Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival
Oct 19-25 at the Egyptian, Cinerama, and Little Theatre,
325-6500/ for tickets.

Hey, what do self-indulgent goth teenagers and Bombay eunuchs have in common? Well, not too much actually, now that you ask... except that both are the subjects of films (a feature, Gypsy 83, and a documentary called, well, Bombay Eunuch, respectively) showing at the Sixth Annual Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

At first, the inclusion of these wildly disparate offerings in the same festival seems to render the entire theme of queer cinema somewhat obsolete (as anybody who has ever suffered through yet another heartwarming coming-out story about a gorgeous boy in his underwear will emphatically agree). But if you look a little closer you'll see that this diversity is not a sign that queer cinema is dying out, but quite the contrary: Our little baby is finally growing up. But be warned--just because these films are about all of the kaleidoscopic aspects of being human and queer doesn't mean that a bunch of 'em don't suck. It is, after all, a film festival.

Like every other festival in the world, this one opens and closes with a couple of swanky soirées and slick-though-unchallenging films bound straight for the shelves of your local Blockbuster. Sundance entry Julie Johnson, starring Lili Taylor and Courtney Love, looks like a likable comedy, about a housewife who falls in love with her best friend. Friends and Family purports to be "a cross between La Cage aux Folles and The Sopranos," which I have to admit frightens the bejesus out of me. Still, this is probably worth seeing just for the Italian food served in the lobby of the Egyptian after the screening.

The shorts programs have been thoughtfully divided into categories: All in the Family, Boys' Shorts, Girls' Shorts, Trans Am, and Tough Titties. All are rife with introspective video noodlings like the insufferable documentary Papas, about two gorgeous, gay, German men who embark on the journey of parenthood and then shop at IKEA. Wake me in 35 minutes, please. Much more fun was the silly The Sleeping Man, about a love affair that begins and ends while the object of affection slumbers obliviously. Or check out the glamorous and sexy Meeting, with a couple of stunning French lesbians oh-so- elegantly making it in an elevator. Sure, with a little product placement both of these shorts could be commercials, but anything's better than two painfully earnest people sitting on a couch droning on and on about their feelings.

There are plenty more inventive feature-length documentaries like the aforementioned Bombay Eunuch, which examines the dying way of life for 1.3 million men in India who voluntarily castrate themselves and become a scorned class known as "hijras." Who knew? Or Out in Nature, which is like Wild Kingdom, only we get to see the dirty monkeys actually perform the act. Local punk rockers and lipstick-besmeared queers will doubtlessly flock to see Third Antenna, about the Northwest's drag scene, but should probably save their pennies and see Jackie and Ursula at Faux Bang instead, unless they can stomach 90 minutes of unrelentingly shoddy shaky-cam with neither Dramamine nor drinks.

Nostalgic Gen-Xers will be heartened by the inclusion of 1980s Riot Grrrl prototype Times Square, which boasts a plethora of new-wave bandannas fetchingly tied around ankles, and a soundtrack that includes Patti Smith and Suzi Quatro. The Fluffer, a comedy about porn stars and the stalkers who love them, described as having "casual intelligence and clever self-mockery," looks like it has great potential, as does Gypsy 83, a buddy movie about those kooky goths. Everybody--straight or gay, boy or girl--who fell madly in love with Before Night Falls' Javier Bardem needs to get their ass over to see Second Skin. It's a melodramatic soap opera with subtitles, but holy hell, you get to see him naked! A lot! And the guy who plays his closeted and conflicted lover, Jordi Molla, single-handedly lifts weeping to the status of foreplay.

Sure to be a scream is The Stranger's own dearly beloved David Schmader, with his searing deconstruction of Ellen DeGeneres' ill-conceived romantic comedy Mr. Wrong. If you've ever seen him casually skewer Showgirls with the sword of his mighty intellect, then you have laughed until your eyeballs exploded. This promises to be even more frighteningly hilarious. Get your tickets early; this will surely sell out.

But probably the best reason I can give you for attending this festival is the special benefit screening for By Hook or by Crook, directed by and starring the artist and rock star duo of Harry Dodge (Sister Spit) and Silas Howard (Tribe 8). Sure, this butch buddy road flick is uneven, irritating, and unfocused. But it's also fresh, riveting, and pulsing with moments of cinematography so gorgeous it seems impossible that it was shot on video. Yeah, you might be able to find this at Scarecrow in two years, but whether you're a member of the "community" or just looking for an excuse to come out, you'll want to see Hook on the big screen. It represents the best and worst of what the SLGFF is about.