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Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Toby Ashraf, Judith Dry, Peter Knegt, Matthew Hammett Knott, Sophie Smith and Erin Whitney
December 19, 2013 12:11 PM
29 Comments
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Que(e)ries: 10 Lowlights For LGBT People and the Movies in 2013

Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster’s "coming out speech"
Note the scare quotes. The Golden Globes took a turn for the unexpected when Jodie Foster decided to use her acceptance of the Cecil B. DeMille award to allude to her sexuality for the first time in public. I am not here to criticize the content of her speech, nor her decision to make it. I am glad for anyone whom it inspired or enlightened. And yet, in every word and gesture, Foster made it clear that this was not an “announcement” she ever wanted to make. “I already did my coming out about 1,000 years ago” she explained, “gradually and proudly to everyone [I] actually met”. At best a reconciliation, at worst an admission of defeat, it came after decades of the actress contending with a media that required her to define her sexuality in a way that did not suit or appeal to her. This is not about feeling sorry for Jodie Foster, the Oscar-winning multi-millionaire. But if this is how our culture captures and displays its “positive gay role models”, I think I’m good with Alexander the Great. [Matthew Hammett Knott]

The Lesbian Whitewashing of "Saving Mr Banks"
I can’t be the only person who would have happily replaced one of those interminable flashback scenes of drunk n’ crazy Colin Farrell with a moody sequence concerning, say, P. L. Travers’ torrid affair with the American Jessie Orage. There are those who would say the fact that the Mary Poppins author had significant relationships with women throughout her life is entirely irrelevant to the story of Disney’s fraught adaptation of her most famous novel. And yet the entire narrative of "Saving Mr Banks" was supposedly concerned with "Disneyfication" - that is, the bland homogenization of a spiky personal narrative to prepare it for commercial consumption. There are numerous compelling ways that Travers’ unorthodox sexuality could have been used to illustrate just what made her so uncomfortable with handing over her personal history to this hideously heteronormative storytelling machine. But I’m not sure what I expected from the studio whose idea of overtly gay characters are Timon and Pumba. [Matthew Hammett Knott]

"Passion"

"Passion"
Just when you thought Vito Russo’s "Celluloid Closet" might be nothing but a historical document, here comes Brian de Palma’s train wreck of a film called "Passion," which yet again features a powerful seducer whose sexuality is linked to her inevitable punishment. Apart from the usual sexism (women fight each other over men and power), de Palma pulls another ugly rabbit out his cliché hat, namely the lesbian side kick Dani, played by German actress Karoline Herfurth. Her open lesbian identity can be used to blackmail her (sexual assault), laugh at her (she is in love with her boss and makes a pass) and must be punished eventually. Her motivation - jealousy, unrequited love and revenge logically lead to her death. The only upside of this: hardly anyone has seen the film... [Toby Ashraf]

The Sex Scenes in "Blue Is the Warmest Color"
Watching Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and Emma (Léa Seydoux) voraciously lust after one another in "Blue Is The Warmest Color," I felt more of a voyeur than an empathizer -- I didn’t see myself, or any sense of a woman, in them. They didn’t look at each other during sex, they didn’t talk or whisper or giggle (it was Adèle’s first time, why wasn’t she nervous?). Most importantly, they hardly even kissed during the first nearly-15-minute sex scene, and if you’re as passionate and lustful as those two you’d definitely be kissing. None of their sex scenes (except maybe the last when they finally interact as a couple) felt like two women making love, but more so like two heterosexual women acting out a male’s aestheticized lesbian fantasy. Their sex, which should more accurately be called endless-ass-slapping-sessions, doesn’t play as something performed for a queer audience, by a queer audience, or to depict queer people. Just as Joachim, the gallery owner in the film, says that men’s ecstasy is shown via women in art, the sex scenes in “Blue” are merely Abdellatif Kechiche’s ecstasy shown through his actresses. “Men try desperately to depict it,” Joachim says of mystery of the female orgasm. Sorry Kechiche, but even after nearly 20 minutes of sex scenes, you didn’t quite hit the mark. [Erin Whitney, who had nice things to say about the film too]

29 Comments

  • Katy | December 23, 2013 2:40 PMReply

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  • FALLON | December 22, 2013 8:46 PMReply

    I thought they were both (leto and mm) just over the top with everything, which was probably the flaw of direction more than anything else. On the other movies, I didn't have a problem with the sex scenes in Blue at all, except for when Adele started staring back at Lea while she was on her hands and knees and the reverse cowboy scissor stuff which felt porny. It was Adele's performance which felt overwrought to me. It never let up and after a while I was like "stop crying." And the Angela Robinson thing is barely news, but great for you to bring up. Almodovar and Concussion have a B+ on indiewire, so I can't believe these are "low lights" (these lists have to go - they are so self hating - I mean there are only like a few dozen gay films anyway.) And then the only other one I saw was Saving Mr. Banks, and I don't know where they would have even talked about her sexuality. The film was clearly about a traumatic event in her life when she was little and how it effected her writing. And how hard it is to let go of that vision. I thought it was so poignant, and not a biopic so much as a kind of a film about intellectual property and making personal work and what happens when that work is on being combed through and how personally exposing it is. To point out that she was gay would have been sort of tokeny and incidental, so I could go either way on that, but hardly a LOW POINT.

  • Sophie Smith | December 23, 2013 5:11 AM

    It clearly says at the beginning of the article that these are a set of subjective opinions! It even *highlights* the fact that some of these films have had good reviews (from Indiewire and elsewhere). Yes, Indiewire did give "Concussion" a B+ -- does that mean I should fall in line with a critical opinion with which I disagree? Part of the reason I wrote as I did is that everyone is falling over themselves to laud a film I found flawed (for the reasons I explained). Perhaps I should have made clearer just how depressing I find it that the so-called "future of lesbian cinema" is a well-shot but ultimately navel-gazing reflection on the tedium of being rich and white which exploits sex work for its narrative device whilst taking cheap shots at sex workers. It was made all the more disappointing because there was plenty in the film that made clear Passon is capable of far more nuance than she eventually went for. And to suggest that LBGT films should be immune from criticism simply because there are so few of them is patronising codswallop!

  • Catie | December 22, 2013 7:01 PMReply

    Disagree! Gay people are as flawed as straight! Jared Leto played a terribly flawed character brilliantly!

  • JoshK | December 22, 2013 5:15 AMReply

    @Toby Ashraf- the point is that you can't talk about Rayon without taking into account Jared's performance. You can't ignore this nuanced and respectuful portrayal that elevates the character beyond caricature and limit your view on *what could have been* if a lesser actor took the part and didn't manage to work around the sometime faulty script and labeled it as a lowlight of the queer representation.

    She's just a secondary character? Yeah, and I don't see it as a problem since this is Ron's story (like it or not). Her arc is clichey, yeah ..maybe... but so it's fundamentally Ron's. Is it necessarly a bad thing? I don't think so. Not when it still somehow realistic and works so well it left people speechless and in tears and successfully communicate its message. Rayon success with the large majority of the audience isn't a reaction to a straight male playing beautifully a trans or straight people taking pity on the poor victimized queer character - but a reaction to a powerful story and a wonderful portrayal of universal human emotions. Seeing Rayon's flaws just as the umpteenth attempt to portray a lgbt character as weak it's a limited, superficial and cynical view.

    Peter Knegt completely missed the opportunity to regard what is one step forward in Hollywood representation of this kind of characters and use it for the cause.

  • SABINA | December 21, 2013 4:19 PMReply

    An absolutely atrocious article! These 'lowlights' are far-fetched and mostly have nothing in common with mentioned movies/events/personalities. The worst of them all is the part about Saving Mr. Banks. Without any exaggerations, it's probably the most insane s**t I've read this month (pardon my French). The author of this passage didn't understand that this movie about making the Mary Poppins film and it's not a Travers biopic. Her bisexuality doesn't fit into the plot at all. Then, he put homogenization, heteronormativity and his personal (cooked-up) issues with Disney which are completely not connected with the movie itself. P.S. Somebody needs to explain him that Disney company is not obligated to include LGBT characters in their films.

  • MHK | December 22, 2013 5:51 AM

    Pardon your french? Any time. Pardon your reading skills? F*uck no!

    I wasn't asking for a lesbian subplot. A film doesn't have to be *about* someone's sexual orientation in order for it to figure in the narrative. Unless we're talking homosexuality in Hollywood, where it's required to be a theme or an issue, as opposed to part of the texture of a life.

  • SIE C. | December 21, 2013 11:50 AMReply

    Erin's comments lack in much validity when it comes to Blue is the Warmest Color. First she wildly exaggerates the length of the 1st sex scene (outside Adele's dream). She states it is 15 minutes. It is around 7 minutes. Second she says they don't kiss. Actually they repeatedly kiss during those 7 minutes. Not just on the lips, which occurs several times, but on the body. This may also be shocking to Erin but not all lesbians (or all women for that matter) feel the need to talk or giggle or whisper. The first time for many women having sex is about desire being played out. Of course the first sex scene between the two women plays out differently than the last. The first is about physical desire being fulfilled and the last one is about two people who have ended up falling in love expressing they are in love with each other. Simply put, they are similar to most couples who have wild, animalistic sex the first time.

    As for nerves, Adele had slept with someone before. It may have been a man but not every lesbian or bisexual woman has some nervous streak. This notion that she is supposed to feel nervous about her first time with a woman is ridiculous. That is the problem with much of the criticism of the sex scenes. It is people complaining that the sex was not like their sex while discounting the many people who go it reminded me of my sex life. It is people exaggerating the length of scenes. It is people making up nonsense such as Kechiche films it differently which does not hold up under scrutiny. Note to Erin - everyone is different especially when it comes to sex. And for God's sakes, spare the male fantasy crap. It marginalizes and it is a cheap attempt to get validation by calling out the director for their gender.

  • hdbfly | December 21, 2013 8:48 AMReply

    The thing about the sex scenes in BitWC to me was how they were lit: overly. They looked like they were shot in a studio, not in a bedroom. The light was bright, even. No shadows, no nuance. Almost clinically. It was as if it was an examination, by the filmmaker, of how lesbians make love, at least in his head. And there were the wide shots of the actresses going at it that felt to me like the director was saying, 'See! The actresses were really naked and really going at it! Not just a close up here on a hand, there on a mouth, this is full-fledged sex, right?' And I kept thinking about how the actresses felt, if there was a crew on the set, how many lights they used to get it so evenly lit . . . And I kept thinking I wanted to talk to my lesbian friends to see how they felt about these scenes. And I wanted to talk to them partially because the sex scenes seemed so mechanical (and as overwrought as they were over lit), that I needed to know that this wasn't how they made love.

    My distance in the sex scenes was felt with the whole film. The relentless closeups became distancing; we're so close to the characters physically that we can't get close to them emotionally. I was watching and thinking about the actresses and what they were thinking, what they were doing, what the director had asked them to do, rather than identifying with the main character (and I could identify intellectually, having held on to a love-that-couldn't-be even longer than she had . . . ) and empathizing with her.

    And on Rayon in DBC, I felt the same way about the director's attitude to that character as the director toward the women in BitWC. A straight man's idea of what a gay man is, what a transvestite is. See the tragic, fragile little bird, flitting about, well-coiffed and made up always . . . I had heard so much about this performance that I wanted to see the film just because of it. And I guess expected a lot more than I got. Sure, it's a good performance, but are we really to get so excited when a straight man puts on some makeup and a lisp and plays a tragic semi-heroine? Apparently. Because it's happened before, in Kiss of the Spider Woman. Big, manly William Hurt slathers on pancake and mascara, throws on a filmy kimono, and gets a limp wrist and the Oscar is thrown at him months before the awards. But in that film, Raul Julia's character has the arc, the emotional journey, and the more interesting (and nuanced, and difficult) performance. In Philadelphia, Tom Hanks goes gay and gets sick and does opera and not kissing of his love, and the Oscar is his, all his! But Denzel Washington's character has the arc, the emotional (and intellectual) journey, and the more interesting (and nuanced, and difficult) performance. (The same is true in Rain Man, where the impaired guy's role gets all the glory because it's flashy, and (dare I say it?) Tom Cruise has a much better, more nuanced performance because, yep, his character has the dramatic arc, the emotional journey . . . but I digress . . . ).

  • Sie C. | December 21, 2013 11:33 AM

    When someone says they wanted to "talk to my lesbian friends", I cringe. It is like a white person saying I want to talk to my black friends after seeing 12 Years A Slave. Lesbians have sex and, yes, they do have sex with the lights on.

  • Aaron | December 20, 2013 1:18 PMReply

    I would add Taran Killam's creepy turn as an effeminate kidnapper in 12 Years A Slave. While not specifically gay, per se, the implications were there. Glad to see the Cunnilingus Opus included,though. As a queer, I don't find straight culture's curiosity about gay sex acts to be a compliment. Especially when it's performed through fake rubber vaginas.

  • Feralucce | December 20, 2013 12:43 PMReply

    ender's game is a queer story... I guess they were right when they said every reader will take away what they want

  • EMMA | December 20, 2013 11:48 AMReply

    Honestly, I don't understand what's so bad in the representation of Dani in Passion. Yes, she's a bad person in the movie and blackmail Rapace's character into becoming her mistress. And WHERE IS THE PROBLEM? So, filmmakers don't have a right to portray LGBT people as villains, don't they? Is the only way homosexuals should be portrayed in movies is as saint, flawless creatures who have nothing in common with an average human being?

  • Hexar | December 20, 2013 5:31 PM

    Emma, I completely agree with you. I saw Passion and I didn't find it offensive. The person who wrote this list must be one of De Palma's detractors (I'm a fan of De Palma and understand he has a fetish for cliches like the ones on display in Passion). Passion is definitely not a great film or one of De Palma's best, but it's pretty entertaining and not the anti-LGBT film this list tries to portray.

  • Gerard Kennelly | December 20, 2013 3:13 AMReply

    i love Noomi Rapace
    and i hate the way hollywood has wasted her
    .
    DAISY DIAMOND
    GIRL DRAGON TATTOO
    PLAYED WITH FIRE
    KICKED HORNET NEST
    BEYOND
    DEAD MAN DOWN
    SHERLOCK HOLMES 2 guy ritchie
    BABY CALL
    PROMETHEUS ridley scott
    PASSION brian depalma

  • Toby Ashraf | December 20, 2013 12:38 AMReply

    Less to defend a friend and more to get this discussion to the crucial points it was based on; This is NOT a discussion about the quality of acting, Peter's various points (and this column is clearly queer-labelled) is that a) we have a transgender character that is left to various costume changes (true - representation), some sassy one-liners (true - dialogue) and a secondary function as far as the entire story is concerned (all Peter's points here are very true and lead to a very biased identification with a allegedly straight "hero" whose anal sex with a man is nothing but a cheap flashback à la Brokeback Mountain). Now, given that these actors are in these roles, I have to comment that both MacConaughey and Leto actually give stunning performances which is a point one should have acknowledged more. I found it amazing how AIDS, the problem with its medication and its nasty deaths (in the beginning) are portrayed here and find the film and its overall endeavour quite challenging and brave for a film that doesn't only aim at a few. Cinematography and editing are brilliant and the entire film uses a documentary style for a portrayal of a very specific situation that made it into an independent film that (we all know that) was certainly hard to finance. My respect and my admiration goes out to the people who fought for it and maybe it wasn't exactly the perfect example for a thorough critique of queer representation. AND YET, this blog is concerned with independent films (and should be more) and this section is concerned with queer representation in film and elsewhere. It is an important point to make (and many juries have been out so far) that the uncritical assessment of roles that are highly "unnormal" to a maintream audience are further "othered" by giving them prices for the quality of the performance. The bottom line here is clearly a heteronormative view on film production and acting. Was there EVER a gay actor who was so convincing playing straight that he was showered with prices? Is it ever interesting to a studio to have a transgender actor/actress portray a transgender character? The answer is NO. The normal, the status quo is still white and straight and everything apart from that is priceworthy and THAT's the homophobia Peter is trying to tackle and that's something we should discuss more instead of how great or bad Jared Leto was in that film.

  • Joe Mahma | December 19, 2013 10:50 PMReply

    "Rayon rarely extends beyond caricature."

    Meh. I'm not an expert in queen behavior but I'm 51 and both myself and the 29 year old female I saw this movie and had no such issues with Leto's portrayal. And I'd have to agree with Todd Ford's assertion here 100%: "Rayon is Woodroof's ultimate challenge."

    It's a movie, not a book.

  • Beth Hanna | December 19, 2013 4:53 PMReply

    Completely agree with your assessment of "Dallas Buyers Club" and the character of Rayon, Peter. Well put.

  • David Glassman | December 19, 2013 4:08 PMReply

    I am utterly disappointed by every disparaging article IW writes about Leto in DBC. I hope to not see another one any time soon. Would be great if instead of looking at this as a "glass-half-empty" sitch we could see it in a more optimistic way. Another cisgender writer trying to decide on behalf of the trans community what is a positive trans representation on screen and what is not.

  • JoshK | December 19, 2013 3:38 PMReply

    you can watch DBC 10 times but if you keep looking at it superficially you will end up missing the point and therefore missing the chance to enjoy an amazing character/performance.

  • Todd Ford | December 19, 2013 3:23 PMReply

    I think you missed the point of Leto's character Rayon in DBC as well, but I'll try to articulate my reasoning. It is Woodroof's story. His character change needs to be to shed some of his homophobia and accept someone he hates. Rayon is, in a sense, a stereotype of everything he fears in the LGBT world. Rayon is Woodroof's ultimate challenge. I think the character shows great specificity and becomes a distinct human being rather than a stereotypical flaming fairy due to both the writing and Leto. I thought the character of Rayon's lover was also very specific even though we learn little about him--and keeping his character mysterious is actually appropriate given, once again, that this is Woodroof's story and coming to terms with Rayon is already as much as he can handle.

  • Walter | December 19, 2013 2:41 PMReply

    Hah - Almodovar, one of Queer Cinema's greatest icons, made a homophobic movie according to someone who missed the ENTIRE point of 'I'm So Excited'.

    I miss journalism.

  • Walter | December 20, 2013 7:36 PM

    Have y'all actually seen 'I'm So Excited'? The original Spanish title translates to 'Traveling Lovers'. It's a caricature of depravity. An absurdist look at drug use, deception and wealth.

    It's a comedy and I didn't feel like the slapstick and flashiness of the movie was gratuitous at all - especially considering where it comes from. If you're looking for the most straightforward kind of representation of any kind of character, gay or straight, Almodovar probably wouldn't be the guy to check out. All I'm saying is why would he choose to put 'homophobic' characters in a movie being gay himself? Considering the fact that this is even a MILD movie by his standards.

    And you have to really consider what the point of the misogyny in his movies are for. If you could even call it that, seeing as how misogynistic scenes in his movies are usually for showing the wretchedness of violence towards women. I guess it's nice to play the victim but if you don't sit and actually think about movies more superficially than merely looking at the surface, then you'll miss a lot of good POINTS.

    Useful enough or should I keep going?

  • Mo'niquesagent | December 19, 2013 2:51 PM

    Almodovar is also an icon for his female characters but it doesn't mean he hasn't had misogynist moments. Don't give gay directors a free pass on gay representation, Walter.

  • Toby Ashraf | December 19, 2013 2:45 PM

    Very curious to hear what that "point" might be.

    I miss useful comments.

  • woirneoaaaj | December 19, 2013 12:26 PMReply

    Oh my god the sex scenes in Blue again? 15 minutes? It's six, and the second one's maybe two and the first one with the dude is one and a half? Another person who couldn't see themselves in it. Well, that's a shame. Sorry you couldn't see yourself due to the fact that you think Kechiche embodies all men's lust for two women banging. What a bunch of same song groupthink shit. Read B. Ruby Rich.

  • Lisa Nesselson | December 19, 2013 4:20 PM

    RE "" they hardly even kissed during the first nearly-15-minute sex scene, ""
    Unless they added footage for the U.S. release, there are no remotely 15-minute-long sex scenes in this film.
    Well put, WOIRNEOAAAJ.

  • ian | December 19, 2013 12:21 PMReply

    thanks for the DBC spoiler.

  • Gerard Kennelly | December 20, 2013 3:16 AM

    spoiler ?

    there is no cure for AiDS ......yet