
4. “Sebastian” actually tore my heart out. A man from Peru who moved to LA returns home to care for his ailing mother. The reception he receives from about everyone in town is absolutely despicable and it gets worse when his husband from the U.S. comes to visit. I was shocked at how he was treated and I talked to a friend of mine from Peru who says the prejudice and hate was on-point and that’s why he moved to San Francisco. Thank goodness I live where I can be out and proud, but I can only assume that director/writer/star Carlos Ciurlizza has really put himself out there as it’s obvious this story is based a lot on truth. I applaud him for not only making this movie – but for starring in it himself, likely reliving some of the darkest moments of his life.
5. “Liz in September” is picture postcard perfect as Liz and her best friends spend time together every year for Liz’s birthday. The ultra beautiful free spirit Liz (Patricia Velasquez) seems to have appeal that has even turned the head of a “straight” woman who joins them at the villa when her car breaks down and she’s stuck spending the night. An attraction between the two women as well as the party atmosphere of all the characters help Liz ignore some personal health issues all the while the audience knows all. Fun and thought provoking at the same time.
6. “Jenny’s Wedding” is likely to be a modest theatrical hit as it has a known writer – Mary Agnes Donoghue (“Beaches”) – and big star – Katherine Heigl. For those like me who have given up on Heigl with her series of inane movies will do a 180. Heigl seems to have taken the Marisa Tomei path to stardom – less big budget awful romantic comedies and more roles that mean something. Heigl hits a home run as a closeted woman from Cleveland who decides after a five year relationship, she wants what the rest of her family has – a spouse and children. A universally wonderful ensemble cast elevate the material and Heigl puts her back on the radar of actresses to not so easily dismiss.
7. “Stuff” is as real as it gets, narrative feature wise. A lesbian couple seem to be going through the motions of a life together. Sure they are supporting a mother who is grieving the loss of a spouse and getting their children to school on time….but excitement comes to town in the guise of a single tattooed mother who proves to perhaps be more temptation then the couple’s marriage can handle. Will she split them apart or drive them back to each other? The invigorating tale takes many directions as that’s the “stuff” life is made of.
8. “All About E” is kind of a “Thelma & Louise” as a lesbian DJ and her GBF flee town when they uncover a sack of money. Funny, gritty and wonderful, director Louise Wadley takes us on a fun journey through the backwoods of Australia. We also caught up with her and had a very nice chat about the film. Click on her to see all about it. Watch our interview here: http://bit.ly/1McYAJ0
9. “Portrait of a Serial Monogamist” follows a woman from relationship-to-relationship in a most comical way. It does fall into the stereotype that lesbians move in on the second date – but Diane Flacks, as our monogamist keeps it exciting. The movie also features perhaps one of the funniest wakes you’ll ever see. Not many movies can claim that!
10. “Fourth Man Out” is a refreshing film of four friends in Albany, NY. One of them comes out of the closet and the effects it has on the bromance are surprising and charming. First time screenwriter Aaron Dancik shows great promise as he captures the tone of the millennial generation.
The list could go on and on. But too many movies, too little space. Other worthwhile titles include “Naz and Maalik,” “S&M Sally,” “Guidance” and “In the Grayscale.”
What makes a great documentary is to learn something about a subject you thought you were already familiar with, or to change your mind about a subject you really didn’t care about. That is the case with “Tab Hunter Confidential,” the best documentary at Outfest (that I’ve seen). As a movie fanatic, I grew up knowing of Hunter. Movie star not really an actor. Singer who sells to teeny boppers instead of selling out symphonic halls. The sex symbol invented to sell movie tickets, record albums and magazines. It’s practically the story of “Bye Bye Birdie.” But this movie has made me fall in love with the man. Not the icon. Not the heartthrob. But the man that he is today. Hunter shares so many stories of his life – from the old Hollywood studio system that would actually protect its actors who may be in the closet to having a part taken from him from someone close to him. The movie follows the peaks and valleys of a life spanning career.
“Desert Migration” is as well crafted as it is enlightening. Director Daniel F. Cardone has put together a great series of interviews, though his craftsmanship of photography and editing is as wonderful as the stories of several HIV positive men who end up in Palm Springs to live out the rest of their lives. These men of different backgrounds and economic stature thought, at the time, their last days would be sooner than later. But all come to realize that with the advancement of HIV drugs, getting the virus is not a death sentence. But still, it plays a toll on their lives and people’s perception of what they can and can’t do. The filmmaker’s digging dip into the men behind the virus actually make the audience feel a bond towards these men.
“Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story” has enough titillation to pack the audience with people who want to see the father of gay porn enjoying his opulent life surrounded by hot men. But what we soon realize, beneath the sexy facade, is a real entrepreneurial man who understood how much the business porn is, and how to turn his wealth into one focusing on a philanthropic nature. Holmes is a sophisticated gentleman who has met and helped out many charities and even met the Clintons. The movie shows how a lot of times his donations are received under the radar from organizations who want the money, but don’t want to acknowledge it came from porn. The movie also sheds some light on the early days of AIDS and how that effected making pornographic movies.
“Out to Win” goes beyond the headlines of gay athletes coming out. We’re all familiar with the more newsworthy stories of Jason Collins and Billie Jean King. But the movie mixes famous and less known tales of coming out in sports. The movie also takes on the spirit of being a team – in which gay and straight supporters campaign to #BeTrue, encouraging other athletes and closeted homosexuals to not feel alone. While some of the stories are heartbreaking, the movie offers a positive message and will not be easily forgotten.
Also can be said of “Add the Words,” showing how Idaho is one of the 18 states that can fire someone based upon their sexual identity and orientation. The movie follows for over eight years a core of people who try to change the legislation through meetings and peaceful protests, including acts of civil disobedience. While we are left in awe of the stamina of these activist, we also are left with a heavy hearts as we hear of stories that some end in suicide for the treatment that LGBTQ people have faced in Idaho. It’s shocking to see the level of acceptance from one state, or country to the next.
The festival has other documentary gems including Jinkx Monsoon in “Drag Becomes Him,” “Do I Sound Gay?” and “From This Day Forward.” All worth checking out.
Outfest also sprinkles in other fun movie screenings. Besides going back in the gay movie faults with screenings of “54 the Director’s Cut,” “Madonna: Truth or Dare,” “Parting Glances” and “Velvet Goldmine,” they will also continue their popular Bad Movie and Secret Screenings.
Festival runs through July 19. Get tickets and more information at www.outfest.org.