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Knight at the Movies: Queer music films; farewell, Patty Duke
by Richard Knight, Jr., for Windy City Times
2016-04-13

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Queer music movies

CIMMFest: the Chicago International Movies and Music Festival is back April 13-17 for its annual mash-up of great music-themed movies and musical performances. Festival organizers are touting a line-up of over 99 films and live acts over the course of the five days. For queer music and movie fans, there are three particular screenings of note.

The first is Hunky Dory, the debut feature from director and co-writer Michael Curtis Johnson. It's the story of a bisexual glam-rock poseur whose dreams of David Bowie-like stardom have long fallen to the wayside. Unexpectedly saddled with the care of his 11-year-old son, Georgie ( Edouard Holdener ), when his ex-girlfriend skips town, Sidney ( beautifully played by Tomas Pais, who co-wrote the script ) pretty much sticks to his usual routine: working as a lip-sync performer in a tatty drag-queen bar, helping himself to prescription drugs from the medicine cabinet of a fellow drag queen dying of cancer and hustling to keep his head above water on the streets of Los Angeles ( not unlike the mean streets trod by the two trans hustlers in Tangerine ).

However, he also has a great relationship with his kid. Fans of Alan Cumming's star turn in the similarly plotted Any Day Now will find much to love in this diverting family drama that's enlivened by the terrific performances of Pais and Holdener, as well as by the well-cast group of supporting actors. The film screens Thursday, April 14, at 7:15 p.m. at the Logan Theater, 2646 N. Milwaukee Ave. http://cimmfest.org/hunky-dory/

CIMMFest also features two very diverting documentary shorts: These C*cksucking Tears—about 1973's Lavender County, the first-ever queer country-and-western album and a profile of its outspoken singer-songwriter, Pat Haggerty. ( The film's title refers to a song on the album. ) It's a short that needs to be expanded to feature-length. The second is The Night Smokers of Chicago, which briefly explores the lives of three trans men hanging out on the streets of the city after dark.

These C*sucking Tears screens Sunday, April 17, at 4 p.m. at 1st Ward Chop Shop, 2033 W. North Ave. See http://cimmfest.org/these-ccksucking-tears.

The Night Smokers of Chicago screens Saturday, April 16, at 5 p.m. at the Logan Theater, 2646 N. Milwaukee Ave. See http://cimmfest.org/the-night-smokers-of-chicago/.

Farewell, Patty Duke

For decades after the release of 1967's Valley of the Dolls, Patty Duke cringed at the mention of the movie that, although a commercial success, had been a critical disaster. The adaptation of Jacqueline Susann's mega selling novel about the tawdrier aspects of show business featured an over-the-top Duke as a Judy Garland-like sensation whose stardom was threatened by her narcissism and excessive boozing and pill-popping. But the gay community loved the movie, immediately embracing it, and as Duke recalled, helped her see it for the camp classic that it became.

I had the privilege of co-hosting a screening of the film in 2010 and when Duke—who was known to her friends and family by her given name, Anna—walked down the aisle of the Music Box Theatre the waves of love that greeted her from the sold-out audience, straight and gay alike, was enthralling. It was OUR Neely O'Hara in person. By the time my now-husband and I dropped Anna and her spouse, Mike Pearce, off at their hotel the next evening, we had spent a great deal of time together. As we hugged, Anna looked in my eyes and said, "This is a friendship you know—a real one." And in the ensuing years, here and there, it truly was.

When Anna died unexpectedly recently at the age of 69, the outpouring of sympathy for her family—including her well-known sons Sean and Mackenzie Astin—was heartfelt. We all remember the child phenomenon who starred on Broadway as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker and went on to win an Oscar in the 1962 film adaptation; the teen who continued her meteoric rise with the beloved comedy sitcom ( with its catchy theme song ) in which she played identical cousins. After Dolls she gave complex, unsung performances in the little seen films Me, Natalie and You'll Like My Mother, found new fame and multiple Emmy honors on television, and penned two bestselling memoirs, the latter which focused on overcoming a very public struggle with bipolar disorder. I remember—and say farewell—to the compassionate, funny little bundle of energy who set such a great example and wore her gay icon status loud and proud.

Upcoming movie calendar

Highlights from films opening in Chicago, April 15 and 22 ( some descriptions come from studio press materials ):

CIMMFest ( 4/13—4/17 )—See details above. http://cimmfest.org/

Criminal ( 4/15 )—Hoping to stop a diabolical plot, the government implants the memories and skills of a dead CIA operative ( Ryan Reynolds ) into the mind of a dangerous convict ( Kevin Costner ). Gal Gadot, Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Oldman co-star.

The First Monday in May ( 4/15 )—The trend in fashion documentaries continues with this insider's look at the Metropolitan Museum Ball—the annual gala co-chaired by Vogue editor Anna Wintour ( the inspiration for The Devil Wears Prada ) that gay fashionista Andre Leon Talley describes as "the Super Bowl of social fashion events." http://www.musicboxtheatre.com/features/first-monday-in-may

The Jungle Book ( 4/15 )—Disney's new commitment to remaking live action versions of its animated classics—which started with the mega-hit Cinderella—continues with this Jon Favreau-directed adaptation of their 1967 musical of the Rudyard Kipling story. Although most of the songs have been ditched to make room for more action, the hits ( "The Bare Necessities," "Trust In Me," "I Wan'na Be Like You" ) have been retained.

Hannah Free ( 4/16 only )—Out director Wendy Jo Carlton helms this 2009 adaptation of Claudia Allen's critically acclaimed play about the decades-long love story of a sometime lesbian couple whose lives intersect one last time as both are ensconced in a nursing home. Sharon Gless of Cagney and Lacey and Queer As Folk fame shines in the title role, supported by a cast of veteran Chicago stage actors. The movie was shot and produced ( by Windy City Times editor and publisher Tracy Baim ) in Chicago. Gless will be present for audience discussion following the Saturday, April 16, screening at 3 p.m. at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St. http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/hannahfree

Ma Vie En Rose ( 4/16 and 4/19 only )—As part of their lecture series, The Child in Cinema, the Gene Siskel Film Center is screening Alain Berliner's 1997 whimsical debut film about a precocious seven year-old boy who has a thing for wearing dresses and playing with dolls and doesn't care a bit what his family or new neighbors think. In French. http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/mavieenrose

The Huntsman: Winter's War ( 4/22 )—Charlize Theron is resurrected as the evil Ravena, thanks to that magic mirror in this prequel/sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman that features her equally rotten sister Freya ( Emily Blunt ), who can freeze those who displease her in ice. This rotten pair ( the evil doppelganger of the sisters in Frozen? ) assemble a seemingly unstoppable army. But they haven't counted on the fighting spirit of the Huntsman ( Chris Hemsworth ), his lady love ( Jessica Chastain ) and their followers.

Serial Mom ( 4/23 only )—Kathleen Turner stars in John Waters' hilarious and profane 1994 black comedy about a seemingly perfect suburban housewife who has the bad habit of murdering friends and neighbors whose bad manners really, really irritate her. The Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave, shows the film Saturday, April 23, beginning with a pre-show cocktail reception at 10 p.m. in the Music Box lounge hosted by drag superstar Lucy Stoole followed by the Midnight screening. Guests are encouraged to dress in costume for a chance to win prizes. See www.musicboxtheatre.com/events/serial-mom-presented-by-camp-night-at-the-box-2016-apr-23-sat-midnight .


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