Books

Queer Eye for the Cinema Guy

Harry H. Long

In Fabulous!, Reuter picks all the right films, but if he even understands what makes them gay under the surface, he doesn't explain it well.


Fabulous!

Publisher: Broadway
Length: 192 pages
Subtitle: A Loving, Luscious and Lighthearted Look At Film from the Gay Perspective
Price: $126.96
Author: Donald F. Reuter
US publication date: 2004-01
Amazon affiliate
Amazon


The coffee table book has always been the blonde bimbo (or blond himbo) of the publishing world. Splashy and pretty it was also essentially vacuous and served much the same purpose in the home as magazines serve in the dentist's office -- something to occupy a guest while you make the coffee or shake the cocktails, retrieve the KY Jelly and pop a moistened towel into the microwave. They may offer oversized and beautifully reproduced photographs of Greek statuary or the Sistine Chapel ceiling or movie star portraits but they are essentially short on (or entirely free of) text. They are no-brainers that allow you to kick-start conversation. "Personally I think Frank Lloyd Wright is a tad overrated but I'd just love to live at Falling Waters. Would you like a prosciuto and havarti canapé?"

Fabulous! isn't exactly free of text and it's photographs aren't exactly beautifully reproduced on expensive paper ... it isn't even a hardcover volume, but it fully qualifies as a coffee table book by nature of it vacuousness. What purports to be a "lighthearted look at film from the gay perspective" is just the no-brainer one might expect from the author of Gaydar. That teensy novelty volume threatened the reputation of gay men everywhere for non-stop All About Eve-caliber wit; its self-deprecating "humor" made the performances of Stepin Fetchit look positively liberated by comparison. Fabulous! follows suit; it won't make straight people uncomfortable. In that the book follows suit with the amazingly popular (why?) Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, whose fashion-Nazis so smarmily place that week's product placements on the poor shlubs they're charged with that one can continue to despise them even as one picks up a few worthwhile tips.

Now I was certainly not expecting a serious treatise on gay sensibility in films on the order of Parker Tyler's Screening the Sexes or Vito Russo's The Celluloid Closet. The title and format argued against that. But I was expecting some substance under the veneer of style and wit -- that's what gay people are known for, as witness, say the works of Cole Porter, Noel Coward, George Cukor, etc., etc. Reuter can't even supply the veneer. Not only is he not amusing but he totally misses the point that the main ingredient in every film he cites is a sense of fun.

Whether the films possess the acid sarcasm of Double Indemnity or Sunset Boulevard, the quirkiness of Bride of Frankenstein, the monumental silliness of The Cobra Woman, the enormous incompetence of Can't Stop the Music or the high romanticism of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, they are fun to watch. Or fun to be devastated by as in Sophie's Choice which is, surprisingly, not listed but which I first saw in a roomful of gay men (and for the record we all thought it was, uh, fabulous). Reuter picks all the right films (I might quibble with him on a few choices), but if he even understands what makes them gay under the surface he does a lousy job explaining it. He states early on that the reasoning will become apparent as one reads the book; foisting the responsibility on the reader is a nice out for a lazy writer.

Devoid of wit. Devoid of perception. There's little to be said in favor of Fabulous! except that it does contain an abundance of factoids. But even these are available from many other sources (the IMDb might well have a claim toward co-authorship) and one is merely left contemplating how many trees were sacrificed for this drek.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image