3. “Fight Club”
“What happens in Fight Club stays in Fight Club” could have been the motto for a ’20s gay speakeasy. Picture it: All those buttoned-up beat cops and businessmen rapping on the door three times — just so — to unwind, knock back a few, and roll around with other sweaty, half-naked men. That’s basically what happens in David Fincher’s classic, only the men in “Fight Club” ostensibly need the outlet for the animal aggression civilized society has insisted they tame, and not their repressed sexual desire for other men (though what’s the difference, really?). The narrator’s (Edward Norton) obsession with Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) is so ardently pining that even the most rabid Fincher fanboys have pondered this one while scratching their Tyler-inspired goatees. The narrator struggles with what it means to be a man: He is annoyed by Marla (Helena Bonham Carter — beloved by queers) until Tyler takes a shining to her, like a closet case watching gangbang porn to convince himself he’s straight. The most human connection we see him have is to the sensitive Bob (Meat Loaf), whose sobbing hugs enable him to sleep peacefully. The twist ending reveals he was wrestling with himself all along — but did he want to be the man inside, or did he just want him inside?
The movie that defined the phrase “it’s so bad it’s good” for younger generations of cinephiles still holds up — if that’s your criteria. Paul Verhoeven’s 1995 misfire about a plucky girl trying to make it in Las Vegas was pilloried by critics at the time, but had a long and profitable shelf life. Like any good child star hoping to break their squeaky-clean image, Elizabeth Berkeley’s belabored turn as Nomi Malone went down in history as one of the worst performances of all time. Gina Gershon is better as reigning star Cristal Connors, doing her best with an unbelievably cheesy script from Verhoeven’s “Basic Instinct” scribe Joe Eszterhas. But queer audiences love a disaster, especially one this loud. Nomi and Cristal’s juicy rivalry is soaked in sexual tension, but it’s the “All About Eve” intensity and quotable “Mommy Dearest” tirades that put “Showgirls” over the edge. Verhoeven may have tried to mask his obviously gay movie (it’s called “Showgirls,” for crying out loud) with tits and ass, but there’s no fooling the gays. Come for “Showgirls,” and you’ll have a basket of french fries thrown in your face faster than you can say “lap dance to completion.”
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Before Rosie O’Donnell came out of the closet, before Geena Davis became an advocate for strong women characters onscreen, and back when Madonna was still acting, there was “A League of Their Own.” Beloved by many young girls at the time of its release in 1992, there is a particular kind of T-ball playing, tree-climbing, sweatpants-wearing little girl for whom this movie felt like manna from heaven. Penny Marshall directs this based-on-a-true-story about the first women’s professional baseball league, which started when the boys left to fight World War II. Tomboys saw themselves in the kid sister who plays for the love of the game, Kit (Lori Petty, whose iconic status from this movie earned her a comeback in “Orange Is The New Black”).
But the real draw was Kit’s older sister, Dottie (Davis), whose winning smile and standoffish demeanor made baby queer hearts melt the world over. The best catcher in the league broke hearts in more ways than one when she quit the game to start married life with Bob (Bill Pullman). As tough-talkin’ Doris and “All The Way” Mae, real-life friends O’Donnell and Madonna were the kind of infectiously fun duo you want to hang out with forever. (And, hello! It’s Rosie. And Madonna). There’s even the sloppy lounge-singing of Marla Hooch (Megan Cavanaugh) for the Broadway lovers. (“I’m singin’ to Nelson!”) With a broad range of funny and independent women, the appeal of “A League of Their Own” is obvious. But the triumph of this feel-good melodrama is that it doesn’t feel driven by the beat of “women’s empowerment.” It’s a just a good time for all, and an American classic. Like eating a hot dog at a baseball game.