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      The Celluloid Closet

      R Released Jan 30, 1996 1 hr. 42 min. Documentary LGBTQ+ List
      97% 34 Reviews Tomatometer 89% 2,500+ Ratings Audience Score This documentary highlights the historical contexts that gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders have occupied in cinema history, and shows the evolution of the entertainment industry's role in shaping perceptions of LGBT figures. The issues addressed include secrecy -- which initially defined homosexuality -- as well as the demonization of the homosexual community with the advent of AIDS, and finally the shift toward acceptance and positivity in the modern era. Read More Read Less Watch on Fandango at Home Premiered Feb 13 Buy Now

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      The Celluloid Closet

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      The Celluloid Closet

      What to Know

      Critics Consensus

      The Celluloid Closet takes a thought-provoking look at the decades of omission and misrepresentation endured by the gay community in mainstream cinema.

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      Audience Reviews

      View All (176) audience reviews
      Shioka O Informative and engaging. History of homosexuality in Hollywood. Lots of classic films are mentioned. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 01/11/23 Full Review Thomas M Best documentary movie ever made! Rated 5 out of 5 stars 11/25/22 Full Review Audience Member Five things hit me harder than a hammer to the kneecap while watching eye-opening 1996 documentary "The Celluloid Closet." (1) The movie, directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, is, at its simplest, a study of homosexuality and its relation to the entertainment industry. At its most complex (and its most striking), though, is it a commentary revolving around the media's effective strategies in defining what's "normal" in terms of gender and sexuality, analyzing how the deficiency of portrayals of the LGBT community over the last century or so has essentially worsened the hopeless pangs of alienating "otherness" to have afflicted the minority group. (2) Due to the lacking of widespread representation of the gay populace, many have been faced with the difficult task of having to rearrange the stories of heterosexually dominated films to try to find something relatable within them. For some, Joan Crawford wearing a black cowboy shirt throughout "Johnny Guitar" (1954) was enough. For others, Thelma and Louise's friendship strengthening road trip was, at its center, about same-sex love. Even the sexualized depiction of bisexuality in "Basic Instinct" (1992) still meant something if only because it was something instead of nothing. "I'd rather have negative representation than no representation," talking head Harvey Fierstein frankly admits, providing the movie with one of its most crushing quotes. (3) As a young, white, heterosexual male - the most numbingly privileged demographic in the world - never have I had to worry about seeing someone like me reflected in the media. Never have I had to seek out entertainment catering to my sexuality or my culture: both are seen as such "normal" facets within our society that few find the time to question how much is left out in the process. For anyone who isn't categorically part of the majority has to thirstily search for anything that parallels their own lives even remotely, and that's an unfair, heartbreaking reality, an additionally brutal supplement within a globe that finds people more easily able to define their sense of self by ambushing someone who isn't like them as an "other" to be compared. (4) Why is the image of a man showing affection toward another man seen as the visual destruction of masculinity - really a sign that a man is weak, soft - whereas the sight of a woman passionate toward another woman is looked at as something beautiful, comforting, sexy, and, perhaps, even an extension of the warmth that is female sexuality? Why is it unacceptable for a man to be feminine, while it's enthralling, sometimes even titillating, for a woman to be masculine? Why has it taken so long for there to be accurate delineation of the LGBT community when they've always existed, when they've always been so integral to the entertainment business? Why does society so oftentimes strongly fear people simply because they are not like them? (5) In the twenty years since "The Celluloid Closet" was originally seen by mainstream audiences, things have been rapidly changing for the better, perhaps a sign that films like this one are, in fact, capable of drawing attention to the recurring crime of underrepresentation. The overarching society in which we live has a long way to go in widespread acceptance, but like all stigmas perpetuated by media and people who consume that said media, social change can spread like wildfire with enough normalization and with enough neatly packaged reminders that to ostracize another is a pointless endeavor - the celebration of all is of utmost priority, and nothing should be stopping us from running up that hill. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/03/23 Full Review Audience Member This is a good movie, but I find it highly annoying that they do not provide simple captions on the screen, that state the name of the movie they are talking about. That would not be hard to do--without such captions it is hard to find the movie title anywhere. Rated 2 out of 5 stars 02/20/23 Full Review Audience Member The premise of the topic of homosexuality and Hollywood was very concisely articulated through the documentary style, and utilized a chronological overview that lays the ground work coherently and engagingly, with just the right particular attention to both the various stereotypes and tropes of homosexuality, censorship, and the utilization of purposeful, yet subtle, innuendo that many filmmakers throughout the years utilized in history to work around censorship. The interviewees were a good selection of scholars, actors, and filmmakers. The Narrator, Lilly Tomlin, did a good job of narrating, expressing just the right tone and infliction for the subject matter. Despite there being a narrator, what was being said in the film did a good job of being expressed through the cinematic images being utilized, the narrator, and the interviewees such as Tony Curtis, Whoopi Goldberg, and Daniel Melnick to name a few of those whom contributed. Overall it was an excellent basis for the topic, very engaging despite its traditional documentary format, and you can tell that a fair about of care and attention went into its production. Despite the fact that it might be a little dated by 2015's standards, it is still relevantly informative and fascinating, and is something that should still be watched even now if you are a cinema history buff or just plain love cinema. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/13/23 Full Review Audience Member The premise of the topic of homosexuality and Hollywood was very concisely articulated through the documentary style, and utilized a chronological overview that lays the ground work coherently and engagingly, with just the right particular attention to both the various stereotypes and tropes of homosexuality, censorship, and the utilization of purposeful, yet subtle, innuendo that many filmmakers throughout the years utilized in history to work around censorship. The interviewees were a good selection of scholars, actors, and filmmakers. The Narrator, Lilly Tomlin, did a good job of narrating, expressing just the right tone and infliction for the subject matter. Despite there being a narrator, what was being said in the film did a good job of being expressed through the cinematic images being utilized, the narrator, and the interviewees such as Tony Curtis, Whoopi Goldberg, and Daniel Melnick to name a few of those whom contributed. Overall it was an excellent basis for the topic, very engaging despite its traditional documentary format, and you can tell that a fair about of care and attention went into its production. Despite the fact that it might be a little dated by 2015's standards, it is still relevantly informative and fascinating, and is something that should still be watched even now if you are a cinema history buff or just plain love cinema. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/14/23 Full Review Read all reviews Post a rating

      Cast & Crew

      Critics Reviews

      View All (34) Critics Reviews
      Jonathan Rosenbaum Chicago Reader Lively and absorbing. May 28, 2020 Full Review Edward Guthmann San Francisco Chronicle "The Celluloid Closet" goes all the way back to the birth of cinema, to an experimental Thomas Edison short of two men dancing, to trace the odd, funny, sad and disgraceful history of homosexual iconography on film. Rated: 4/4 May 28, 2020 Full Review David Rooney Variety An immensely entertaining, galloping reflection on screen perceptions of lesbians and gay men, from the humorous to the heinous to the heartening. Mar 26, 2009 Full Review Matt Brunson Film Frenzy An excellent documentary. Rated: 3.5/4 Dec 5, 2022 Full Review Quentin Crisp Christopher Street I thought I would be bored by a series of film clips joined together by commentary, but it was light-hearted, flowing easily toward a hilarious conclusion. Apr 4, 2022 Full Review Alan Radcliffe The List This intelligent, fascinating film - based on the book by Vito Russo - is well worth a watch and is stuffed full of clips and contributions from stars, directors, screenwriters and academics. Rated: 4/5 May 28, 2020 Full Review Read all reviews

      Movie Info

      Synopsis This documentary highlights the historical contexts that gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders have occupied in cinema history, and shows the evolution of the entertainment industry's role in shaping perceptions of LGBT figures. The issues addressed include secrecy -- which initially defined homosexuality -- as well as the demonization of the homosexual community with the advent of AIDS, and finally the shift toward acceptance and positivity in the modern era.
      Director
      Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
      Executive Producer
      Bernie Brillstein, Brad Grey, Sheila Nevins, Howard Rosenman
      Screenwriter
      Jeffrey Friedman, Rob Epstein, Armistead Maupin, Vito Russo, Sharon Wood
      Distributor
      Sony Pictures Classics, Columbia TriStar Home Video
      Production Co
      Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, Home Box Office (HBO), Sony Pictures Classics
      Rating
      R
      Genre
      Documentary, LGBTQ+
      Original Language
      English
      Release Date (Theaters)
      Jan 30, 1996, Original
      Release Date (Streaming)
      Jan 28, 2015
      Box Office (Gross USA)
      $1.4M
      Sound Mix
      Surround
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