By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
By Claire Lawton
By Kiernan Maletsky
By Anna Merlan
If a theme runs through much of the fare of Outtakes 2000--and given the assortment offered here, identifying that is a tricky bit of business--it can be summed up in a word that's anathema to a generation of gay radicals: integration. For some people, this translates into "let's show the heteros how normal we are." And yes, this is a silly, even dishonest endeavor. I have always been of the opinion that we should set about showing the heteros they're just as fucked up as we are--just as frightened, foolish, vain, lovesick, desperate for security but craving variety. But to do that, we have to crash the institutional parties--the Holocaust Museum, the church, the recording studio, the school board, the history class--and compare stories. That means no more hiding in hermetically sealed gay ghettos. Hopefully, even the staunch separatists, on principle, will help further this cause in the name of a wider range of choices for us all, so that gay babies can grow up to be sequin-flashing drag queens or pulpit-pounding ministers. Hell, let's fuse them and forge a new career path.
What follow are reviews of seven highlights at Outtakes 2000. Grab a schedule and avail yourself of the festival's numerous other selections.
Righteous Babes The topics of commercialized feminism and pop music are seriously underserved by director Pratihba Parmar's 50-minute documentary about the rise of female musicians in the '90s. Pratihba throws the word "feminism" around without ever acknowledging the near-endless variety of permutations it can take. There's much distance between, say, Gloria Steinem and Camille Paglia, Courtney Love and Madonna, all of whom are interviewed or profiled in this piece without a clear sense of where they stand on the spectrum. Indeed, certain commentators are assigned to discuss particular women-artists without acknowledgment that they've dissed others in the same documentary--Steinem has criticized Madonna in the past but is not asked to assess this documentary's near-unanimous assessment that she is a genius (nor is Andrea Dworkin, a veteran anti-porn crusader who drops in to comment on women's bodies' being peddled like roast beef but is not consulted on what she thinks of the Madonna video prominently featured in this production, "Open Your Heart," where the singer cavorts in a peepshow). If The Material Girl does possess divine inspiration, it's applied to the job of commodifying herself in an ever-changing market--yet the Spice Girls are only half-facetiously referred to as "the apocalypse," and for what? Commodifying feminism. Apparently, their sin is that they aren't even half as good at a sales pitch as Madonna is. Interviews with Ani DiFranco, Chrissie Hynde, Tori Amos, Sinead O'Connor, and Garbage's Shirley Manson are seemingly edited to root out thoughtfulness--the producers cut away before these women get a chance to say anything meaningful. The peculiar exception is Tori Amos, an artist known for full-moon-crazy, rambling interviews. Snippets of her haunting, harrowing song about being raped, "Me and a Gun," are delivered a cappella. With uncharacteristic directness, Amos seems to be dismissing the filmmakers when she says she's suspicious of women who "bitch about hanging on to feminism." That, she claims, is "stale pussy, man." Don't spend all your time talking about it, she says: "Be it." Sing it, sister. (Nov. 11, 3:30 p.m.)
The Broken Hearts Club "If you boys weren't gay, I don't know what you'd have to talk about," says John Mahoney, who plays a West Hollywood restaurateur whose gay men's amateur softball club--the young waiters and chefs and busboys who work for him--provides the title of writer-director Greg Berlanti's debut feature. Filled with snappy dialogue ("dumb, gorgeous people should not be allowed to use literary references in their pickup lines; it's deceiving, like bald people wearing hats") and some subtly observant performances, The Broken Hearts Club, which makes its Texas premiere at Outtakes, will likely become a different kind of film when viewed by a full house than what Berlanti may have intended. When you peer through the comedy, his film is a sometimes discomfiting critique of the gay urban ghetto and how guys who proudly trumpet their "out" status huddle under it for protection, sometimes using it as an excuse not to evolve romantically, professionally, and emotionally. We are privy to the plights and frustrations of a cast of very familiar types--The Beautiful, Straight-Acting Guy Everybody Wants To Be (Dean Cain, in the film's weakest delivery); The Guy Who Always Worries That He's Not Cute Enough (Ben Weber); and The "Newby," or Guy Who's On the Verge of Coming Out (Andrew Keegan), among others. The film's most startling performance comes from Timothy Olyphant, who admitted while doing press for this film that he punched the last guy who came on to him. As idiotically paranoid as he may be offscreen, he expertly pulls off a less-discussed gay stock character--The Guy Who's Always Calling People On Their Shit. An abrasive Olyphant spends much of the film lecturing, confronting, and cutting people off, and he has perfected that tone of fey self-righteousness and defensive confidence to a level that goes so deep into the skin it's almost genetic. Despite some creaky plot contrivances so The Club can come together to share crisis moments and a building sense of impatience at the 90 minutes devoted to such narrowly defined lives, The Broken Hearts Club is worth it for Olyphant's eerie authenticity and one-liners that may be repeated at parties for years to come. (Nov. 3, 8:30 p.m.)
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