October 20, 2006
Volume 34
Issue 42
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Seattle Gay News - 2006 Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival
Shortbus starts Seattle's Lesbian and Gay Film Festival with a bang, not a whimper -
by Lorelei Quenzer - SGN A&E Writer Which is more critical - achieving the big O, or achieving intimacy with your partner? And can you have one without the other? Those are the questions asked in John Cameron Mitchell's Shortbus, which kicks off the 11th Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival with a bang - well, many bangs - on October 13th (8:00 PM, Cinerama).

Let's just get it out of the way, shall we? Yes, the title means what you think it means, but with a twist: Shortbus is a New York gathering place for the emotionally challenged, not the school bus for the helmeted handicapped you and your dweebish friends joke about. The sexual salon is presided over by Justin Bond (Kiki of Kiki & Herb fame), and anything goes. With anyone. Any where. All the time.

Enter Sofia (Sook-Yin Lee), a sex therapist who has never had an orgasm. She's trying to help James and Jamie (Paul Dawson and PJ Deboy), who are everyone's idea of the perfect couple. But James appears to be severely depressed, and Jamie is beside himself with worry. And, c'mon - a sex therapist who's never had an orgasm? How is she going to help them with their intimacy issues? James and Jamie introduce Sofia to Shortbus, a place where she might finally be able to get off. There the J-Js meet twinky Ceth (pronounced with a soft C, thank you very much), who's interested in becoming the couple's third wheel. Meanwhile, Sofia meets Severin (Lindsay Beamish), a dominatrix who can't bring herself to speak her given name.

Here's something else you should know: Shortbus is beyond graphic, but it doesn't seem fair to call it porn. Yes, there are explicit sex scenes that could comfortably be snipped for xtube consumption. The first sequence is of auto-fellatio, for godsake! But porn is all cum without content, pardon my French, with little to say about the condition of man.

Shortbus has plenty to say. Director Mitchell makes the point that Straight sex and Gay sex and Lesbian sex are not only normal, they are also absurdly funny - sorry if you didn't already know that, but it's true - and, when viewed over and over, pretty mundane. As an exploration of people's need to connect, specifically among New Yorkers post-9/11, Shortbus looks at many of the same identity issues as Mitchell's first film, Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Its frank sexuality will put off many, but once you're past the titillation you'll find Shortbus honest and refreshing.

The Opening Night Gala after the screening takes place at the Seattle Aquarium, and your movie ticket is also your entry to the party. Round trip bus service will be available until 1:00 AM. Shortbus begins its theatrical run at the Egyptian on October 20.

Need more festival? Here are a few good films to consider.

You're spoiled for choices on Saturday, October 14, because at 9:00 PM Loving Annabelle (Harvard Exit) and Coffee Date (Cinerama) look like two great date flicks. Loving Annabelle takes place in an all-girl Catholic boarding school, where rebellious Annabelle is the newbie. Not shy about her orientation, she quickly finds herself the center of attention: her roommates are fascinated by her defiance, the headmistress is determined to convert her, and her teacher Simone& well, she's about to have a religious experience of her own. Annabelle has reawakened feelings Simone had thought were buried, and it seems that her passion might be returned. Veteran character actor Kevin McCarthy (The Misfits, Invasion of the Body Snatchers) makes an appearance as the kindly Father Harris.

Meanwhile, Coffee Date features Wilson Cruz ("My So-Called Life") as Kelly. His practical jokester brother fixes him up with straight guy Todd (Jonathan Bray). They turn the tables on his brother Barry (Jonathan Silverman), pretending to hook up, but a freaked out Barry calls in their PFLAG-waving mother (Sally Kirkland), and its not long before everyone in Todd's life believes he's Gay. As he and Kelly grow closer Todd starts to wonder, too. Director Stewart Wade and cast member Jason Stuart will be in attendance.

If I were you, I'd get tickets to everything at the Cinerama on Sunday, October 15, starting with the Queer classic Desperate Remedies at noon. In a town of debauchery and corruption, ironically called Hope, Dorothea is desperate to get her pregnant sister married off. It is the 1800s, after all, and the family would be ruined by the disgrace. Hunky Lawrence Hayes (the late Kevin Smith, Ares in the "Xena" and "Hercules" series) is willing to fit the bill for a price. But Lawrence is interested in Dorothea, who in turn is interested in her handmaid Anne. This hard-to-find flick from 1993, co-directed by Stewart Main, promises to deliver lewd and outrageous melodramatic camp.

Stick around - through the Funny Girl sing along and the choral documentary Why We Sing - for the festival's International Spotlight, Main's 2005 drama 50 Ways of Saying Fabulous. Pudgy Billy and tomboy Lou are cousins in rural New Zealand, and they spend their summer break traipsing through the countryside pretending they're characters in their favorite sci-fi television show. But, back in school, Lou finds it difficult to protect Billy from the cruelty of classroom bullies. Billy is temporarily relieved from the adolescent torturers when the awkward and effeminate Roy arrives and is labeled "The Freak." But when Billy and Lou find themselves competing for the attention of a sexy new farmhand, their already fraying relationship begins to unravel. Child actors Andrew Patterson (Billy), Harriet Beattie (Lou) and Jay Collins (Roy) are luminous.

Don't you feel like taking a road trip through Middle America? Well, on Monday, October 16 you can jump in the van for Mom, 9:45 PM at the Harvard Exit. Kelly is a market researcher, and Linda is her talkative butch cameraperson; they're off to small town Little Hope to gather data for their employers. The local hotel is completely booked, so Linda and Kelly are forced to share a bunk bed at the youth hostel, apparently Gyno-Central for the town's Lesbian activity. There's a bored housewife and a chili cook-off, too!

I don't usually go for documentaries, but Songbirds comes highly recommended (Wednesday, October 18, 6:00 PM, Harvard Exit). 250 women of various ages, nationalities and backgrounds live in Downview Prison in Sutton, England. Their crimes range from burglary to sexual assault and manslaughter. Rather than simply or conventionally telling their stories to the camera, the women profiled in Songbirds sing about their lives, in styles that range from hip-hop to lullaby. The music and lyrics were based on hundreds of hours of interviews, and a singing coach then worked with each of the women. Sounds like a winner! And if you haven't already bought your ticket for tonight's Secret Screening (9:45 PM, Harvard Exit) you might as well go home, as it's probably sold out.

Get ready to wet your pants from laughter! On Thursday, October 19, Kiki & Herb Reloaded (Harvard Exit, 9:45 pm) promises to be excruciatingly funny, with tons of backstage drama and heartfelt reminiscence. Okay, maybe it's more like backdoor drag and heartburn hilarity, whatever. There are appearances by Scissors Sisters, Rufus Wainwright (who claims Kiki looted his supply of Vicodin) and Erasure's Andy Bell, as well as Michael Musto of The Village Voice. But the movie isn't the only draw: the Exit is hosting a Kiki and Herb-al Tea Party before the screening, in the lobby at 9:15 PM. Go easy on the beverage consumption - one big belly laugh and you might need a change of underwear.

The closing night movie, Puccini For Beginners (Cinerama, October 22 at 7:00 pm), is director Maria Maggenti's follow-up to the classic coming-of-age story The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love. And it's about time. Here's the set up: Allegra (Elizabeth Reaser) loves opera and drama, but her girlfriend Samantha (Julianne Nicholson) hates that Allegra is afraid of commitment. When Samantha dumps her, Allegra's search for new experiences finds her simultaneously involved with Philip and Grace (Justin Kirk and Gretchen Mol). What a pickle! This should be a smart and sophisticated romantic comedy, with plenty of eye candy for all. Don't forget: your film ticket includes admission to the Gala party at the South Lake Union Discovery Center. And you don't even have to move your car, as Starline is offering roundtrip bus service between the Cinerama and the Discovery Center. The director will be in attendance.

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