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The absolutely fabulous list of the greatest Alternative Lifestyle movies ever made on planet earth

Carly at the Movies column by Carl Larsen

Sometimes watching a lousy movie can lead you down an interesting primrose path. Like the other day, I was in the mood for a musical, and noticed one I had never seen was playing on cable. I TiVoed it, and later sat down to watch what turned out to be one of the worst movies ever made.

It was “Can’t Stop the Music,” a 1980 fantasized biography of the gay-themed singing group Village People. Remember them? They were all the rage back when we were all wearing disco glitz, going to dance clubs, and snapping our fingers to the Bee Gees. Well, some of us were, anyway.

This frenetic film, starring Steve Guttenberg and Valerie Perrine, is terrible by any standard, and for those masochists out there, it’s playing again next Friday on cable on The Movie Channel.

Well, shortly after it began, and I began fast-forwarding, I asked myself, Aren’t there any really good Alternative Lifestyle movies? There are scads of terrible ones, and even more on the porno market – but really good films? I stopped “Can’t Stop the Music” and started researching.

I quickly found that, of course there are good ones, and most of us have enjoyed at least some of them on my list of the 10 absolutely fabulous A.L. flicks ever made:

1. “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” (1994) is a charming and enjoyable film on any level, with bravura performances by Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce as an ABBA-singing, cross-dressing group touring the Australian outback, where men are men and not women. Hey, it even won an Oscar for Best Costume Design. It’s done with just the right tone, and an added drop of melancholy to boot. And of course, the ABBA music is great.

2. “Flawless” (1999) Written and directed by A-list action director Joel Schumacher. Robert De Niro plays a stroke victim security guard ordered to rehab by taking singing lessons. He ends up tutored by the drag queen next door, brilliantly played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. It’s a wonderful character study, full of humor and pathos.

3. “The Crying Game” (1992) This is Neil Jordan’s little gem that caused such a hullabaloo back in the 90’s. Stephen Rea plays an Irish Freedom Fighter (or IRA terrorist, depending on your viewpoint) that meets and falls for gorgeous Jaye Davidson. Audiences were urged to “keep the secret” (that she’s a he) but beyond the gimmick it’s a sensitive and interesting study. Jordan caught a lot of flack for making his lead, the IRA agent, into a sympathetic character. Excellent movie, bears re-watching, and the title song still lingers in our memory.

4. “The Boys in the Band” (1970) William Friedkin directed this version of Mart Crowley’s anguished Broadway play; it was a real stunner back in those days. A straight dude gets invited to a homosexual party, and character revelation comes pouring out of everyone. Still holds up well, with all members of the original Broadway cast intact, including great performances by Leonard Frey and Laurence Luckinbill.

5. “Boys Don’t Cry” (1999) Hilary Swank won her first Oscar playing a tortured transgendered teen living as a boy but born female. Perhaps her best performance ever. It’s bound to touch your heart and, like all the others on this list, is available on DVD.

6. “Transamerica” (2005) Felicity Huffman, that harried “Desperate Housewives” mom, comes up with a really different kind of problem in this grim tale of a pre-operative transsexual who discovers he’s fathered a son. Felicity is brilliant, plot is fascinating.

7. “Philadelphia” (1993) Many people believe this is Tom Hanks’ best performance ever, as a man fired from his job due to AIDS. Grey and forceful, undoubtedly the best of many films dealing with this problem. Denzel Washington, as his lawyer, also stands out.

8. “The Birdcage” (1996) A successful, delightful remake of the French comedy “La Cage Aux Folles.” Robin Williams and Nathan Lane ham it up to the hilarious max as gay lovers trying to hide the fact from the straight family of their son’s fiancé. Very, very funny film.

9. “Bound” (1996) For some reason, there have never been many really good movies made about lesbian relationships. Maybe the male moguls who ran Hollywood were too insecure about it. But whatever, Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon click together perfectly as new-found lovers involved with snatching Mob Money.

10. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975) I know, I’m not a member of the cult, either. But how could you make a list of alternative lifestyle films and leave out Tim Curry’s totally outrageous cross-dressing performance as Dr. Fran-n-Furter?

There were other interesting films I had to leave off the list, just for the sake of brevity. Like, I still haven’t made up my mind about “Angels in America.” But whatever. Today, at least, we have this brand new list of movies to add to the long list of lists that list-crazy American film fans love.

Next week, we hope to get back to the real movies. Until then, please don’t go around feeling listless.

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