Monday, September 17, 2007

2008 Dykesploitation Calendars Are Here!

Want a 2008 Vintage Dykesploitation Wall Calendar? I just finished putting together a cool 2008 Vintage Dykesploitation Wall Calendar at my CafePress Shop. For $18.49 you can have a fresh vintage Dykesploitation movie design each and every month of the year. There are t-shirts and coffee mugs and stuff too from all kinds of great movies like Chained Girls and Fanny Hill Meets Lady Chatterly.

Thanks for shopping if you're so inclined!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Notes from An Amateur Historian

The Turin Gay & Lesbian Film Festival asked me to write an essay about my background as a film collector and historian for their 2007 Festival catalog. Here it is, complete and unedited:

Only in the last few years have I developed the confidence to describe myself as an archivist and historian. For years I was merely a “collector” – an accurate but not very glamorous term for my passionate obsession with all things related to LGBT movies (posters, pressbooks, movie stills, and, the actual film prints themselves).

It all started with 35mm movie trailers. I had this compulsion to actually own celluloid. Not just a video of a movie, but the film itself. Complete 35mm feature film prints weigh close to 100 pounds and take up a lot of space. They can also be quite expensive. So, to start with I settled on trailers. Which are about the size of a large, double-thick hockey puck and only cost between $5 and $30 or so (though the good ones are far more expensive now).

My first purchase was a 35mm trailer for The Killing of Sister George, which I got from an old projectionist in Kansas City, Missouri for $5 plus postage, back in 1986. From then on I was hooked. It took me only a few years to amass 35mm trailers from almost every major LGBT movie made prior to 1976.

With the encouragement of my friend Mark Finch (who was then co-director of the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival) I managed to put together a feature length chronological program of the best of them, which then premiered at the 1991 London festival. Homo Promo went on to play at dozens of gay film festivals as well as enjoying a successful US tour of the Landmark Theater chain and a home video release in 1994 (it was finally released on DVD last year by Strand in the US and by Millivres in the UK).

My trailer addiction resulted in several more feature-length programs including: Neo Homo Promo (which showcases LGBT trailers from films made after 1976); Trailer Camp (campy movie trailers) and the sequel Bride of Trailer Camp; Trailers Schmailers (Jewish themed film trailers); Afro Promo (African American trailers) and a shorter program called Jodie Promo (a chronological coming attractions overview of Jodie Foster’s career).

My addiction to celluloid became even more pronounced in the ‘90s as I scoured listings in my monthly film collector’s newspaper and snapped up every obscure LGBT film print I could find. These included 16mm and 35mm feature films, film prints of TV shows, educational shorts and early silents.

Many of these gems are being showcased in this festival including the feature films: That Tender Touch, Dallas Doll, Times Square, Something Special, The Killing of Sister George, The Maids and the shorts: In Winterlight, Costume Party and No Help Needed.

In the late ‘80s I started research on a lesbian filmography (as my thesis project at the University of Minnesota) which evolved to become my first book, The Ultimate Guide To Lesbian & Gay Film and Video (in 1995 the book morphed into the massive LGBT film website, My interest in historical representations of LGBT characters in film also prompted me to launch a campus film series called Lavender Images (which I programmed for many years before co-programming the Minneapolis/St. Paul LGBT Film Festival – which, sadly, no longer exists as of 2005).

Aspiring to obtain an encyclopedic knowledge of every LGBT film ever made I did extensive research on historical representations of LGBT characters in film. Having practically memorized Vito Russo’s The Celluloid Closet, Richard Dyer’s Gays in Film and other seminal LGBT film history texts I continued my research at the University library by browsing the bound volumes of back-issues of Variety and the over-sized back-issue collections of New York Times Film Reviews. With particular attention to films of the ‘60s and ‘70s I spent many wonderful winter days in the Wilson Library reference area with golf pencil and scrap of paper in hand scribbling down poorly organized notes and making photocopies of significant listings.

This was the source of one of my favorite discoveries – the 1969 Dykesploitation drama, That Tender Touch, I still have the photocopied Variety review in a file in my office (which begins with the line: “One more variation on the lesbian thing.”). I was extremely fortunate to purchase a rare 35mm print of the film back in 1993 and have made it available for a select few LGBT film festival screenings over the years. I’m especially pleased to be presenting this film here in Turin. That Tender Touch will also be released on DVD in the US this summer by Wolfe Video.

The three older features we’ll be watching: The Killing of Sister George (1968), That Tender Touch (1969) and The Maids (1974) are tremendously entertaining for today’s lesbian audiences mainly because enough time has passed to make the “negative” stereotypes less painful to view, and enough other “positive” lesbian representations have been brought to the screen. To complement those fun, bad old days I’ll be screening three slightly more recent features from my collection: Times Square (1980), Something Special (1986), and Dallas Doll (1994). This is a very rare opportunity to see these films and they are truly not-to-be-missed.

At this historical post-Brokeback Mountain juncture, there has been a strange resurgence of negative gay stereotypes on screen. It’s curious to note that 2006 will go down in history as the year that LGBT people finally embraced our previously rejected cinematic heritage of suicidal (Little Miss Sunshine), psychopathic (Notes On A Scandal), fashion designer (The Devil Wears Prada), gruesome murder victim/murderous bisexual (The Black Dahlia) stereotypes. This year’s models are certainly kinder and gentler negative stereotypes than their predecessors. Still, what does it all mean?

In 2002 Chronicle Books approached me with the request that I write a book about the history of LGBT movie posters utilizing my extensive collection. The Queer Movie Poster Book explores the chronological evolution of queer movie marketing in the United States including such wildly entertaining chapters as: Dykesploitation, early gay porn and a section entitled simply: “Guys with their shirts off.” On publication of the book in 2005, I donated the vast majority of my poster collection to the LGBT Historical Society of Northern California where it is now accessible for researchers and historians.

Around that same time I was also very fortunate to partner with my colleagues Stephen Parr and Robert Chehoski at Oddball Film + Video in San Francisco. Oddball has been able to take care of my film prints (which freed up a lot of space in our pantry and made my partner very happy). Oddball also coordinates screenings at film festivals (including this one) as well as arranging licensing for some of my footage to documentary filmmakers like Susan Stryker (Screaming Queens) and Jay Rosenblatt (I Just Wanted To Be Somebody). This past year Oddball even facilitated a presentation of some of my footage at the Association of Moving Image Archivists annual conference.

I’ve been wishing and advocating for some kind of organized LGBT film preservation effort ever since meeting filmmaker/archivist Jim Hubbard and bonding over our mutual passion for this vitally important mission. (Jim founded the AIDS Activist Video Preservation Project which has re-mastered nearly 600 tapes documenting the grassroots response to the AIDS crisis in the US).

Last year that wish came true and I was invited to be on the advisory board of the Outfest Legacy Project for LGBT Film Preservation at the UCLA Film & Television Archive! It is an amazing project with an ambitious mission to help preserve, conserve and provide access to our LGBT film heritage. I was also fortunate to make the first film print donation to The Legacy Project: a 35mm print of Queens At Heart (a 1965 exploitation documentary about male to female transsexuals in New York City).

Maybe the festival will invite me back next year to show off even more of my collection!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Jules Laforgue Appreciation Society

Today is the birthday of one of my favorite poets, Jules Laforgue. A great day to launch The Jules Laforgue Appreciation Society. So click and savor a few of his grandement triste words.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Sing Along San Francisco

Ah memories!

Just dug up a link to the QuickTime movie of Sing Along San Francisco -- a project I dreamed of making for many years (because every time the organist plays the song "San Francisco" on Opening Night of the LGBT Film Festival at the Castro Theatre nobody actually knows the words)!

Back in 2002 my friends George Corzine and Scott Noble brought that dream into the realm of reality by making this fabulously entertaining short. Our little valentine to the city we love so much! So, click here to follow the bouncing ball and try to keep up with Jeannette McDonald.

P.S. All the footage was provided by the fabulous folks at the San Francisco Media Archive.

Monday, July 16, 2007

On, Alonso Duralde Asks:

What Ever Happened to Queer Cinema?

Causing me to lament: "It makes me want to weep when I see so many boring, conventional films being made. These films that are not cinematic but are merely using a camera, dialogue, and some actors to tell a moderately interesting gay story are just not enough anymore.”

I then redeem myself from total snobbery by confessing my great love of Q. Alan Brocka's new Logo show, Rick & Steve.

P.S. And in an interesting coincidence Ernest Hardy reflects on this same phenomenon in A Queer State of Affairs One critic wonders: Have gay movies stopped challenging their audience? in the LA Weekly.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Dykesploitation Mania

I couldn't be happier about this LesbiaNation article by Tracy Gilchrist, in which I am described as "a modern-day, lesbian Henri Langlois." Plus a bunch of items on including Jenny Sherwin's reviews of Just The Two of Us and That Tender Touch and an interview with That Tender Touch star Susan Bernard!

This excerpt from Jenny's review offers a really poignant summation of That Tender Touch:

"It is a time machine that thrusts you into the world of 1969 homosexuality, wrought with guilt and pain, in which a marriage of convenience was better than a life of lesbianism and a few moments of sapphic bliss were rewarded with a lifetime of loneliness. In essence, That Tender Touch will make you laugh, cry and be thankful that you're queer and living in the new millennium."

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Lesbionic Video for My Current Favorite Song

The phenomenally infectious ditty, "I Get Around" by Dragonette

A Fair(y) Use Tale

This terrifically entertaining and educational short utilizes dozens of snippets from animated Disney classics to explain the concept of Fair Use and Copyright Law (from the Stanford Center for Internet and Society).

Friday, June 01, 2007

For your Netflix queue

Just thinking about these two movies lately as I'm working on my next essayistic hybrid personal non-fiction project (this text is from my SF Bay Guardian 2005 Picks List):

This year I also rediscovered two personal lightning bolts from 1986 and was struck by how influential they were to me as a filmmaker. Ross McElwee's Sherman's March is a neurotic self-portrait of his pursuit of the women of the South (and part of a gorgeous newly released McElwee box set from First Run Features). Louis Malle's God's Country is an obscure made-for-PBS documentary about struggling farmers in Glencoe, Minn. (and is set for a 2006 DVD release from Criterion).

Sherman's March is clearly the more innovative of the two, and it has also enjoyed far greater acclaim and exposure. But God's Country is ultimately the more sophisticated. Both films draw portraits of human pathos. But where McElwee reveals wacky, delusional Southern women, with a palpable sense of disrespect for his subjects, Malle interacts with equally extreme characters in the North and manages to express a profound sense of respect and admiration, enabling viewer sympathy for the characters and, ultimately, for ourselves. God's Country is a truly transcendent personal documentary.

And a nice photo of Louis Malle shooting Elevator To The Gallows

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Pining for Italy

Here's me and Julie standing on Juliet's Balcony in Verona (as in, "Romeo & Juliet")! And a shot of us with our fabulous new pal Ricke, the programmer for the Turin LGBT Film Fest! We had a great time -- met lots of new friends and reconnected with old ones. This is SUCH a great film festival! Grazie to everyone involved.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Turin L&G Film Fest Tribute

Getting ready to head off to the Turin Lesbian & Gay Film Festival in a few weeks where I will be presenting a bunch of film prints from my archive. The programmers have been wonderful and the program description (in adorable awkwardly translated English) is so spectacular and flattering I just had to show it off here. From the festival website:

San Francisco lands in Turin: “Da Sodoma a Hollywood – 22nd International Gay&Lesbian Film Festival” will be pleased to host, from 19th to 26th of April 2007, one of the most famous American critic and director, Jenni Olson. Our festival will dedicate a tribute to the rich and fascinating queer-oriented movie archive that Olson created and still creates with much passion since years. Our attention had already been focused on this author in past with Homo Promo, Neo Homo Promo and Trailer Camp, three collections concerning queer community, which elected her as an icon through years. Finally, last year she presented with success The joy Of Life in Turin, in Voice Over section.

So, this year we’ll focus our interest in her archive work in a section created by Ricke Merighi with the collaboration of Jenni herself. This tribute will include six lesbian themed movies, directed between the sixties and the nineties and selected by her massive archive: in this program will stand out both big titles, such as The Killing of Sister George by Robert Aldrich and That Tender Touch by Russell Vincent, and still unknown pictures for Italian audience.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

17 Reasons on The L Word

It was the season finale of The L Word tonight and I have to say I found it incredibly moving to see the fabulous 17 Reasons sign functioning as the central prop -- as though it had come back from the grave (like Dana). Check out my full report on the history of the sign and some backstory about how it ended up on The L Word, on the website (which crashed in classic form as droves of fans logged on overwhelming the servers at the conclusion of the show).

Here's the link.

Though the site is still down as I'm writing this!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Contact Your Representative Today

Have anything on your mind that you want to share with your elected representatives? Click through on this handy Contacting the Congress map and speak up!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Oscar Weekend with Me!

Fun, fun, fun. I got to tape this show a couple weeks ago which will be airing on Logo during Oscar Weekend (Saturday, Feb. 24th & Sunday, Feb. 25th). It's called The Queer Year in Film and is basically me and Alonso Duralde, Angela Robinson, John Polly and Craig Chester rabidly chit-chatting about the above topic as we sit on a cheesy talk show set for four grueling (but fun) hours. Don't worry it's trimmed down to less than a half-hour of absolute highlights and they will be playing little clips all weekend. Tune in, or watch clips of it online right here!

Saturday, January 13, 2007