Last Week, I gave some of the best and the worst of gay cinema. But there is another gay cinema: Movies meant for a mainstream audience that end up getting embraced by a loyal gay cult following instead. Most of these movies have no gay characters, writers, or actors yet they are considered part of queer culture for various reasons. So without further interruption, I present the Top Ten movies most embraced by the LGBT community.
1. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
I suppose this one was a no brainer. I mean, an actual term for gay people is even derived from this movie (“Friend of Dorothy”.) It’s no small coincidence that the modern gay civil rights movement, the Stonewall Riots, began on the eve of Judy Garland’s funeral. I mean, the queers were already in a bad place emotionally that day ’cause Dorothy died. All we needed was a little push to make us snap. And what gay kid didn’t dream of going Over the Rainbow, to a musical and colorful place where being strange and outlandish was the norm? Frankly I never understood why the hell Dorothy would even want to go back to Kansas, but that’s just me. And speaking of Over the Rainbow, the official stance is that the LGBT Rainbow Flag is supposed to symbolize diversity, but I think we all know where the true inspiration lies, don’t we?
2.Mommie Dearest (1981)
Joan Crawford was one of the biggest female stars of the 1930’s and 40’s, who took to adopting wayward orphans decades before Angelina did. She was also an alcoholic with borderline personality disorder, who often took out her rages on her adorable little children. After she died in the 70’s and left her daughter Christina with “not one cent” Christina got her revenge on her mother by writing a tell-all book about her and revealing what an insane bitch she was to the world. Eventually the book was made into what seemed like a fairly straightforward biopic, with A-List star Faye Dunaway in the title role. What no one expected was Faye totally transforming herself into Joan, so much that she was almost channeling her, and then going so over the top in her performance that the end resulty was just overt campiness. The movie is two hours of ridiculously campy “drama” with Faye Dunaway chewing the scenerey in every scene she’s in. Faye Dunaway would later disown this movie, and say it nearly killed her career. I call bullshit on that because she’s always worked in movies and tv ever since then. But If you are ever at a crowded party and want to know who is gay or not, just yell “No…Wire…Hangers….EVER!!!” And see who can’t help themselves but to quote that line. There’s your homo.
Paul Verhoeven is a really talented man, and directed many genre classics like Robocop and Total Recall. However, gay men and women the world over love him for one movie in particular: Showgirls. Widely panned as the worst movie of all time (I believe it still holds the record for the biggest amount of Razzies ever won by a single film), Showgirls was released into theaters in 1995, prouldy wearing its NC-17 label on its sleeve. MGM no doubt thought that they had their first NC-17 hit on their hands; young men would surely flock to see the bare titties and asses and lipstick lesbian innuendo. Except that by 1995, any red blooded American male could just watch some crappy VHS porn and not have to pay the price of theater admission to sit through Showgirls (also, at home they can masturbate…at least more comfortably.) Instead of horny straight teens, the audience who ended up embracing this movie was the exact opposite of the one for whom it was intended: The Gays. Every single moment in this movie is an exercise in poor taste and terrible screenwriting, and even worse acting, with the exception of Gina Gershon who is the only person who knows exactly what shitty movie she’s in, and plays it to the max. Although the movie is supposed to be all about women, there are no actual female characters in this movie, just female actresses doing some kind of weird drag impersonations of women as opportunistic whores and catty bitches. It’s this unintentionally campy sensibility that made the gays the only people to love this movie and call it their own. No matter how many times I’ve seen this movie (and I’ve seen it A LOT) I still shake my head in disbelief that at some point in time, some studio head decided it was a good idea to throw $50 million at this production. I heartily recommend you watch the most recent DVD of this flick, as the commentary track by Showgirls expert and uber fan David Schmader is worth a rental alone, as he hilariously dissects Showgirls scene for scene, frame for frame, and explains just why it’s the worst movie ever made…and yet, also maybe the best??
After the incredible success of Grease, Olivia Newton John probably thought she could do no wrong. And then she made Xanadu. In 1979, at the height of Disco Fever in America, it probably seemed like a good idea to make an old school Hollywood musical about a struggling young artist and an aging tap dancer who get inspired by an ancient greek muse on roller skates to open a Roller Disco called Xanadu. Actually, I take it back, I doubt that sounded like a good idea even back then. Sure, the acting and story in Xanadu are beyond lame, but the music from Electric Light Orchestra is great, and the incredible cheese factor in this movie make it so that gay audiences have enjoyed it heartily for nearly 30 years. I’ve often stated that when I die and go to Heaven (yeah, I know I’m supposed to go the other place), when I get there and those Pearly Gates open up, the first thing I wanna see upon my arrival is a re-enactment of the last 10 minute musical sequence of Xanadu, reenacted for my welcome. Because if that doesn’t happen, it might as well be Hell.
5.All About Eve (1950)
Unlike so many of the movies on this list, this is actually a great film and not “so bad it’s good”. Bette Davis (who shows up not once on this list but twice!) gives the performance of her career as an aging theater star who hires her devoted fan *cough*stalker*cough* to be her personal assistant. Of course her stalker does everything to become her and then tries to replace her. The script for this movie just sparkles, with one deliciously bitchy one liner following another at an incredible pace. They just don’t make ’em like this anymore, kids; and we all wish they did.
6.Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Yet another film about an aging starlet, also released in 1950, the same year as All About Eve. Also considered one of the greatest movies of all time, Sunset centers around a crazy reclusive older star going slowly insane in her old Hollywood Mansion, as desperate for a comeback as Lindsay Lohan is today. Another film with a woman more or less playing a drag queen, it’s no wonder so many of my peeps love this movie with a passion.
7.Valley of the Dolls (1967)
“Ted Casablanca is NOT a Fag! And I’m just the woman to prove it!” This line is delivered, sans irony, by actress Patty Duke in this big screen version of the national bestseller. Despite the casual homophobia thrown around in this movie, the only people who even know or still care about it today are gay people. Essentially, the rise-and-fall story of three seperate aspiring young starlets (Patty Duke, Barbara Parkins, and Sharon Tate) the movie has some very conservative overtones; If you run off to the big city to find fame and glamour, you’ll end up a drug addict bitch (as happens to Patty Duke’s character) or in a body bag being wheeled out of your Hollywood home (as happens to Sharon Tate’s character, in an eerie forshadowing of her brutal fate at the hands of the Charles Manson Family a mere two years later). Only Barbara Parkins survives, as she chooses to give up fame for the domestic life in Connecticut. This movie is sometimes unintentionally hilarious, and also sometimes just as dull. The best thing it spawned was its pseudo sequel Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Now that movie is never dull…maybe that should have made the list.
8.Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill! (1965)
Three Go Go Dancers drive across the desert causing a lot of murder and mayhem along the way. And that’s more or less the plot in a nutshell. Gay men love this one for the extreme camp dialouge, lesbians love it for the hot chicks in constant flirtation with each other. Everyone else should love it just because it’s awesome. Directed by king of the tittie movies Russ Meyer, who also went on to direct the sequel to Valley of the Dolls.
9.Mean Girls (2004)
One of the few contemporary movies on this list, Mean Girls is smart, witty, and even bitchy too. A lethal combo that so many of us can’t resist. Also, it’s nice to go back in time and see Lindsay Lohan before she was a crack ho. This flick actually does feature a gay character in a small role, so I’m kind of breaking my own rules by including it, but this one needed to be on here.
10.Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1964)
This is Bette Davis’ second spot on this list, as well as Joan Crawford’s if you count Mommie Dearest. Baby Jane is the story of former Child star Baby Jane Hudson, now washed up and old, and forced to care for her now wheelchair bound sister, who actually had much greater fame as a grown up star which Jane never could attain. Jane (Bette Davis) torutures Blanche throughout the movie in a variety of ways, all hilariously entertaining. Bette Davis and Joan Crawford really hated each other in real life, lending a delightfully bitchy edge to every thing they do and say in this movie. When Bette kicks Joan, well, you better believe that shit is real. And that just makes it so much more fun to watch.
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See you next Tuesday!