4.29.2008

To Dos Day

___ Item 1: FORGIVE MY DISTRACTION.
It's that time of the academented calendar so things is crazy. But making things worse is my "connectivity" at home has been experiencing all kinds of random interruptions. So, please, forgive me for my slacky-ness as I try to stay on top of things and also get caught up...

___ Item 2: PAGING RITTER.
This past Sunday's 1953 Supporting Actress Smackdown proved to be one of the more controversially divided ones yet, with Thelma Ritter's revered performance in Pickup on South Street being "passed over" -- much to the chagrin of many. But perhaps the most shocking bit for me was how much I liked the performance of Geraldine Page in, of all things, Hondo. I hope that I'll get both profiles up on Wednesday (tomorrow); so, please do check back. (When I'll get to Isabelle Huppert in 8 Women, however? That's anyone's guess.)

___ Item 3: SMUG OFF.
Have you ever been SMUGGED?

___ Item 4: GOT MILK?
Don't miss Stale Popcorn's comments on a film that, in some important ways, changed StinkyLulu's cinematic life: 1984's The Times of Harvey Milk. Glenn's reactions vividly remind me of my own when I first saw the film - oh, about 2 decades ago. Indeed, as he notes in his commentary, the more things change...

___ Item 5: SAVE THE DATE!
In last week's To Dos Day, invited y'all to offer suggestions for a supporting actress performance by an actress who passed in 1999 (the year of our next Smackdown) for which I might offer a profile as a fitting memorial. (I had identified at least 12 very interesting performers/performances that I was curious about.) However, your response -- both in comments and over email -- indicated an almost immediate consensus: MADELINE KAHN! And who can argue with that. So, I decided to call for Madeline Kahn Appreciation Day on Thursday, May 29, 2008. On that day -- which isn't her birthday or anything, just a regular day -- all bloggers are invited to offer their appreciations of the life and work of Madeline Kahn (1942-1999). I'll lead things off with a Supporting Actress Profile of a brilliant, non-nominated Madeline Kahn performances and will look forward to collating everyone else's links here. So, lovelies, save the date and spend the next month savoring the marvelousness that is Madeline Kahn.

___ Item 6: TALK GAY TO ME.
For reasons I won't go into right now, I'm thinking a lot about the idea of "gay film" - what is it? why is it? why do we need it? So, I'm wondering -- if you value independent queer cinema, what do you value about it? What are the criteria you use when approaching queer cinema that are subtly or drastically different than another sort of film? Spill your thoughts in comments...

12 comments:

Aaron said...

I'm not sure that I know what "gay cinema" is, really. I have similar thoughts whenever I bother trying to define gay theatre.

But gay people need representations of themselves. This should be evidenced by the popularity even of homophobic portrayals of gay people. I remember as young man being excited to see films like ...And Justice for All and Dog Day Afternoon just because I knew there was a gay character in the movie. I think about that now and know that I was hungry to see myself on screen, even if that representation shared almost none of my other subject positions.

I recently saw Looking for Langston, which I would say is undoubtedly a gay film, and it made me proud. Happy that the filmmaker made it, and proud to be a part of the culture it described.

I feel like I am not being very articulate at present, but this is a big question.

bertram said...

Interesting question. I consider "gay cinema" film that is focused on gay characters, usually in a gay context.

I moved to the suburbs a few years ago after years of living in cities and working in either gay-dominated or gay-friendly environments (which included many gay co-workers). Being out here and working in a place which is very accepting, but very culturally suburban (what a surprise, because it is suburbia) has prompted me to think a lot about the layers of culture that exist everywhere.

So... without going off too far on my tangent, I appreciate movies with gay characters in urban environments using the cultural slang I know/understand because as Aaron said, I am hungry for those opportunities to relate to a film more directly. Don't we all have that narcissistic urge? Or is it really just me...

JS said...

Gay Cinema for me would be an exploration that leads to the explanation of a cultural stereotype.

jakey said...

Gay cinema is a really difficult thing for me to articulate any thoughts about. I think it's because, while I've been figuratively crapped on a few times, I've never been oppressed. I grew up in a liberal city and was "out" in high school and college. At the same time, I never had any other gay friends and was perfectly fine being the only gay guy in the room. Someone once told me that being gay is being on the periphery, but visiting my old college last week made me realize that I LOVE the periphery, because it's all I know.

That being said, positive representation of minorities in film will always be important. While I love small films like "Trick" and "The Broken Hearts Club", as an adolescent I was always happier to see positive representations of gay men where I least expected it, much like the gay couple in "Big Daddy".

whip-smart said...

If there's one thing that bugs me, though, it is gay cinema for the sake of gay cinema. I want accurate representations of LGBT in the media, not random characters inserted for the 'diversity quota'.

StinkyLulu said...

I'm interested in your perspectives, Jakey and Slayton, on the value/relevance of independent queer representation as distinct from queer presence in mainstream projects.

Trick and Broken Hearts Club would both, I think, count as gay-centric independent projects, while Big Daddy is obviously a mainstream project with strategic -- according to Sandler -- gay content. (Sandler's said that his inclusion of gay content in his films was done as a kind of stealth activism, because he knew who his audience was and wanted to show THEM a different view of gay men. I don't know how this squares with Chuck and Larry, but that's what he said about Big Daddy.)

I guess I'm wondering about what folks think of the the stuff that Bertram mentions (HI!) -- about the idea of films made with the specific intention of addressing a queer audience...

whip-smart said...

In terms of films that actually explore the complexities of sexuality with real curiosity, I'd say "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" is a shining example. Finally, a 'queer filmmaker' comfortable enough with his homosexuality to actually dig deep into it.

NATHANIEL R said...

I feel like i have totally lost the thread of queer cinema. does it exist? or if it does, why would anyone care about it now when it's all these stupid dumb gym bunny comedies

i don't get it anymore.

although i love john cameron mitchell so much and would definitely say he's still carrying the torch of whatever good in queer cinema still exists...

Rural Juror said...

I find a lot of indie queer cinema to be lacking. There's probably work that I need to see still, but I usually find it rather cookie cutter.

Films like Happy Together and Bad Education don't really offer . . . functional images of gay life, but they are really amazing pieces of work.

jakey said...

Perhaps it's a generational thing. Thirty, even twenty and maybe fifteen years ago, "gay cinema" could still be controversial and riveting; the focus on them seemed to be on the actual story. From my admittedly lacking perspective, the recent gay films I've read about in magazines or the blogosphere are completely focused on sex.

While that's true about many things in the film industry these days, I can't help but feel a little icky about reading an interview with a straight actor from an independent film, and the interviewer goes off on a tangent about "You know what's gotta be REALLY weird about playing a gay guy? If you're playing a bottom!" (This was a real question pitched to Ryan Carnes when promoting Eating Out)

Middento said...

I think it's both telling and fascinating that you used the phrase "gay cinema" instead of "queer cinema." (It takes Nathaniel to bring it up, which perhaps only shows how old all of us are, haha.) Certainly, therefore, you're not talking about the same idea of "New Queer Cinema" that B. Ruby Rich writes about in the 90s. I had to (re-)educate myself about queer cinema for a paper I was asked to give earlier this year (where I realized I knew quite a bit about the international stuff I was going to talk about, but jack about the intersections of queer theory and NQC), but noticed that this wasn't quite something that's coming up (or, heh, out) in the same manner anymore. Even the material at LGBT film fests has changed -- and none of that intersects with Big Daddy material either.

An interesting question. Naturally, I'm curious where you're headed with this. (Well, curious enough to duck out for a few moments whilst grading; 'tis finals season 'round here.)

Glenn said...

I gotta agree with Whip-Smart, firstly. I like seeing gay people in entertainment as much as the the next gay person, but I sort of just cringe whenever a television show especially just features a gay character. You just KNOW that if it's a man all he's there for is to make bitchy comments and if it's a woman then all they're there to do is make sexual innuendoes around straight men.

And as Jakey said, gay people (whether they be men or women) aren't as segregated anymore. They are out there in society on tv in movies in music etc. Even though we are clearly still minoritised (as I like to say), I think filmmakers for the large part have backed away from telling daring risque stories. Maybe it's because everyone who's ever going to be pro-GLBT is already pro-GLBT so it's like there's nobody left to preach to (as sad as that case may be). Plus, independent cinema is going poorly enough right now without trying to get people to sit through harrowing dramas about AIDS and bigotry, no matter how well made they are.

Although, with Brokeback Mountain and now Milk, doesn't it seem like the most interesting queer films are being made about the past? Like, we are a part of society now so we're going to tell the stories that we couldn't tell back then and we're going to tell them on bigger scales and not have them crammed into tiny arthouses where only gay audiences will see them. They'll be out there in chain cinemas and in multiplexes.

I don't know. I'm rambling.