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Call it Planet of the 800-Pound Gorillas: Each summer the much-hyped major movie releases muscle into multiplexes and elbow out edgier fare--with barely a grunt to acknowledge gay and lesbian audiences. But beneath the planet of the 800-pound gorillas--and often under the radar of the mainstream media--there's a parallel universe that can be paradise for queer film fans, including the circuit of thriving gay and lesbian film festivals across the country (check out for the fest in your vicinity) and the many more-provocative films launched into theaters by smaller, braver distributors. Whether you're looking for the escapism of hunks in heat and women in love or the challenge of controversial concepts, summer 2001 offers something for everybody, and we've sorted out the best movies of gay and lesbian interest in this annual roundup. We've even tossed in a few of those big and glossy Hollywood movies that piqued our curiosity.


Big Eden

Jolly de Fete, June 1 (Los Angeles), July 6 (New York)

IN BRIEF You can go home again. When his grandfather (George Coe) suffers a stroke, openly gay New York artist Henry Hart (Arye Gross) heads back to his idyllic hometown in Montana.

INTRIGUING TWIST While Henry sorts out a long-standing crash on straight high school bud Dean (Tim DeKay), the whimsical townsfolk conspire to set him up with Pike (Eric Schweig), the shy Native American who runs the general store and cooks his way into Henry's heart.

SECRET INGREDIENT Audience appeal. Writer-director Thomas Bezucha's crowd-pleaser won the lavender trifecta, taking the award for audience favorite at last year's big gay and lesbian filmfests in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Lost and Delirious

Lions Gate, July 6 (New York, San Francisco), July 13 (L.A.), July 20 (elsewhere)

IN BRIEF At a posh boarding school, free spirit Piper Perabo (Coyote Ugly) falls in love with not-so-free Jessica Pare.

INTRIGUING TWIST The plot thickens when a third student, Mouse (Misha Barton), discovers their affair.

SECRET INGREDIENT Out Canadian director Lea Pool. With glowing festival write-ups for Lost--Roger Ebert praised "its sincerity and romanticism"--and a critically acclaimed coming-of-age film last year (Set Me Free), Pool has joined the ranks of other gay border-crossing successes Patricia Rozema (Mansfield Park) and Jeremy Podeswa (The Five Senses).

The Anniversary Party Fine Line, June 8 (New York, L.A.)

IN BRIEF A straight couple (Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh) celebrate their troubled marriage with an anniversary party, surrounded by a starry collection of pals including Kevin Kline, Phoebe Cares, Gwyneth Paltrow, Parker Posey, and out actor John Benjamin Hickey (Love! Valour! Compassion!).

INTRIGUING TWIST The ambisexual Cumming (Spy Kids) and Iris pal Leigh--both veterans of Broadway's revival of Cabaret--cowrote and codirected the project, which they shot on digital video.

SECRET INGREDIENT Matt McGrath (The Broken Hearts Club). It seems one of the husband's past affairs was an Oxford fling with a gay pal played by McGrath, who offers a bitter toast trod splits--just before the remaining guests partake in an ecstasy communion.

Kiss of the Spider Woman Strand, June 29

IN BRIEF The return of the long-unseen screen adaptation of Manuel thug's novel about two cell mates, the revolutionary Valentin (Raul Julia) and the homosexual film fan Molina (William Hurt), who forge a partnership trader fire.

INTRIGUING TWIST Considered a breakthrough when it was first released in 1985--though even then some objected to Hurt's flamboyantly queeny performance--it will be interesting to see whether or not Hector Babenco's film still plays.

SECRET INGREDIENT William Hurt, on high flame. He won a Best Actor Oscar for his efforts--but then, you knew that, right?

Adventures of Felix (Drole de Felix) Winstar, June (New York), July (nationally)

IN BRIEF Wandering the French countryside from Dieppe to Marseilles on a search for his father, Felix (Sami Bouajila), a young Frenchman of Arab extraction, assembles the makings of a new family.

INTRIGUING TWIST Felix, who's HIV-positive and healthy, makes taking an AIDS cocktail part of his dally ritual.

SECRET INGREDIENT Codirectors Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau. Themselves a gay couple, the collaborators create a loving relationship between Felix and Ids boyfriend, Daniel (Pierre-Loup Rajot), which expands to embrace many of the idiosyncratic characters Felix encounters.

Serendipity Miramax, August 17

IN BRIEF Ten years after a chance meeting--with both of them now engaged to others--John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale discover they may in fact be made for each other in a romantic comedy directed by Peter Chelsom (Town & Country).

INTRIGUING TWIST Saturday Night Live alum Molly Shannon wisecracks alongside Beckinsale as her blink-and-you-miss-it lesbian best friend.

SECRET INGREDIENT Kate Beckinsale. She may be flavor of the month for her starring role in Pearl Harbor, but we've had our eye on her since 1996, when gay director John Schlesinger cast her in the lead of his quirky charmer Cold Comfort Farm.

Come Undone

(Presque Rien) Picture This!, June 29 (New York), August 23 (San Francisco), August (L.A.)

IN BRIEF Eighteen-year-old Mathieu (Jeremie Elkaim) comes to terms with coming out--and let's face it, straight or gay, the French know how to tell a flank tale of sexual awakening without the prurience that keeps American teen movies in a perpetual state of arrested adolescence.

INTRIGUING TWIST Cowriter and director Sebastien Lifshitz's take on summer lovin' begins in midwinter, as a somber Mathieu revisits the beach where a vacation affair stirred his homosexuality and disturbed his middle-class world. His sexual encounters, depicted in languid flashbacks, simmer with sensuality.

SECRET INGREDIENT Stephane Rideau. Star of the justly acclaimed Wild Reeds, Rideau plays Cedric, the object of Mathieu's affections.

All Over the Guy

Lions Gate, August 3 (New York. San Francisco, L.A.), August 17 (nationally)

IN BRIEF Two straight folks (Adam Goldberg and Sasha Alexander) turn matchmakers for their gay male pals.

INTRIGUING TWIST The matchmaking works, as Eli (played by gay screenwriter-producer Dan Bucatinsky) pairs off with Tom (Richard Ruccolo of the ABC sitcom Two Guys and a Girl).

SECRET INGREDIENT Out filmmaker Don Roos. As executive producer, he watched over director Julie Davis and cajoled Christina Ricci and Lisa Kudrow to do cameos.


Bully Lions Gate, July 13 (New York. San Francisco. L.A.)

IN BRIEF Based on a true story, Bully recounts the bungled plot of a bunch of drug-addled South Florida youths who decide to murder the neighborhood bully. Larry Clark provides the gritty reality you'd expect; from the man who directed Kids.

INTRIGUING TWIST The screenplay includes the definite suggestion--also in Jim Schutze's nonfiction book, on which the film is based--that bully Bobby (Nick Staid) is motivated in part by ids repressed sexual attraction to the best friend (Brad Renfro) he regularly beats up.

SECRET INGREDIENT Gay porn. One of Bobby's hobbies is videotaping gay men having sex and showing the tapes to his horrified pals.

The Deep End Fox Searchlight, August 1

IN BRIEF When good moms turn bad. Determined to protect her gay s(m (Jonathan Tucker) from a predatory older man, a Nevada mother (Tilda Swinton) stumbles into an escalating nightmare of murder and cover-up as she matches wits with a hunky but threatening blackmailer (ER's Goran Visnjic).

INTRIGUING TWIST Max Ophuls told a similar stow in 1949's The Reckless Moment--only back then, Joan Bennett's mother was defending a daughter, not a gay son. By injecting a queer twist, codirectors Scott McGehee, who's gay, and David Siegel, who's straight, modernize the melodrama.

SECRET INGREDIENT Swinton. McGehee and Siegel wisely rest the emotional weight of the movie on the formidable Swinton (Edward II, Orlando), who's always a force to reckon with.

The Monkey's Mask Strand, July 27

IN BRIEF Amid the Sydney, Australia, poetry scene, Jill (Susie Porter), a lesbian private investigator, sets out to solve the mystery of a murdered student.

INTRIGUING TWIST Along the way, she stumbles into the arms of a bisexual poetry instructor, played by Kelly McGillis (Tom Cruise's Top Gun paramour).

SECRET INGREDIENT Hot sex. As directed by Samantha Lang, Porter and McGillis's frequent, steamy trysts threaten to upstage the investigation plotline.


The Closet (Le Placard) Miramax, June 29 (New York, L.A.)

IN BRIEF To avoid being fired from his jot) as an accountant at a French condom factory, a straight guy (Daniel Auteuil) pretends he's gay.

INTRIGUING TWIST Its cast is a who's who of French stars such as Gerard Depardieu; the movie was a huge box-office success in gay Paree.

SECRET INGREDIENT Writer-director Francis Veber. When it comes to gay yukfests, Frenchman Veber has had his hits, having written both of the funny La Cage aux Folles films. Of course, he also wrote the dreadful 1982 Ryan O'Neal-John Hurt feature, Partners. But for The Closet, we'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Vulgar Lions Gate, August 24

IN BRIEF If you ever thought clowns are creepy, wait till you meet Will Carlson (Brian O'Halloran), a jester down on his luck who dresses in drag to perform at bachelor parties.

INTRIGUING TWIST First he's abused by his mom, then raped at a gig by some of his audience, but he turns the tables on his tormentors. And this is a comedy?

SECRET INGREDIENT First-time director Bryan Johnson. He's a pal of iconoclastic director Kevin Smith.

Whatever Happened to Harold Smith?

USA Films, June 22

IN BRIEF Set in the late '70s, as disco gives way to punk, this British film, directed by Peter Hewitt, finds Vince (Michael Legge of Angela's Ashes) caught between his unspoken pash for a coworker (Laura Fraser) and his interest in the club scene.

INTRIGUING TWIST Out actor Stephen Fry (Wilde) plays a dad who strips to the buff by way of illustrating a sex-ed lecture he's giving his daughter--huh?

SECRET INGREDIENT Charlie Hunnam. Young Nathan from the British Queer as Folk pops up as a young punk.

Together IFC Films, August 24 (New York, L.A.)

IN BRIEF In a Scandinavian commune circa 1975, it's the age of Aquarius, Swedishstyle, set to an ABBA soundtrack.

INTRIGUING TWIST Amid the tangle of a small circle of friends is the gay Klas (Shanti Roney), who has the hots for med student Lasse (Ola Norell), whose ex-wife (Jessica Liedberg) has decided she's a lesbian.

SECRET INGREDIENT Director Lukas Moodysson. His charming filet-love first feature, Show Me Love, played like The Real World meets Desert Hearts, set in a Swedish high school.

Legally Blonde MGM, July 13

IN BRIEF In tone, director Robert, Luketic's first feature is Clueless Goes to College, as ditzy blond Reese Witherspoon enrolls at Harvard Law in pursuit of an old boyfriend.

INTRIGUING TWIST Meredith Scott Lynn (who played best pal Georgiana in Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss) lends support as a lesbian law student.

SECRET INGREDIENT The pool boy. We hear Greg Serano plays a chlorine-scented hunk whose sexual identity is key to a dramatic Perry Mason moment in the movie's climactic court case.


Moulin Rouge Fox, May 18 (New York, L.A.), June 1 (nationally)

IN BRIEF Nicole Kidman takes center stage as Satine [see page 58], a chanteuse at the fabled late-19th-century Parisian nightclub, where she bewitches Ewan McGregor's poet, Christian.

INTRIGUING TWIST Director Baz Luhrmann (Romeo + Juliet) knows how to razzle-dazzle 'em, and here he's tossed out period music in favor of late-20th-century pop ditties: At one point, Christina Aguilera, Pink, Mya, and Lil' Kim join forces for the classic "Lady Marmalade."

SECRET INGREDIENT Rufus Wainwright. The out troubadour also contributed to the soundtrack.


Lions Gate, June 15 (New York, L.A.), June 29 (elsewhere)

IN BRIEF Janet McTeer (Tumbleweeds) stars as Dr. Lily Penleric, an early-20th-century musicologist exploring the indigenous tunes of Appalachia.

INTRIGUING TWIST Lily stumbles into a matriarchal society, where women rule and her sister (Jane Adams of Happiness) teaches school alongside her female lover (E. Katherine Kerr).

SECRET INGREDIENT The mountain music. Derived from ancient Scots-Irish ballads, it's as pure as the country air.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch Fine Line, July 20

IN BRIEF In this hellzapoppin' film adaptation of his hard-rocking off-Broadway hit, John Cameron Mitchell rifles as German-born Kansas trailer-park divorcee and singer Hedwig, survivor of a botched sex-change operation and several ill-fated affairs.

INTRIGUING TWIST Not content to simply film the stage play about Hedwig's search for love, the out Mitchell--who wrote the screenplay and also directed--reimagined the piece, mixing in flashbacks, bringing to life previously unseen characters, and even adding animation.

SECRET INGREDIENT Mitchell and his collaborator, songwriter and musician Stephen Trask. Mitchell earned the Best Director's trophy at this year's Sundance Film Fest, while Trask's songs have audiences singing along.


Jurassic Park III Universal, July 18

IN BRIEF Directed by Joe Johnston, it's a return to Jurassic Park, where those nasty dinos just keep evolving.

INTRIGUING TWIST Out actor Michael Jeter joins the cast--including the original's Sam Neill and Laura Dern--as Udesky, a man whose secret agenda only compounds the dangers. Let's hope he doesn't get eaten--too soon.

SECRET INGREDIENT Prehistoric beasts: "Start Winston's models were pretty scary--I wouldn't want to be dinner for one of them," jokes Jeter. "We all had a lot of fun, running around Hawaii, screaming like, little kicks. It was a hoot."

Planet of the Apes Fox, July 27

IN BRIEF Moody fantasist Tim Burton has taken the 1968 sci-fi classic and reimagined it with Mark Wahlberg as the wayward astronaut forced to play Survivor on a simian spaceball.

INTRIGUING TWIST It's sci-fi, yes, but French novelist Pierre Boulle's allegory about civil rights, tolerance, and diversity should still shine through.

SECRET INGREDIENT Wahlberg. Sadly, the former Marky Mark won't be slipping into Charlton Heston's tatty old loincloth. OK, we can live with that--as long as he avoids Heston's arch acting style as well.

Tomb Raider Paramount, June 15

IN BRIEF Video game adventuress Lara Croft comes to life in the person of warrior Angelina Jolie, who's out to find the time-traveling Clock of Ages and save the universe in the process, in director Simon West's hyperactive adventure.

INTRIGUING TWIST Appearing in flashbacks as Lara's dad is Jolie's real-life father, Jon Voight--having galloped a long way from Iris own breakthrough performance as a hustler in 1969's Midnight Cowboy.

SECRET INGREDIENT Jolie. Ever since playing a (loomed bisexual model in her breakthrough drama, Gia, Jolie has attained lesbian icon status. Croft's skintight black outfits can only help.

Original Sin MGM, August 3

IN BRIEF Based on the Cornell Woolrich novel Waltz Into Darkness (also the source for Francois Trufffaut's Mississippi Mearmaid), Sin stars Antonio Banderas, who asks for trouble when he imports a dangerous bride, Angelina Jolie.

INTRIGUING TWIST There's a lip lock promised between Banderas and costar Thomas Jane (HBO's 61*).

SECRET INGREDIENT Gay director Michael Cristofer. He expertly guided Jolie through the HBO drama Gia.

Guy talk: Bucatinsky and Ruccolo begin a gay affair.

American Pie 2 Universal, August 10

IN BRIEF Their first year of college behind them, all of the original cast--still as horny as ever--reunite at a Lake Michigan house.

INTRIGUING TWIST Hmm, could those two sexy ladies living next door--Denise Faye and Lisa Arturo--be lesbians? Director J.B. Rogers cues the adolescent jokes.

SECRET INGREDIENT We're be anxious to see whether Hannigan's bossy flutist has learned any new tricks, after a full season of playing gay on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Kilday also contributes to Variety and Premiere magazine.

Find links to Web sites related to many of these summer movie releases at
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:movies with gay themes
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Movie Review
Date:Jun 5, 2001

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