Friday, June 26, 2009

Wow.. the world has changed

What a crazy day - first mourning Farrah Fawcett, then hearing from a crazy on MUNI that Michael Jackson had died.

And I have the flu - this has turned into one rollercoaster of a festival ride.

So I'm stuck in the apartment, unable to get off the couch - raging fever, achy joints and all - and I'm just struck at how many memories of Michael Jackson keep washing over me.

Sometimes, especially as I get older, I find it difficult to justify my lifelong love affair with pop culture - both high and low.
But watching all these Michael Jackson videos, it hits me again just how strongly pop culture affects our lives.

I mean, come on - We are the World. What a coming together of great minds for a great cause.

And just when you think that pop culture triumphs, I think of everyone in DC - all those idealistic do-gooders who are trying to achieve the same thing that MJ's videos illustrated - a beautiful world free of prejudice and full of childlike joy.

OH, and here's one more thing before I sign off because I really am sick and rambling.

Look up the word "anticipation" in the dictionary, and there should be a picture of Michael Jackson.
Every one of his videos has an incredible lead-up - often a good 2 minutes before the actions starts.

From Eddie Murphy and Magic Johnson trying to please a bored Queen Nefertiti, to the walk home from the movies in Thriller - they're a study in what he did best - teasing us with the promise of his genius. His gifts to us unveiled themselves slowly - a zombie emerging from a manhole, black panther morphing into Michael dancing. The impact of Man in the Mirror doesn't hit until halfway through - it takes him that long to transition from the personal to the global. But when he does, the devastation is profound and complete - we're left sobbing at the starving children, lost hope and broken promises that littered the 80s.
In "The Way You Make Me Feel", the sexual aggression is there, but in the most Jackson-esque way - childlike and performed at a distance. Sex isn't the object - never being alone is the holy grail.

He unveiled himself slowly, in so many ways. Even at his most shocking, he gave the world just enough to keep us coming back for more. What a performer. What an artist.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

THIS is what I love about film festivals!

Yesterday was, in many ways, more emotional than any day at a film festival should be.
Started out with an early afternoon screening of Edie and Thea: A Very Long Engagement.
I missed the first 20 minutes, but there were already sniffles to be heard from the audience by the time I arrived.
By the end of the film, which details the 42 yr. love affair between the two women, there wasn't a dry eye anywhere.

It was like being at a matinee screening of Terms of Endearment.
They're beautiful, they dance in a wheelchair and they finally got married. I would love to blast this film into every single church in the entire world and show the haters just how full, rich and loving a gay relationship can be.

Next up was Greek Pete, a surprisingly tender tale of London rent boys. Tender yes, but pretty graphic -perfect!

And that's just the beginning of yesterday's lovefest!

One of my favorite films ever is My Left Breast, by Gerry Rodgers, in which she bravely documents her diagnosis of breast cancer, then her treatment, mascectomy and chemo sessions.
It's one of the most compelling films I've ever seen and I consider her one of my heroes.

Well, my mom is undergoing a mascectomy today and I'm a bit stressed about the whole thing. (And this does tie into the festival, I swear).

Our puppy, Barksdale, also had to be rushed to the vet yesterday after eating a takeout pizza sized hole in our bedroom quilt. Thank God our friend Hannah is with him, but it was still crazy juggling calls from my mom, the vet, and Hannah, plus trying to get the lowdown on the transtastic party, all while trying to touch base with filmmakers at the lounge yesterday afternoon.

I'd finally talked to all the vets, technicians, and family members that I needed to and headed back in to update Leesil.

Leesil, in her very quiet way, usually attracts a crowd, and true to form - there was a coterie of women hanging out when I got back to our table. One of them, a beautiful older lady with the most beatific smile I've ever seen, asked "How's your dog?" and I proceeded to tell her while simultaneously trying to get Leesil's attention so that she could learn all about intestinal blockage and the absorbent qualities of cotton.

As I'm politely fielding questions from everyone (have you seen my film, would you like a screener, what kind of puppy is he, are you going to the Swedish party tonight?) and surreptitiously trying to reach for my cocktail, it somehow registers that the woman with the beautiful smile is Gerry Rodgers, my left breast hero!

I somewhat dramatically fall into her embrace and stammered out my worries about my mom. (I'm sure she's used to this by now).
After telling me that her whole family now calls themselves "The Young and the Breastless" because they've all had mascectomies, I began to feel a bit better. (Plus I'd finally reached my drink).

Everyone eventually scattered to their respective screenings and we headed off to meet our friend KJ (former curator at NMWA), for the trans party and Trans TV program.

And then MORE love - this of the indy, DIY kind. The entire program was a cheeky mash note to SF's queer community, with dykes, dicks and enough identity politics to make your head spin!
Saw Silas Howard (By Hook or Crook, Tribe 8) and Lynn Breedlove there, and fell in love with the talent of Actor Slash Model, who sang, wrote, acted and directed one of my favorite films in the program: Queer Teen Romance.
Oh, and met Jules, director of Against A Trans Narrative, which I've been dying to see.

All in all, enough film, emotion and love to fill an entire day.

Today, we're taking the afternoon off to go hiking with some friends from Tampa, Andrew and Jessica.
But we'll be back in time for this evening's screenings - never fear.

Boys in the Band

"Making the Boys" should be required viewing - for everyone. What keeps it from sliding into "where are they now" territory is that this film is such a controversial part of our history. I'd never considered that it came out at precisely the right moment to ensure it's instant vilification - directly on the heels of the Stonewall riots.
Making the Boys is a documentary on the history of Boys in the Band, in case that wasn't clear.
Sorry.. it has been an incredibly long day of film watching.

Even the toughest dykes here came out crying at the end of the screeing.
It's a must see - look for it in October!

Monday, June 22, 2009


First, let's get the really important news out of the way - I did not eat a single taco yesterday.

Not sure what happened, except that by the time all of our movies ended, I didn't feel like battling the crowds for a spot in line. Instead, we ended up at a great place called the Monk's Kettle, which features organic and sustainably grown food. Okay, pretty much everyone here offers that, but this place was really good. Leesil and I split a cheese platter featuring a local cheddar and a sheep's milk cheese from Humboldt County while we reminisced about the films we'd each seen that day.

After realizing that the early bird gets the comps, I arrived in time to see a bit of the 70s kids classic, Free to Be.... You and Me.
Either a young Jermaine Jackson was in it, or the producers were gobbling up every Jackson kid look-alike they could. I didn't stick around long enough for the credits, but I haven't seen his name listed yet.  The mystery remains unsolved, and frankly... I'm too overloaded on movies right now to event attempt an IMDB search.

My first film of the day was Maggots and Men, a beautifully shot experimental film based on the 1921 Kronsdadt Uprising. The black and white film lyrically melds the history of the revolution with the struggle to free gender expression from cultural norms. By evoking Eisenstein at every possible turn. Having said that, this is seriously one of the most beautiful films I've seen in quite a while and it balances its punk aesthetic with its art school high-mindedness seamlessly.

I didn't have another movie until 6:30 (I'd already seen that afternoon's selections), so I grabbed some sandwiches and we headed out to Golden Gate park for an hour or so.

Then it was back for what turned out to be my favorite film of the festival - It Came From Kuchar.
I'm not a big fan of horror films and while I'd rather see a campy, low-budget horror film than any Hollywood produced gore-fest, it's still not my thing.
BUT.. this is one of the funniest docs I've ever seen. The Kuchar bros. are twins, now in their 70s or so, and they've created literally thousands of undeground films. Unintenionally hilarious, especially when they're trying to remember if they're fraternal or identical, they are a a riot the entire time they're on screen. Add John Waters, a big fan, and you'd got the makings for 2 hours of non-stop laughter.
They received the Frameline award, and deservedly so. Tuesday night, there's a screening of Thundercrack that I may see. Who knows... maybe I'll become a fan of the horror film yet.

Meanwhile, Leesil was across town watching Light Gradient, a German flick about two boys who take off on their bikes, meet another young boy and his mom and go row-boating.

I'm sure there was more to it than that, but maybe not.

We spent the whole night watching films in two different parts of town, partly to cover as many as we could.

Leesil stayed in the Mission to watch Pronographic, which she said badly needed an editor, while I immersed myself in LA's teen mod subculture.
We are the Mods features Sadie, a young outcast, who, after a heroic attempt to join the French club fails horribly,  loses her best friend. 
Adrift, she falls for the beautiful Nico, a coke-snorting, boy-banging hottie with a gimpy foot and penchant for all things 60s.
Sadie falls in love, natch, and things get a bit predictable. What makes this high school story really sing is the mod culture - the clothes, the scooters, the music.  It lends an edge to the story you might not find if they were just hanging out at the mall.
Apart from that, it's not breaking that much new ground.

Off to pick up tix for tomorrow's screenings - see you soon!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bears, Christians and Shirley Knight.. oh my!

Yesterday began, as I suspect most days here will, with me obsessing over where to have tacos for lunch. 

Luckily, our first film of the day was at the Roxie, a crumbly old theater in the Mission District. And by crumbly, I mean magnificently seedy and run-down. The floor tilts, the lobby carpet sticks to your feet and the seating is set up church-hall utilitarian style - no swooping rows of banked seating here.

But the Roxie will always have a place in my heart as the site of one of the most moving film experiences I've ever had. This was perhaps in 20001, my first years with TIGLFF and I was anxiously awaiting the world premiere of Trembling Before G-d, the documentary about Orthodox Judaism and homosexuality. The film began and it was as stunning as anything I'd ever seen -binding rituals shot with the brutal finesse of Scorcese, shots of the Wailing Wall, prayer services in synagogues all over the world. 
Perhaps 10  minutes in, something went horribly awry - the sound had been dubbed onto opposite reels. In other words, we were hearing the voices of people who wouldn't appear on screen for at least another hour, and the the dialogue on screen had nothing to do with the images being presented.

Sandi Dubowski, the young director, calmly walked to the front of the stage, explained what must have happened, and asked the projectionist to turn off the sound in the theater. 
He then proceeded to narrate the entire story of his film to an astounded audience. 
At the end, we all walked out knowing that we'd witnessed something truly magical. I don't think a person in that theater was surprised at the success that Trembling enjoyed, and still enjoys today. 

Back to the Roxie, then. Cure for Love was a great film that I'd watched parts of before. Two members of the ex-gay community, Brian and Anna, are getting married. Each acknowledges their homosexual feelings, but seem to be the perfect postcard for the ex-gay movement as they begin their life together. It's a powerful film, notably when Anna is on-screen. Her passivity, coupled with her unintentionally hostile responses to queries about her husband, make for pretty uncomfortable viewing.

More than most films, Cure for Love, shows the personal toll on gays who are unwilling to turn their back on a hostile religion. 

After that, one of the coolest documentary/porn films I've ever seen: The Butch Factor. Ostensibly a documentary about masculinity in the gay community, it was interspersed with so many shots of beefy men working out, muscle men hanging out by the pool, cops in uniform, and bars frolicking at Lazy Bear in Northern California, that I'm sure no one would have minded if the film ran toward 4 hours in length. It's definitely a must-see, and despite the eye candy factor, Butch Factor does blow the lid off some strongly entrenched stereotypes in the gay community. 

Next up: Quick trip to the Castro after TACOS TACOS TACOS! Super veggie today, to atone for my meat gluttony (tongue, carne asada and chorizo tacos) the day before. It wasn't me; it was the wheel o' meat, I swear.

In the middle of the afternoon, there were probably 900 people packed into the Castro Theatre to see Little Joe, a documentary about Joe D" Allessandro of Andy Warhol fame. A big fan of all things Factory, except the rampant exploitation of artists, I'll grab a review copy of this for my own viewing pleasure. Not sure if it's got enough appeal for a festival, though. But if you're into the whole avant garde 60s film movement, it's crucial viewing for the shots of Joe in some Cinecitta films alone. 

After that, it was back to the Mission for Not Fade Away. There was a line in the film that I'll use as the review and leave it at that: If you can't think of anything nice to say, sit in judgement silently. 

Skipped the Tom and Jerry party AND the 10 pm screening of Greek Pete to go home and catch up on some much needed sleep.
And here we are,  ready to start another stellar day.

Stay tuned for We are the Mods, Maggots and Men, and Pornography snippets tomorrow. 

Hugs, kisses and tan lines from sunny San Fran,

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Coming to you from sunny, windy, foggy, hot and cold San Francisco

Here now - reporting from Frameline Film Festival, the oldest and largest LGBT film festival in the world.
While TIGLFF is 20 and Reel Affirmations 19, Frameline is the grand sequoia of us all - a whopping 33 years old and still one of the most cutting edge and progressive festivals out there.

Every day, I'll post snippets of news from the festival, as well as a brief tour diary of the parties, haunts and non-festival items of interest.

Here's a brief roundup of our last 72 (or possibly 96 hours) in San Francisco.
Joining me on this trip is Leesil Ainslie, the lovable grounding force in my life, who came along to make sure that I didn't defect to Petaluma to become an organic chicken farmer. 

The plane ride over was primarily a 7 hour exercise in cataloging everything we forgot:

1. Chargers for both the Blackberry AND the iphone
2. Hairbrush
3. Comfortable shoes (for me). I have in my possession two pair of flimsy sandals, my brand-new running shoes (which will probably never leave my bag), and my first purchase in SF - a pair of black leather Diane von Furstenberg mules with 3 inch wedges. Needless to say, these, despite their bargain price of $17 at Buffalo Exchange, will NOT suffice for day to day travel.
4. Hair product
5. Long sleeve shirts
6. Avant Garde San Francisco guidebook

Between last-minute dog sitting instructions, turning in a grant to DCCAH, emergency room visits for Leesil's clients, and the general mayhem that is our life in DC, we barely made our flight.
But, hey.. here we are! 11 pm and ready for bed. 

First day:
Wake up early for an already scheduled conference call, which is now at 6 am SF time. 
Out the door and hey.. there's a coffee shop that one of the Jezzies recommended.
Fuel up and spend the day speculating on which tattoos we'd get if we moved here.
Dinner and a downtown Oakland festival with Tampa peeps Jessica and Andrew - endless sake and great conversation with old friends. 

Tacos and murals in the Mission,  then we head over to the Castro to pick up our passes and tickets for the evening.
The plan is to watch "And Then Came Lola" and Clapham Junction.
Lola's sold out, so we take our consolation prize (free drink tickets) to Qbar across the street, where luck would have it, we meet Jennifer Derbin, the DP of Lola. By now, we're on our way to the Curve women's party, and are slowly losing our resolve to travel across town to see a documentary about the making of The Boys in the Band. 
Fate steps in and we meet someone with two extra tickets to Lola. $20 later, we're in!

There's something about SF dykes and their support of the community that brings me to my knees. And Lola, a film shot in San Francisco by women from the area, brings it all to the front in a cheering, whistling, stomping crescendo! Leesil and I exchange glances and begin to plot our move to the West Coast. 
Which screeches to a halt two hours later when we are greeted by 50 degree weather and whistling winds. We both grew up in Florida, and the thought of sunshine and cold weather all at once could easily make our brains implode.

Saturday morning:
Off to see docs about homosexuality and religions, a doc about Joe D'allasandro and some more that I can't remember at the moment. Tune in tomorrow for an update - we're headed out the door to spend the next 12 hours watching films.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Divas Outdoors - My Favorite Time of Year

I don't know why I love classic film so much. Actually, yes I do.

One of my first ever "film" jobs was working at Blockbuster Video - when they first opened up. (Yes, that's how old I am:))

Anyway, me securing a job at Blockbuster video is a story unto itself - one that's best told over a few cocktails in a dimly lit bar.

Why? Because it involves chicanery, manipulation, a 125 question test, schemeng and the judicious use of my then-unlimited store of feminine wiles.

The upshot of all that drama was that I, did indeed, get a job at Blockbuster. Far beyond the perks of that long-ago job though - I walked away from the experience with the tools I needed to one day run a film festival and to knowledgeably hold forth on a number of genres - obscure and conventional - in international cinema.

The day before I started, I was given, along with instructions to purchase a blue oxford shirt, some left-over film school books and a list of over 100 films that I must watch before I die.

The list was misplaced years ago, but I can safely say that I've watched many, many times that number in my quest for film knowledge.

I've had many infatuations with various genres and directors.

For a while I was obsessed with yakuza films, then tired of them in favor of hard-boiled 40s noir.

My enduring love for Emir Kusterica will probably never wane - I've even sat through films of his that were subtitled in Dutch - just to watch his audacious images and let the waves of Goran Bregovic's music wash over me.

I keep a running list of subjects in my head that I deem documentary-worthy, and I'll probably never tire of watching the works of Pratibha Parmar, Bruce LaBruce or Lars Von Trier.

But classic American films - starrring Audrey Hepburn, Kathrine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and a host of others.. I could watch them every day. Perhaps it's because of their easy availability, or because the social mores seem so quaint. At heart I'm a fashionista - perhaps that's the draw?

Whatever it is.. I can't get enough of Technicolor, Cinemascope and cinched belts over wide skirts.

This year's Divas Outdoors - featuring once agan Doris Day, Marilyn Monroe and some newcomers to the series (Betty Grable and Laren Bacall) is themed somewhat topically - each film is tied to the economy.

In the first, That Touch of Mink, Doris Day is job-hunting (as are so many of us now). In fact, the film opens on a scene set in an unemployment office - and things haven't changed too drastically since then.

The second film, How To Marry A Millionaire, features a trio of women (Bacall, Grable and Monroe) who are all broke and trying to land rich husbands. In between furniture repossessions, cocktail parties and unpaid grocery tabs, there's a fair amount of social commentary that rings true even today.

They're both ligh-hearted fun and absolutely gorgeous to look at - I hope you can join us.

Divas Outdoors

May 29th and June 12th

Hillwood Museum

4155 Linnean Ave.