QFest movie reviews for the documentaries “Married in Spandex” and “What’s the Name of the Dame?”

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

So, yesterday was documentary day for me and I couldn’t have been more pleased at the outcome.

I started with “Married in Spandex”.  I had seen Rachel Turanski and Amanda Kole out and about all week at the festival looking happy and excited, but couldn’t wait to actually see the documentary.  These two local West Philly lesbians decided to tie the know in Iowa, where it was legalized in April of 2009.

The documentary starts and never stops.  We are given the backstory of the two ladies through their own words.  They met, they soon fell in love, packed the UHaul and then decided to get married.  They don’t apologize for the quickness of their courtship and marriage and they shouldn’t.  I guess when you know, you just know and these ladies seem to know.

The documentary has interviews with the ladies, Amanda’s mother and father (who are hilarious without trying or maybe even realizing) and their friends.  The idea seems to be that, while they are subscribing to being what is called “heteronormative”, that doesn’t mean they have to do the marriage just like anybody else and they don’t, not even a little bit.

The film was so funny that half the time you actually missed some of the dialogue because of how hard the audience was laughing.  Between Rachel’s outgoing goofiness, Amanda’s dry wit, the ridiculousness of “Minister” Leslie Hall, your side was hurting by the end of the movie.  You are also able to explore the issues that families go through with having gay children with the discussions that Mr. and Mrs. Kole have on camera and Rachel’s missing family, who were not part of the documentary nor do they appear to be part of her life. She has, it appears, been adopted into Amanda’s family in a way that is refreshing.  Family is not necessarily the one you are born into but the one that you adopt along the way and that is evident in the way that they talk about their almost daughter in law. 

Rachel has it in her head about what the wedding will look like and it is going to be in spandex.  She employs the help of Philly local spandex wizard, David, who has a great line in the film.  When designing Rachel’s wedding dress, he says that they were looking for “elegance without concern for class”.  There seems to be little concern for class or labels or conformity in this movie.  It is all about what two ladies wanted to do bring their love to another level.

I really can’t say enough about this film.  It is funny and perfect.  I implore you to try and make time tomorrow night, July 18th at 7:15 at Ritz at the Bourse to see it.  They are two local Philly girls who can use all of our support in the community.

My next documentary was “What’s the Name of the Dame?”  All week I couldn’t help but sing Abba songs in my head while waiting to see a documentary about drag queens.  Did I happen to mention that if I could quit my real job, I would be a drag queen.  I haven’t come up with a good name yet but am open to suggestions. 

Anyway, last night’s feature was proceeded by a hilarious short called “Children of the Dune”.  This film was about gay men on Fire Island getting tired of raising their “gaybies” and discarding them.  In the year 2012, gay men have decided that having children is now passe, gosh and “so last season”.  These discarded gaybies take to living in a no man’s land in between the Pines and Cherry Grove.  I honestly think the movie and the concept could be turned into a riotous feature length film.

Then, off to the “ladies” of “Abbalicious”, a drag musical set in New York.  What was more billed to be a documentary about that show, became a history lesson on drag.  In between the performances of the various of queens of “Abbalicous”, were interviews with historians taking us from the early days of drag up until the accepted place it seems to have in entertainment now.

“Abbalicious” stars nine queens of varying ages, races and shapes.  The vision of show creator Jack Chen was to do new and interesting versions of Abba songs and he succeeded.  All of the queens in the movie can sing their asses off and they bring their own interpretation to each song.  These are not just the old Abba songs that you know and love.  There is country, rock, ballad and of course, pop, but they have made them their own. 

You get a firsthand look at how these men came to be the divas that they are today with in depth interviews with them about how, when, why they first decided to try it and how they have gotten to the level of professionalism that they possess today.  In between these interviews, there are music videos of their versions of the Abba song that they have chosen to make their own.  There are also interviews with celebrities that have a personal place in their hearts for drag queens.  One of the most true statements was uttered by Joan Rivers when she said, “To be a good drag queen, you need great legs, a makeup friendly face, no adam’s apple and a friend who knows wigs.”  No one wants to see a man slop on some makeup and a dress and pretend to be a “lady” and these men do not.

If you love drag queens the way that I do, this movie is worth watching to just get a history of how it came to be.  The “ladies” also give some amazing twists to original Abba songs.  I know it made me pull out my Abba cds this morning and get down to some “Dancing Queen”. 

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