Knight at the Movies Archives
Four recent LGBT themed releases to keep your gay pride celebration going
It’s the 40th annual celebration of gay pride and before, during and (most likely) after you’ve experienced one (or all!) of the many
locals diversions being offered in the next week or so, there are a host of DVDs old, new and forthcoming that will help keep the
anniversary and gay pride celebrations going.
First, a history lesson is in order and what better way to find out about the Stonewall riots that kicked the gay revolution into high
gear than with the appropriately named 1995 comedy/drama Stonewall? Set at the now historic bar in New York City, the low budget
but winning little indie features a trio of sassy drag queens whose stories blend with the real life events. I’m also a huge fan of
1994's The Celluloid Closet, the award winning documentary look at gays and lesbians in the first 100 years of the movies (it was my
pick as the kick off film for the recent Queer Cinema 101 series at the Center on Halsted). The film takes us from the silent era on up
to the advent of the queer cinema genre in the early 90s. Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema from 2006 is a natural follow-up and is
There are a host of insightful and fun documentaries that explore all aspects of queer culture. I have a particular fondness for drag
queen culture and Paris is Burning from 1991 which explores the world of drag balls, Wigstock, the 1995 film covering Lady Bunny’s
annual outdoor drag extravaganza, and 1994’s dramedy The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert are three of my favorites. And
until the DVD is released, the entire season of the hilarious reality bitchfest aka RuPaul’s Drag Race is available for viewing at www.
The 40th anniversary of Stonewall also means the 40th anniversary of the death of legendary Judy Garland whose passing had a
hand in kick starting gay pride. There are arguably three Garland masterpieces – The Wizard of Oz (1939), Meet Me In St. Louis
(1944), and A Star Is Born (1954) – among Judy’s many motion pictures. In addition to those three, I’d recommend a host of other
Garland films but for now will settle on suggesting the somewhat obscure Presenting Lily Mars from 1943 in which Garland gets to sing,
dance, and crack wise as a star struck teenager, the charming In the Good Old Summertime, a turn of the century musical from 1949
(the film that features little Liza Minnelli’s film debut), and Garland’s last film, I Could Go On Singing from 1963 in which she plays a
thinly disguised version of herself. Still belting it out and commanding the stage at 41, Judy also delivers a performance that is
moving and camp at the same time. This is the Garland that was fully aware of her gay following – and played to it.
By the way, get ready to shell out moola for yet another edition of The Wizard of Oz – this one celebrating the film’s 70th
anniversary. I know, I know, there have already been three versions but Oz completists and Garland will want this new edition as
well. This time Warner Bros. is giving the beloved classic another touchup and including (get ready) 16 hours of bonus content with
four new hours just for this version. The limited edition set – which will be available on DVD or Blu-Ray – will also include a glossy
booklet by Garland expert John Fricke and arrives at the end of September.
Some other DVDs to celebrate gay pride with include Pedro, the pretty good biopic of the late AIDS activist Pedro Zamora which
originally aired on MTV and stars Alex Loynaz (it arrives on June 30). The film was scripted by Milk’s Oscar winning scribe Dustin
Lance Black (which gives me another excuse to nag readers to see Milk if you haven’t and the equally moving documentary 1985
Oscar winning The Times of Harvey Milk). Were the World Mine, the gay fantasia with music, one of my favorite gay indies from last
year, is also out on DVD and is an essential for the home collection. The Art of Being Straight, a mumblecore indie starring
writer/director Jessie Rosen follows the exploit of a young actor who explores his bisexual tendencies when he arrives in Los
Angeles. It’s available in multiple formats (online, viewing on Here! and on DVD). Who knew there was a queer hip-hop scene and
that it was had such a large following? Pick up the Mic is an eye opening look at the burgeoning music culture – long overdue
considering the homophobic history of rap culture. I’m also a big fan of the moody, beautifully shot Solos from Singapore in which a
male teacher falls in love with his comely student. Artsy in the extreme (the film is told in non-linear style, includes a lot of static,
beautifully composed still shots, and has no dialogue), Solos is the queer movie for those seeking something a bit more
Five camp gladiator flicks from the 50s and 60s are included in the recently released, three-disc (aptly named) Muscle Madness set.
Steve Reeves and several other examples of prime beefcake star in Goliath and the Sins of Babylon, Hercules Against the Moon Men,
Colossus and the Amazon Queen, and two other alternately hilarious “epics” – each more entertaining and containing more male
musculature than the previous. From 1957 comes the complete version of The Strange One, an oddly compelling curio in which Ben
Gazzara and several other Actor’s Studio performers made their screen debuts (including a hunky George Peppard). Gazzara stars
as a sadistic but very sexy bully at a military academy who holds sway over his fellow cadets until he goes too far. The homoerotic
subtext is very thick (starting with the Tom of Finland illustration that plays over the credits to Kenyon Hopkin’s wonderful film
score). Scenes detailing a subplot in which an obviously gay cadet tries to blackmail Gazzara’s character into a sexual relationship
considered too risqué and cut by censors, have been restored in the DVD.
Finally, two DVDs appearing in July – The New Twenty (which focuses on straight-gay friendships) and She Likes Girls 4 – a lesbian
themed compilation sure to make the ladies happy – will help keep the spirit of gay pride going as we swing full tilt into summer.
40 Years of Gay Pride Starts Here:
DVDs to Celebrate Gay Pride
6-24-09 Windy City Times KATM Column
By Richard Knight, Jr.