June 8, 2007
There are some queer moments amid Hollywood’s summer fare
Hard to believe that the lazy, hazy, crazy, box-office bonanza days of summer are really here. This is when Hollywood rakes in money faster than a madam on Capitol Hill. It’s the season where record after record is broken: most money made on a weekend, highest-grossing film ever, most stupid movie ever made, and on and on.
This year is an unusually derivative one for Hollywood. Most releases are not just sequels but “three-quels” for movies like Spiderman, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Bourne franchise and others.
The good news is that the summer fare has plenty of gay offerings. Yet sadly, as is normal for Hollywood, lesbian or trans-related films are hardly anywhere to be seen.
The releases this summer for LGBT cinephiles can be broken up into two groups: Films that have queer characters, storylines, performers or directors; and films with characters or performers that have huge gay followings for one reason or another.
Hairspray--John Travolta returns to his musical film roots but this time as a woman in a fat suit. Travolta plays matriarch Edna Turnblad (a role made inimitable by Harvey Fierstein on Broadway) in this civil rights-era tale about a chubby girl who fights to integrate a television dance-off.
This musical version is based on the stage musical, in turn based on John Waters’ cult classic starring Ricki Lake. Besides Waters, everyone else behind the scenes is out and proud: producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, composer Mark Shaiman, lyricist Scott Witman, and director Adam Shankman. Gay faves Queen Latifah, Michelle Pfeiffer and James Marsden also star. Hairspray alone has enough gay street cred to make up for all the other summer films.
Hostel: Part 2--Out actor Heather Matarazzo (Welcome to the Dollhouse) stars in this gorefest sequel.
The Simpsons Movie--The very gay-friendly television phenomenon finally gets a big screen treatment. Bart’s voice by Nancy Cartwright has been one of the most inspired cross-gender casting moments in pop culture.
The film is sure to feature queer characters Smithers and Marge’s lesbian sister Patty.
Smiley Face--Queer indie director Gregg Araki returns after his splendid Mysterious Skin. In this comedy, a departure for Araki, we follow the misadventures of Jane (Anna Faris). Out actor Jane Lynch costars.
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry--Two straight firefighters in Brooklyn (Adam Sandler and Kevin James) pretend to be gay so that they can get domestic partner benefits from the city. The film has lots of promise to comedically bring to the forefront the issue of same-sex couple issues in this country. Let’s hope it doesn’t fall prey to the Hollywood trap of faux gay characters engaging in homophobic jokes to prove how straight they truly are. If handled maturely, this could be an important film in the larger scheme of things.
Death at a Funeral--Frank Oz, who directed In and Out, helms this tale about death and family secrets.
Pint-sized star Peter Dinklage plays gay in what might be the sleeper hit of the summer.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End--There has been no more flamboyant character onscreen in recent memory than Johnny Depp’s brilliant Captain Sparrow.
Sexually ambiguous, Depp’s pirate was shocking to Disney executives when they saw footage of the first film. Kudos to Depp for taking such a character in a mainstream film and subversively making him a queer icon. Besides, no leading man has ever looked this sexy with so much mascara--gold teeth and rotting gums notwithstanding. Bend It Like Beckham ingénue Kiera Knightley is the damsel not so much in distress here.
Ocean’s Thirteen--Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Matt Damon and Don Cheadle. Need we say more? Transvestite comedian and queer icon Eddie Izzard has a supporting role.
Fay Grim--Intelligent director Hal Hartley’s action thriller stars gay icon Parker Posey.
Nancy Drew--Long held as a subversive series for young lesbians, the mystery-solving teen finally gets a live action film treatment.
A Mighty Heart--Based on the true story of the assassination of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan, this gut wrenching tale (which recently premièred at Cannes) stars queer icon Angelina Jolie as the widow Marianne.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix--This phenomenon has garnered a large queer following. Many gay Brit icons, from Richard Griffiths to Emma Thomspon, star. Imelda Staunton’s Dolores Umbridge is said to resemble a larger-than-life drag persona in this latest installment.
Daniel Radcliffe (Harry) has just boosted his queer following by starring in London in one of the most important queer-related plays of all time, Equus. Bucking puritanical attacks against him for starring in this play as a troubled gay teen (and romping naked for the last fifteen minutes of the show), Radcliffe needs to be supported tremendously for standing up for being true to one’s self and one’s art.
Becoming Jane--This is Anne Hathaway’s follow-up to her stunning turns in the disparate gay faves Brokeback Mountain and The Devil Wears Prada. The movie about Jane Austen before she became famous also stars Maggie Smith, Julie Walters and up-and-coming gay icon James McAvoy (The Last King of Scotland).
The Bourne Ultimatum--Matt Damon is all of the reasons why this franchise has become a queer favorite. There must be something about secret identities that draws queer audiences to this series. Besides, the last two were intelligently-made blockbusters, separating this franchise from the regular action fluff.