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The Advocate's 31 Favorite Films of Outfest 2015

The Advocate's 31 Favorite Films of Outfest 2015


See the highlights of the Los Angeles-based LGBT film festival, which will run July 9-19.

For your consideration, The Advocate has compiled a list of 31 of our favorite films showing in this year's Outfest, the prominent LGBT film festival that runs July 9-19 in Los Angeles. Check them out on the following pages, and see the full selection here.


Bestofenemies_0Best of Enemies
Thursday, July 16, 7 p.m. at DGA 1

While violence erupted in the streets during the long hot summer of 1968, two literary giants faced off in an intellectual clash of the titans, with no holds barred. Directors Morgan Neville (the Oscar-winning Twenty Feet From Stardom) and Robert Gordon take us back to an electrifying moment in history, as the third-place ABC network took a bold step for TV news: Take ideologically opposed pundits Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley and allow them to debate the issues every night. Live. Never at a loss for words, the authors faced off with equal fervor and venom, culminating in the famous exchange in which Vidal labeled Buckley a "crypto-Nazi," leading Buckley to respond by calling Vidal "queer" on national TV. This captivating Sundance favorite shows us what these legendary combatants had in common -- both were intellectuals and failed political candidates from patrician backgrounds -- and how their deeply felt disgust for one another culminated into a viciously intimate meeting of the minds. Mixing interviews with their friends and enemies along with Vidal and Buckley's public and private writings, narrated by John Lithgow and Kelsey Grammer, this breathtaking battleground of a movie takes viewers directly into the line of fire between two of the 20th century's most polarizing and intimidating geniuses. (Buy tickets here.)

Nastybaby_0Nasty Baby
Tuesday, July 14, 7 p.m. at DGA 1

Hipsters beware: Nasty Baby plays nice until a disturbing twist flips the film -- and with it the entire quirky-cute indie canon -- on its head. A certifiable shocker at the Sundance Film Festival, Sebastian Silva's biting and provocative black comedy has already inspired both walkouts and accolades, including the prestigious Teddy Award for Best Feature at the 2015 Berlin International Film Festival. An attractive gay Brooklyn couple, Freddy (Silva) and Mo (Tunde Adebimpe, lead singer of TV on the Radio), ask their best friend, Polly (Kristen Wiig), to become their surrogate. As the three hipsters contemplate becoming one big progressive family, and as Freddy and his assistant Wendy (Alia Shawkat, Arrested Development) create what they're convinced is a brilliant art show, signs of danger and instability, primarily from a neighbor called The Bishop, intrude upon the film's squeaky-clean surface. Director Silva (Magic Magic, Crystal Fairy) cleverly shows audiences what they want to see, only to rip the rug out from under and expose -- with pitch-black humor -- the hypocrisy of Brooklyn's latte-sipping elite. (Buy tickets here.)

Out_to_win_0Out to Win
Wednesday, July 15, 7 p.m. at DGA 1

One of the final frontiers for LGBT visibility in this country is the locker room, and Out to Win celebrates the pioneers who have worked to make the world of sports a more diverse and inclusive one. Screening his fourth consecutive documentary at Outfest Los Angeles, filmmaker Malcolm Ingram (Continental, Bear Nation, Outfest Jury Prize-winner Small Town Gay Bar) takes an expansive look at out and proud champions from early envelope-pushers like Billie Jean King and David Kopay through current superstars like Jason Collins and Brittney Griner to the college athletes who are defying conventions and opening minds. (When major players like Nike start a campaign celebrating sexual and gender diversity in sports, you can sense institutionalized homophobia being forced to retreat.) Mixing historical context with the ever-changing face of modern sports, Ingram introduces us to athletes from around the world who are sharing their stories, speaking their truths and making a difference. (Buy tickets here.)

Thenewgirlfriend_0The New Girlfriend
Sunday, July 19, 8 p.m. at the Theatre at Ace Hotel. Closing Night Gala.

From the visionary mind of Francois Ozon (8 Women, Swimming Pool) comes this one-of-a-kind gender-bending melodrama, which both shocks and delights in equal measure. Steeped in suspense and indebted to the eye-popping visuals of Pedro Almodovar, Alfred Hitchcock, and Brian De Palma, The New Girlfriend blends the macabre with a heartfelt romance in the tale of soft-spoken Claire and her love affair with a mysterious stranger. After mourning the loss of Laura, her childhood friend (and unrequited love), Claire comes across Laura's husband, David (Romain Duris), dressed head-to-toe in his wife's clothes. Unsure whether his new guise is the result of foul play, she threatens to reveal David to Laura's family. But the more time she spends with him, the more Claire becomes seduced by his beautiful new incarnation. As the two become inseparable, Claire wonders whether she is falling for David's alter ego or perhaps a part of Laura's resurrected soul. The New Girlfriend pays homage to classic cinema, from Rebecca to All About My Mother, while injecting its own brand of sensual, sometimes sinister, eroticism. (Buy tickets here.)

Thesummerofsangaile_0The Summer of Sangaile
Saturday, July 18, 7 p.m. at DGA 1

Winner of the World Cinema Directing Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, Alante Kavaite's The Summer of Sangaile is arguably one of the year's most visually stunning films. It also happens to be one of the most romantic. Set against the bright summer skies of Lithuania's countryside, the story begins with a chance meeting between two restless youths -- the quiet, angst-ridden Sangaile and her polar-opposite love interest Auste, a beguiling and beautiful fashionista. Sangaile dreams of flying one of the stunt planes that speed through the clouds above her parents' home, but her vertigo keeps her aspirations grounded. It's only when Auste prods her to accompany a pilot that Sangaile forces herself to take a leap of faith. Kavaite's film is a cinematographic tour-de-force; her camera defies gravity, soaring high into the sky as well as nestling within the film's quietest and most intimate moments. The Summer of Sangaile moves like a dream, transporting us into a surreal landscape where love and self-fulfillment are just a flight away. (Buy tickets here.)

Thursday, July 9, 9 p.m. at the Orpheum Theatre. Opening Night Gala.

"Good evening. Hello. I have cancer," comedian Tig Notaro famously announced in front of a stunned audience in 2012. "Is everybody having a good time?" In just 30 minutes, the beloved, up-and-coming stand-up star revealed her grave prognosis to the world, with a disarming mixture of humor and vulnerability. The set became a media sensation and critical smash overnight and, as Kristina Goolsby and Ashley York's charming and kind-hearted documentary reveals, helped push Notaro past a series of setbacks and into the limelight. Known for her deadpan humor and striking honesty, Notaro took her struggles and transformed them into an ongoing, gut-busting punch line, cracking people up both on- and off-stage. With her newfound stardom also came a budding romance with actress Stephanie Allynne, whose steadfast support and adorably flirty texts helped shaped Notaro's resurgence.The result is an alternately hilarious and poignant window into a comedian's process, turning her worst fears and anxieties into pure comedic gold. This Sundance sensation -- a recipient of an extended standing ovation following its world premiere -- features Sarah Silverman and Zach Galifianakis, and showcases how Louis C.K. ensured that Tig's now-famous "cancer comedy" was heard by millions of appreciative listeners across the globe. (Buy tickets here.)


Carmin_tropical_0Carmin Tropical
Tuesday, July 14, 7 p.m. at Harmony Gold

Successful trans nightclub singer Mabel returns to her hometown in Mexico to investigate the murder of her best friend, Daniela. With no leads and little insight into Daniela's death, Mabel digs deeper into her friend's past, realizing how her own upbringing and past life overlap unnervingly with that of her murdered friend. In order to fully comprehend what happened to Daniela, Mabel must embrace a world she tried desperately to leave behind. Directed with a potent mixture of nostalgia and dread, Carmin Tropical carefully unveils a fascinating and increasingly sinister mystery that questions whether we can escape our fate. (Buy tickets here.)

Sunday, July 12, 9:30 p.m. at DGA 1

Drown is a brutal, hyper-sexualized trip through the head of unhinged Australian lifeguard Len, who simultaneously bullies and lusts after his beautiful, chiseled gay teammate. Director Dean Francis mines Stephen Davis's play for all the testosterone-fueled drama it can yield, vividly exploring the intersections of competition, dedication, and attraction amid a coastal proving ground where achievement, reward, and manliness don't always lead to happily ever after. (Buy tickets here.)

Stories_of_our_lives_0Stories of Our Lives
Sunday, July 12, 5:30 p.m. at Harmony Gold

Bold, radical, and gorgeously shot in black-and-white, Teddy Award-winner Stories of Our Lives is a deeply moving portrait of what it means to be queer in a country where homosexuality is punishable by law. Based on a series of interviews with LGBTQ Kenyans and made, mostly anonymously, by Nairobi's NEST collective, the film's five fictional stories follow a range of characters who are united by the fundamental desire to be able to love (or at least lust) openly. (Buy tickets here.)


Tab_hunter_confidential_0Tab Hunter Confidential
Saturday, July 11, 7 p.m. at DGA 1

In the squeaky-clean 1950s, Tab Hunter was the perfect pinup, a virile, handsome movie star and singer of chart-topping hits. What his female fans didn't know was that Tab Hunter was gay in an era when coming out would have destroyed his career. Director Jeffrey Schwarz (Vito, I Am Divine) tells Hunter's life story, from Hollywood stardom and his secret affair with Anthony Perkins to finding true love after 50. Hunter takes us through the ups and downs of his life, and friends and costars including Debbie Reynolds, Robert Wagner, and Portia de Rossi share their stories about this one-of-a-kind screen icon. (Buy tickets here.)

The_royal_road_0The Royal Road
Sunday, July 12, 6 p.m. at Redcat

Following a successful premiere at Sundance, filmmaker and Outfest favorite Jenni Olson (The Joy of Life) brings us The Royal Road, a lyrical, intimate cinematic essay in defense of remembering. Through a voice-over that effortlessly weaves histories of colonization in California together with personal meditations on nostalgia, classic Hollywood cinema, attraction to unavailable women, and butch identity -- all accompanied by achingly beautiful 16mm images of California urban landscapes -- Olson's film will lure you into its quiet world, leaving you longing for something you didn't even know you'd forgotten. (Buy tickets here.)


Nandm_convox633_0Naz & Maalik
Sunday, July 12, 7 p.m. at DGA 1

In this striking and lean debut, writer-director Jay Dockendorf proves himself an exciting new voice in independent cinema. Observational, intimate, and flooded with the sweet undercurrent of two boys falling in love, this SXSW discovery confronts the challenge of keeping secrets when you're young, black, gay, and Muslim. After their first night together, Naz and Maalik wander the streets of Brooklyn in a giddy summer haze of romance. But an undercover FBI agent flips their world upside- down after she incorrectly assumes their involvement in what appears to be an illegal gun trade. What begins as a sweet ode to love transforms into a serious and timely study of racism and religion in everyday America. (Buy tickets here.)

Thats_not_us_0That's Not Us
Tuesday, July 14, 9:30 p.m. at DGA 2

In this delectable romantic comedy filled to the brim with drama, three couples -- gay, straight, lesbian -- travel together to upstate New York to enjoy the final fleeting days of summer. An entirely improvised film shot with a small and talented ensemble, That's Not Us effortlessly reveals the tensions that simmer between partners, couples, and friends. Each moment on-screen pulses with intimacy and spontaneity, allowing audiences to fall into the film's moment-to-moment naturalism. (Buy tickets here.)

Thosepeople_05_0Those People
Saturday, July 18, 2 p.m. at DGA 1

Impressionable young painter Charlie is consumed with best friend and longtime crush Sebastian, whose father's Bernie Madoff-esque scandal has left him penniless. Sebastian's coping mechanism is nonstop hedonism, and he insists that Charlie join him on his self-destructive ride through sex, drinking, and playtime at his father's massive penthouse. Filmmaker Joey Kuhn's lyrical storytelling and keen sense of atmosphere elevate this astute and sexy tale of desperation disguised as desire. Manhattan's elite Upper East Side provides the gilded backdrop for a tale of 1 percent entitlement and its ruinous effect on a young man's chance at love. (Buy tickets here.)

Youre_killing_me_0You're Killing Me
Wednesday, July 15. 9:45 p.m. at DGA 1

L.A. comedy favorites Drew Droege, Jeffery Self, Sam Pancake, and Jack Plotnick star as gay men so steeped in irony and sarcasm they don't know a serial killer when they meet one. Joe (Matthew McKelligon) murders people and has no filter about revealing that, but the name-dropping, mimosa-chugging clique he's a part of always thinks he's kidding. Can they stop talking about who they saw at Target long enough to survive Joe? This horror-comedy from director Jim Hansen (Droege's hilarious "Chloe" shorts) also features Mindy Cohn (The Facts of Life), Funny or Die's Bryan Safi, and Matthew Wilkes (Gayby). (Buy tickets here.)


54_2_054: The Director's Cut
Thursday, July 16, 8:30 p.m. at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

A full 17 years after its original release, 54 -- Mark Christopher's sexy and salacious salute to that infamous temple of hedonism, New York's 1970s nightclub Studio 54 -- has been gorgeously reconstructed to reflect the director's original vision. With 36 added minutes of original material, the story of Shane O'Shea's (Ryan Phillippe) journey from fresh-faced Jersey boy to "Shane 54" is now darker, more tenacious and, most importantly, queerer. A significant plot line involving Shane's bisexuality along with his menage a trois with his two costars will finally see the light of day after years on the cutting room floor. Put on your tightest polyester getup and join the director, cast, and crew for a raucous night of disco decadence at L.A.'s most popular outdoor screening venue. (Buy tickets here.)

Parting_glances-1_0Parting Glances
Saturday, July 11, 2 p.m. at DGA 2

Noted for its nuanced, unapologetic depiction of queer lives during the AIDS crisis, Parting Glances follows New York couple Robert and Michael as they face Robert's impending departure on a two-year work assignment and contend with their eccentric friends, including Michael's ex Nick (Steve Buscemi), who's living with AIDS. Bill Sherwood's much-beloved debut feature was both integral to the founding of the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project and its first feature film restoration, so Outfest is screening a restored 35mm print in celebration of the Legacy Project's 10th anniversary, thanks in part to the UCLA Film & Television Archive. (Buy tickets here.)

Velvet-goldmine-1998-04-g1_0Velvet Goldmine
Saturday, July 11, 4:30 p.m. at DGA 2

Let's tip our glittery glam-rock hats to Killer Films and its mastermind, the legendary Christine Vachon, for 20 years of producing envelope-pushing queer independent cinema. To mark the occasion, we're revisiting one of the sparklier titles in the Killer catalog, Velvet Goldmine. Todd Haynes's modern classic centers on bisexual, Bowie-like rock star Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), who fakes his own death onstage, promptly disappearing from public life, and journalist Arthur (Christian Bale), who tries to track him down for a "where are they now" article 10 years later. Interviews with Slade's ex-wife (Toni Collette), former manager (Eddie Izzard), and rival rocker Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor) bring out Arthur's inner fanboy and send him down the rabbit hole looking for answers. The film is a deliciously star-studded feast of makeup, fashion, drugs, sex and rock'n'roll. There will be a tribute to Christine Vachon herself after the screening. (Buy tickets here.)


Field_visits_for_chelsea_manning_0_0Field Visits for Chelsea Manning
Saturday, July 18, 7:30 p.m. at Redcat

This remarkable film charts Army Intelligence officer Chelsea Manning's incarcerations from Kuwait through Virginia and Kansas to Maryland. Leaving no stone unturned, Lance Wakeling's cinematic travelogue assembles courtroom transcripts of Manning's Wikileaks trial and the effects of the prison-industrial complex on the communities and economies in which detention facilities are erected. Field Visits will be screened with Aykan Safoglu's Off-White Tulips (Grand Prize, Oberhausen Film Festival), a meditation on James Baldwin's 1960s-'70s sojourn in Istanbul. (Buy tickets here.)

Jason_and_shirley2_0_0Jason and Shirley
Saturday, July 11, 9:30 p.m. at Redcat

In his newest experimental feature, Stephen Winter (Chocolate Babies) fictionalizes the infamous 12-hour film shoot that resulted in Shirley Clarke's trailblazing work of cinema verite, Portrait of Jason (1967). Jason Holliday (Jack Waters), an outspoken and flamboyant African-American hustler, recounts his trials and tribulations in New York City's 1960s gay counterculture. As the shoot wears on, Shirley (Sarah Schulman) and her crew goad and provoke one of documentary cinema's most remarkable subjects, and we are granted a glimpse at the intricacies of pride and survival in a far less permissive climate. (Buy tickets here.)


Don't miss Trans Identities, Girls' Shorts, Boys' Shorts, Funny Bone, and all the other stellar shorts programs screening this festival. See a full list here.

Nick_jonasx633_0SPECIAL EVENTS

Highlights of the special events include a 10th anniversary tribute to the Sundance winner Quinceanera, A Night with Kingdom Star Nick Jonas (pictured above), Bad Movie Night with comedians Dave Holmes and Drew Droege, IFC's Documentary Now! with Bill Hader And Fred Armisen, the SAG-AFTRA Transgender Hollywood Panel, and a special performance from drag legend Lypsinka. See a full list here.

Photos and descriptions courtesy of Outfest.

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