Midday Movies: Pride viewing recommendations
S1: You're listening to Kpbs Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. June is Pride month , so our midday movies critics have decided to start the month off with a selection of LGBTQ films to watch. So joining me once again is Kpbs cinema junkie Beth Accomando. Hello , Beth. Hello. And movie wallows , critic and podcaster Yazdi , Puebla and Yazdi. Welcome.
S2: Thank you , Maureen. Happy to be here.
S1: You each have brought three titles to share. But. Yazdi apparently it was a difficult task to narrow it down to just three.
S2: It was , I mentioned to bet that no problem , I can come up with three movies. And then I started making a list and soon my list was ten films and then 15 and then 20. And the more I thought about it , the worst it got.
S1: Well , you know , it is true because it didn't all start with Brokeback Mountain. There is actually a huge catalog of LGBTQ films to choose from , including the landmark films like Boys in the Band , long time companion , Parting Glances. Those are the films that paved the way for more recent films such as Carol and Moonlight and for a consideration of LGBTQ images on film. There is the fabulous documentary. I love this movie , The Celluloid Closet. It finds gay subtexts and not so subjects and films from very early Hollywood. So but today we have our critic's picks for those few films worth checking out for Pride.
S3: I had an equally hard time , but for pride. There was one very simple film that I had to go to. I was looking for films that had kind of a certain celebratory quality rather than ones that dealt with struggles or serious social issues. So for me , I can't think of a better place to start than with John Waters , Divine and Pink Flamingos from 1972.
S1: Of course.
S3: This is like a cocktail Molotov thrown into the culture war that was coming out of the 1960s. I love this film so much. Here's a classic scene with Divine , who brags about being the filthiest person alive.
S4: Give me more questions. Divine. Are you a lesbian ? Yes. I have done everything this blood turn you on. It does more than turn me on , Mr. Vader. It makes me. And more than the side of it. I love the taste of it. The taste of hot , freshly killed blood. Could you give us some of your political beliefs ? Kill everyone now , Condone first degree murder , advocate cannibalism , eat filth are my politics. Filth is my life. Take whatever you like.
S3: So I can't do a pride list without Divine Plus. For me , this film and John Waters represent what I consider queer filmmaking or a queer sensibility , which I see is different from films that have more of what I would say is a gay sensibility. And the difference for me is that a queer sensibility is not just about showing LGBTQ people , but about directly challenging the status quo , both in terms of the content and importantly to is the style of filmmaking. So there's something more subversive and provocative. I think about films that John Waters does , as well as films like By Fassbender , Gregg Araki , Todd Haynes and Terrence Davies. So this is the best place I think you can start celebrating Pride.
S2: And I wanted to go with smaller movies which need more championing. And the first film that I wanted to pick was the movie A Single Man. And I like this movie because when most LGBTQ films are about two people meeting and connecting , this one asks What happens after ? This is Tom Ford's directorial debut , and hence it's no surprise that it's impossibly stylish. But the movie is also aching and wistful. And Colin Firth , in an Academy Award nominated role , plays an English professor recovering from the death of his partner. It's been a year and as he's overcome with crippling grief , he turns to the people in the orbit of his life in Los Angeles and starts questioning his decisions. It's just a very beautiful , smart , wise film , and I really love it. And here is a clip from A Single Man , and it's a clip where we get to know the Colin Firth character. Here he is in class talking about minority representation.
S5: Minority is only thought of as one when it constitutes some kind of threat to the majority , a real threat or an imagined one. And therein lies the fear. If that minority is somehow invisible and the fear is much greater , that fear is why the minority is persecuted. And so you see , there always is. Of course , the cause is fear. Minorities are just people.
S6: People like us. I can see I've lost you a bit.
S5: I'll tell you what. I'm going to forget about Mr. Huxley today. And we're going to talk about fear. Fear , after all , is our real enemy. Fear is taking over our world. Fear is being used as a tool of manipulation in our society. It's our politicians peddle policy. It's how Madison Avenue sells us. Things you don't need. Think about it. If ever being attacked , the fear that there are communists lurking around every corner. The fear that some little Caribbean country that doesn't believe in our way of life poses a threat to us. The fear that black culture may take over the world , the fear of Elvis Presley's hips. Actually , maybe that one is a real fear.
S1: So that's a single man. And as you said , Colin Firth won an Oscar nomination for that role. It's a movie I haven't seen , but you make me want to see it , Yazdi.
S2: Oh , it's definitely worth checking out.
S1: Beth for your next pic. You have a film that was probably kind of under the Academy radar or the mainstream radar entirely , and that is the Watermelon Woman.
S3: Yes , I really love this film. It's a wildly inventive and provocative film from Cheryl. Danielle and I almost picked Wong Kar Wai's happy together , but that film is anything but happy. So I also wanted to include a woman's perspective. So I went with this The Watermelon Woman and just the title alone kind of pushes buttons in how it reminds us of racial stereotypes. So back in 1996 , Danielle was the first black lesbian filmmaker to direct and release a feature film , and she was part of what was considered the new queer cinema movement of the 1990s. And this was her debut feature. So she has a really distinctive narrative style that blurs the line between reality and fiction. And in this film , she addresses the camera and she places herself in the narrative. And here's a scene where she plays her own alter ego and explains her fascination with a black actress she discovers in an old film she finds on VHS.
S7: Her name the Watermelon Woman. That's right. Watermelon woman is watermelon. Woman. Her first name. Her last name , or is it her whole name ? I don't know. But girlfriend has it going on and I think I've figured out what my project is going to be on. I'm going to make a movie about her. I'm going to find out what her real name is , who she was , and is everything I can find out about her because something in her face , something in the way she looks and moves is is serious , is interesting. And I'm going to just tell you all about it.
S3: And I just love this film and really think it deserves to be seen by more people.
S1: You're listening to the June Pride edition of Midday Movies on Midday Edition with film critic Beth Accomando and Yazdi Yazdi. Your next pick takes us to a foreign country. We're going to Brazil.
S2: And Maureen , we love the films We do , sometimes irrationally so. And this is that film for me. In my mind , this movie does everything right. It was Brazil's 2014 submission for best foreign film for the Oscars , and it tells the story of a blind teenage boy , Leo , who sees the world through the eyes of his best friend since childhood. Giovanna. You can tell how she feels about him just by looking at her face. Enter the amiable new student at school. Gabriel and Leo and Giovanna's friendship will need to be restructured. How many times in life has our relationship with somebody changed by the necessary introduction of a third person into that construct ? So this simple triangle of characters makes for the most honest coming of age films that I've ever seen. This movie is a warm , aching hug of a film. I would really recommend that everybody seek this out. It's just a few dollars available for streaming on Amazon and Apple Plus and so forth. Definitely worth checking out for Pride.
S1: It's called The Way He Looks. You make it sound remarkable. Yazdi And you have another foreign film. Well , kind of foreign. It's from England. Tell us about. It.
S8: It. Yes.
S2: My last pick is the movie My Beautiful Laundrette. This movie is a little rough around the edges , but I remember from a historical perspective that when this first film came out in 1985 , it was talked about in hushed tones for its very honest depiction of homosexuality. It treats its central two characters as being gay and makes no big deal about it , which was so foreign at that particular time In the early 80s. The movie stars the very young Daniel Day-Lewis as the punk bad boy who makes a Pakistani immigrant kid in London question his place in his own family in the world. It speaks to racism , doing what you want versus what the world asks of you and just finding your identity. And yours is a scene from the film where Daniel Day-Lewis friends confront him for kind of having lost his way and working for Pakistanis who are clearly a minority in Britain at that time. So the movie really very upfront deals with issues of minority representation and assimilation. Sleep it. Out.
S9: Out. Why are you working for these people ? Pack.
S9: I don't like to see one of our blokes groveling to Pakis. Look , they came over here to work for us. That's why we brought them over. Okay ? Don't cut yourself off from your own people. There's no one else who really wants you. Everyone has to belong.
S2: This movie may not hold up very well by current standards , but for what it was able to do at that time in movie history , it's pretty remarkable.
S1: My Beautiful Laundrette. It's a brilliant film , but it's a little grittier than Beth's final pic. Tell us about it , Beth.
S3: Yes , I wanted to go out with something that just feels like a celebration. And Priscilla , Queen of the Desert just brings me joy every time I watch it. It does not ignore harsh realities , but it concludes with a sense of inclusion and triumph that just feels great. And Terence Stamp's performance as an aging drag queen and transgender woman is worth the price of admission alone. I wish I could play the clip of my favorite line of Bernadette's , but I think it violates a bunch of FCC standards. So I will go with something that's a little more serious from Bernadette. It's funny.
S5: We all sit around.
S11: Mindlessly off that vile stink hole of a city , but its own strange way takes care of us. I don't know if that ugly wall of suburbia has been put there to stop them getting in or us getting out. Come on. Don't let it drag you down. Let it toughen you up. I can only fight because I've learned to being a man one day and a woman the next is an easy thing to do.
S3: And I know that we're now at a place where we want to see more trans people playing trans roles. But I think Stamp's performance is really exceptional and it reflects where we've come from and where we still need to go in terms of screen representation. And I just find Priscilla , Queen of the Desert , such a wonderful , delightful film.
S1: Well , I want to thank you both for sharing some of your favorite LGBTQ films with us. And to alleviate any lasting Yazdi guilt about picking only three films , you can find his and Beth's ten best list of films. Probably not enough even for your host for Pride at Kpbs Mortgage Cinema Junkie and Yazdi and Beth , thank you so much.
S3: Thank you.
S2: Thank you , Maureen.
June is Pride Month so here are some LGBTQ+ films to watch.
There is a huge catalog of LGBTQ+ films to choose from including landmark films that younger audiences may not recall. I am not sure how many people remember the stir "Tea and Sympathy" caused in 1956 with its heavily coded depiction of homosexuality. Or how films such as "Boys in the Band," "Longtime Companion" and "Parting Glances" felt like breakthroughs when they opened. There are other mainstream Hollywood films such as "Making Love" and "Personal Best" that tackled gay themes in sincere but ultimately awkward ways as the industry tried to be more inclusive.
Some of these films feel dated and stereotyped even as they tried to present and support more diverse perspectives. But they were important in how they that helped pave the way to more recent films such as "Brokeback Mountain," "Carol" and "Moonlight."
For a consideration of LGBTQ+ images throughout film history and dating back to even the silent era, there is the exceptional documentary and book "The Celluloid Closet."
But for today, Moviewallas' Yazdi Pithavala and I have limited ourselves (with great agony) to just a list of 10 films you can seek out this Pride Month. These are not comprehensive lists by any means — we had many more titles and painfully cut them down to 10. Three of which we'll each list here, with the full list below.
Cinema Junkie's top three
I wanted to go with films that had a certain celebratory quality rather than ones that dealt with struggles or serious social themes so I cannot think of a better place to start than with John Waters, Divine and "Pink Flamingos" from 1972. This was like a Molotov cocktail thrown into the lap of the culture war emerging out of the 1960s. Waters presents Divine as "the filthiest person alive" and the film infamously had Divine eating dog poop.
I cannot conceive of a Pride list without Divine. Plus this film and Waters represent what I consider queer filmmaking or a queer sensibility, which is different from films that I see as having a gay sensibility. The difference to me is that a queer sensibility is not just about showing us LGBTQ+ people, but about directly challenging the status quo both in terms of content and style. There is something more subversive and provocative. Filmmakers like Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Greg Araki, Todd Haynes, Pedro Almodóvar and Terence Davies display a queer sensibility.
Just the title "The Watermelon Woman" pushes buttons with how it reminds us of racial stereotypes, and that was deliberate on the part of filmmaker Cheryl Dunye. In 1996, Dunye was the first Black lesbian filmmaker to direct and release a feature. She was part of the New Queer Cinema movement of the 1990s and "The Watermelon Woman" was her debut feature. She has a distinctive narrative style that blurs the line between reality and fiction by having her directly address the camera and placing herself within the narrative. She plays an alter ego of herself and is a filmmaker in search of a story, which she finds when she stumbles across a Black actress from the early days of cinema known only as "the Watermelon Woman." So Dunye's film is a journey to discover who that actress was and an exploration of Black images on film as well as a story of a Black lesbian navigating her own way through romance. This is a gem that more people need to see.
And at number three is a film that never fails to bring me joy, "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert." It does not ignore harsh realities for people who refuse to step inline with society's so-called norms but it concludes with a sense of inclusion and audacious triumph. Plus Terence Stamp’s performance as an aging drag queen and transgender woman is worth the price of admission alone. I know we are now at a place where we want to see trans people playing trans roles but Stamp's performance is brilliant and reflects where movies have come from and how far we still need to go.
Yazdi's top three
At number one Pithavala picks Tom Ford's "A Single Man," which he said, "When most LGBTQ+ films are about two people meeting and connecting, this one asks what happens after. It is Ford’s directorial debut and hence it's no surprise that it's impossibly stylish, but also aching and wistful. Colin Firth plays an English professor recovering from the death of his young partner."
At number two is "The Way He Looks," which Pithavala confessed, "We love the films we do, sometimes irrationally so this is that film for me. It does everything right. It was Brazil’s 2014 submission for Best Foreign Film and tells the story of a blind teenage boy Leo who sees the world through the eyes of his best friend since childhood, Giovanna. You can tell how she feels about him just by looking at her face. Enter the amiable new student at school, Gabriel, and Leo and Giovanna’s friendship will need to be restructured. This film is a warm, aching hug."
And at number three, "My Beautiful Laundrette," which Pithavala recalled, "When this film first came out in 1985, it was talked about in hushed tones for its honest depiction of homosexuality. It starred a very young Daniel Day Lewis as the punk bad boy who makes a Pakistani immigrant kid in London question his place in family, society, and world. It speaks to racism, doing what you want versus what the world asks of you, and just finding your identity."
Cinema Junkie's 10 Celebratory Films to Watch During Pride
"Pink Flamingos" (honestly, anything with Divine!)
"The Watermelon Woman"
"Priscilla, Queen of the Desert"
"All About My Mother" (again, can't go wrong with Almodovar)
"La Cage Aux Folles"
"The Rocky Horror Picture Show"
"But I'm A Cheerleader"
Yazdi Pithavala's 10 films to watch for Pride
"A Single Man"
"The Way He Looks"
"My Beautiful Laundrette"
"All About My Mother"
"God’s Own Country"
"I Killed My Mother"
"Margarita, With A Straw"
"Portrait of a Lady On Fire"
"The Half of It"
"The Wedding Banquet"