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Fall queer movie preview
by Richard Knight, Jr., for Windy City Times

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Now that the blockbuster/comic-book/superhero season has passed, some of the year's most exciting, challenging and emotionally rewarding movies—plenty with LGBT themes—are just over the horizon. As usual, the advent of fall brings with it the kickoff for awards season. Locally, queer-film audiences have much to anticipate between now and the end of the year.


What promises to be the year's most powerful documentary, How to Survive a Plague, arrives in Chicago Sept. 21 at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave. David France's film offers an insider's perspective as it focuses on the innovative tactics and bravery of the queer activist groups ACT-UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group) in the mid-to-late '80s. Faced with indifference, scorn and heinous prejudice on all sides (not to mention an almost sure death sentence), scores of U.S. residents with HIV/AIDS and their compatriots fought back in a series of celebrated "actions" that changed the face of activism and ultimately the fate of millions.

The award-winning lesbian romantic drama Mosquita y Mari, from out writer-director Aurora Guerrero, is making its Midwest debut as part of the Mexican Film Festival Wed., Sept. 26 at the Logan Square Theater, 2646 N. Milwaukee Ave. It will be preceded by the short documentary Gay Latino Los Angeles: Coming of Age. The Queer Film Society is co-sponsoring the event. Sept. 26. Complete festival line-up (Sept. 20-28) at

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is being touted as a Breakfast Club for a new generation, and director Stephen Chbosky's insightful feature debut of the pitfalls and triumphs of adolescence (based on his best-selling novel) is all that and more. The movie follows the slow blossoming of the geeky Charlie (Logan Lerman) as he carefully navigates his way through his freshman high school year in the early '90s with the aid of two seniors, Emma Watson's free-spirited Sam and out actor Ezra Miller as her defiantly gay brother, Patrick. Sept. 28

A slew of fashion documentaries have led, at long last, to the inevitable High Empress of fashion whose outré life and unique style are chronicled in Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, which will show at the Music Box Sept. 28.

Broadway's Avenue Q director Jason Moore heads to the multiplex with the comedic Pitch Perfect, which should certainly interest fans of Glee. It stars Anna Kendrick as a college freshman cajoled into joining an all-female singing group that competes with an all-male one. Sept. 28.


The 48th Chicago International Film Festival runs Oct. 11-25. Each year, the fest screens hundreds of films from around the world, mixing all styles and genres, and all making their Chicago debuts. Only a few of the fest titles were announced at press time but they include several prominent LGBT-related movies such as The Jeffrey Dahmer Files, Out in the Dark and Keep the Lights On. As the fest's opening draws nearer, there are sure to be others. Check .

Queer director Lee Daniels—whose challenging Precious won Mo'Nique a much-deserved Oscar—returns with The Paperboy, which sounds like another envelope-pusher. Set in the 1950s, the cast includes Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey, John Cusack and Zac Efron prancing around in his underwear. Oct. 5.

One-time Chicago resident and sex worker-turned-queer author Stephen Elliott's feature debut, About Cherry, is based on his provocative book about San Francisco's porn industry. The movie (which will run at the Music Box) is about a teenage girl (played by newcomer Ashley Hinshaw) who becomes a porn star. Heather Graham plays Cherry's lesbian director; the film also co-stars James Franco as her wealthy, sometime boyfriend. Oct. 5

Tim Burton returns to his roots by fleshing out his original short film Frankenweenie in which a lonely boy brings his late, lamented dog back from the great beyond and inadvertently wreaks havoc on his freaked out neighborhood. Several Burton regulars—minus Johnny Depp, for once, but including Catherine O'Hara, Winona Ryder and Martin Landau, among others—voice the characters in this black-and-white stop-motion animated adventure. This will be a must-see for fans of the recent ParaNorman and Burton's earlier work. Oct. 5

Get started on your Halloween celebrations Oct. 13-14 with The Music Box of Horrors, the Music Box's annual 24-hour marathon of cinematic gore galore. The fest partially benefits Vital Bridges. Oct. 13-14

Film-fest darling Keep the Lights On, the latest from queer writer-director Ira Sachs, arrives Oct. 26 (also at the Music Box). The movie follows the rocky (to say the least) course of the relationship between a gay couple in Manhattan after a chance first-night encounter surprisingly leads to more. However, drug addiction and worse interrupt the once-promising affair and emotionally gut-wrenching problems between the two men ensue. Oct. 26.

German-based director Tom Tykwer, who made last year's bisexual triangle drama 3 (and previously helmed one of my favorite overlooked movies, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer) teams with Chicago-based directors Lana Wachowski (who recently transitioned from male to female) and her brother, Andy, for Cloud Atlas. Based on a science-fiction novel, the movie covers past, present and future, and has a cast taking on unusual roles. (For example, Susan Sarandon plays a man and Hugh Grant is a killer.) Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Hugo Weaving (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) are also on board. Oct. 26

October concludes on a high note with out writer-director-actor Steven Cone's The Wise Kids. The film has won critical raves around the country but hasn't been seen in Chicago since it was year's opening-night selection at Reeling. Now the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St., is giving the movie its overdue run. The contemplative drama centers on three teenage best friends at a key transition point in their young lives—raised as evangelical Christians, the trio are about to graduate from high school and head for college. But questions of faith and the boundaries of love are tested when one of the friends reveals that he is gay. Oct. 26


Writer/director Bradley Rust Gray's story of the budding romance between two teenage girls—the Jack and Diane of the title—sounds fairly typical on the surface, except that Diane's awakening lesbian sexuality is accompanied by "werewolf-like visions." Now that's a complication on the road to love. Juno Temple and Riley Keough (the eldest granddaughter of Elvis and Priscilla Presley) star, and gay fave Kylie Minogue is in the cast as well. On Demand in late October and in theaters Nov. 2

A host of queer-friendly and openly gay stars—including John C. Reilly, Jane Lynch, Jack McBrayer and Sarah Silverman—add their voices to the Disney animated comedy Wreck-It-Ralph, based on the classic video game. Nov. 2

Get out your leg-warmers and roller skates for the midnight screening of Sing-a-Long Xanadu, the so-bad-it's-good quasi-1980 musical starring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly. My alter ego, Dick O'Day, hosts yet another edition of Camp Midnight, the series of fabulously awful movies along with Hell in a Handbag Productions. At the Music Box Theatre Nov. 3

James Bond is back (finally) in Skyfall, once again fetchingly played by muscular eye candy Daniel Craig. Co-stars include Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw and, of course, Judi Dench as M—whose character sets the plot in motion.

Steven Spielberg's epic biopic of Lincoln (portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis)—which Angels in America playwright Tony Kushner scripted with assistance from historian Doris Kearns Goodwin—hits theaters this month. Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lee Pace and many others are in the cast. Nov. 16

Two-time Oscar winner Sean Penn (Mystic River; Milk) goes the gender-bending route in This Must Be the Place, in which he plays a retired goth rock star a la the Cure's Robert Smith. Penn vows vengeance on the man who humiliated his recently deceased father during WWII. Nov. 16

The final, final (no really, we mean it) installment of the Twilight series is here. Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, helmed again by gay director Bill Condon, centers on the Cullen vampire clan, their shirtless hottie enemies (the werewolves) and the fate of Edward and Bella's forbidden child. Nov. 16

The Windy City's gay and lesbian international film fest, Reeling—which normally takes place the first weekend in November—is taking the year off, and that means a lot of LGBT movies will not get even a onetime screening in Chicago. That's reason enough to encourage Reeling to hurry back next year. In its absence, keep a look out for several queer-themed pictures that have garnered awards at other LGBT fests—and have definitely perked my curiosity.

Among them are Any Day Now, a '70s-era courtroom drama with Alan Cumming, Joshua Tree 1951: A Portrait of James Dean, a black-and-white, artsy look at the ambisexual '50s icon; Jobriath A.D., the fascinating documentary examination of glam rock's self-proclaimed (and ultimately tragic) "rock-n-roll fairy;" and Cloudburst, a feel-good road movie with Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker as a long-term lesbian couple heading to Canada to exchange wedding vows.

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