One of the best places to beat the heat this summer in D.C. is inside a movie theater. Luckily for LGBT audiences in the metro area, there are films coming up to suit every taste.
Opening today at the Landmark Theatres is a newly restored HD print of “Rebels of the Neon God,” the 1992 debut film by openly gay director Tsai Ming-liang. The widely acclaimed Tsai is one of the central figures of the “Second New Wave” of Taiwanese cinema. He is frequently cited as one of the most influential living directors of international film and his works frequently appear on annual “Best Of” world cinema lists.
The loosely structured “Rebels” tells the stories of two disaffected Taiwanese youth whose lives intertwine as they ride their scooters through the neon-lit streets of Taipei. Taiwanese actor Lee Kang-sheng (Tsai’s cinematic alter ego who has appeared in all the director’s films) plays Hsiao-kang, a bored student at one of the cities’ buxiban (cram schools). Chen Chao-jung plays Ah-tze, a petty thief who sets the plot in motion when he smashes the rear-view mirror on the taxi driven by Hsiao-kang’s father.
American audiences may have a harder time fully appreciating the film’s homoerotic undertones, but the poster of James Dean and the references to “Rebel without a Cause” provide some important clues. The restored print is lush and gorgeous, although more captions and subtitles would help Western audiences understand the movie better. Tsai’s restored and seldom-seen debut film is a must-see for LGBT cinephiles. (In Mandarin with English subtitles.)
The Landmark Theatres will also feature other LGBT films in their late summer schedule. These include “Tangerine,” about transgender prostitutes and their johns; “Mr. Holmes,” which reunites actor Ian McKellen and director Bill Condon (both openly gay) in a moving film about the famous detective’s last case; “Boulevard,” a moody coming-out tale that features the final feature film performance by Robin Williams; “Do I Sound Gay?” the funny and insightful documentary about gay men and their tell-tale vocal mannerisms; and, “Best of Enemies,” the acclaimed documentary about the rivalry between conservative icon William F Buckley Jr. and iconoclastic homosexual writer Gore Vidal.
Later this month, the West End Cinema will reopen as part of the Landmark Theatre chain, joining the Landmark E Street Cinema and Landmark Bethesda Row.
Reel Affirmations continues to bring the latest LGBT indie releases to D.C. audiences. On July 24, the monthly film series will continue with “Fun in Boys and Girls Shorts,” a series of sharply focused new films that capture the contemporary queer experience from a variety of viewpoints. The weekend-long film festival will return from Aug. 28-30 at the Tivoli Theatre.
Meanwhile, fans of Bette Midler can learn more about her role model Sophie Tucker as part of the summer film festival at the D.C.-JCC (the D.C. Jewish Community Center). “The Outrageous Sophie Tucker,” a documentary about the bawdy trail-blazing performer, will be screened on July 28. Other LGBT highlights of the Washington Jewish Film Festival include “Dog Day Afternoon,” the 1975 fact-based drama about an ill-fated bank robber (Al Pacino) who’s trying to raise money for his lover’s sex-change operation, and “Forbidden Films,” a provocative documentary about reserving controversial propaganda films produced by the Nazi regime. For information on single tickets and season passes go to washingtondcjcc.org.
Another great place to beat the heat is AFI Silver in downtown Silver Spring (near the Metro station and surrounded by a wide variety of restaurants). AFI Silver’s roster includes an intriguing mix of the latest indie releases and classics from American and global cinema. Opening today is “Amy,” a documentary that tells the incredible story of six-time Grammy winner Amy Winehouse. Special programming this summer includes a look back at recent movies that still resonate today (“Best of Totally Awesome: Great Films of the 1980s,” and “Keepin’ It Real: ‘90s Cinema Now”); “Tell It Like It Is,” a retrospective of black independent filmmakers; and, the Ingrid Bergman centennial featuring about two dozen classics such as “Casablanca” and lesser-knowns gems like “Voyage To Italy.”
Finally, for the whole family, from Aug. 1-16, there are six programs of Bugs Bunny cartoons to celebrate the 75th anniversary of everyone’s favorite rabbit. Ticket information and a complete schedule can be found at afi.com/silver.
On Aug. 7, Meryl Streep returns in “Ricki and the Flash” as a hard-rocking singer who returns home to make amends with the family she left behind. Directed by Academy Award winner Jonathan Demme, the cast also includes Streep’s daughter Mamie Gummer, Rick Springfield, Kevin Kline and the big screen debut of Tony Award-winning Broadway legend Audra McDonald.
There are also the summer blockbusters. Lingering at area multiplexes are some big releases that are well-worth seeing: “Mad Max: Road Fury,” with some amazing 3-D landscapes and Charlize Theron as a kick-ass hero with a prosthetic arm; “Jurassic World” with incredible CGI dinosaurs and the most magical pair of Hollywood heels since “The Wizard of Oz;” “Magic Mike XXL” with lots of gyrating buff bodies; and “Spy” with Melissa McCarthy as a sexy, smart and funny secret agent.
Upcoming mainstream releases of note also include “Trainwreck,” a sex comedy written by and starring Amy Schumer (July 17); “Ant-Man” (July 17); “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” (July 31); “Fantastic Four” (Aug. 7); “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” (Aug. 14); and, Lily Tomlin in “Grandma” (Aug. 21).