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The romantic-comedy Kissing Jessica Stein (2001), another critically and commercially successful lesbian-themed film, concerns a straight young woman, frustrated with the heterosexual dating scene, who hesitantly embarks on a relationship with another woman. Heather Juergensen and Jennifer Westfeldt's script was adapted from their 1997 play Lipschtick, which was based on their own dating experiences and anecdotes culled from interviews. Several gay and lesbian groups objected to the film's sexual politics (the issue is addressed briefly in the film, when a gay male friend accuses one of the women of "trying lesbianism on as if it were the latest fashion"); many critics, however, championed the film for its very lack of political correctness.

Philadelphia and Other AIDS-related Films

Although not the movie industry's first foray into AIDS-related material, Philadelphia (1993), written by Ron Nyswaner, is significant for being Hollywood's first big-budget attempt to examine the subject. Nyswaner's script tells the story of Andrew Beckett, an attorney with AIDS, who is fired from his firm because of his illness; Beckett hires a lawyer who is the only willing advocate for a wrongful dismissal suit.

Primarily a courtroom drama, the script was somewhat sanitized, both politically and dramatically, for a mainstream audience. "Reaching a large audience, not just gays, was a prime consideration," Nyswaner explained when the film was released. "Our consuming goal was to make a movie that would play to the largest possible audience." Hence, Beckett's personal struggle with AIDS and his relationships with his lover and family are kept at a rather superficial level.

Nyswaner also wrote the script for the television movie A Soldier's Girl (2003), based on the true story of U. S. Army Pfc. Barry Winchell who was beaten to death in 1999 after his fellow soldiers learned of his involvement with a nightclub performer.

A number of independent films have also explored the issue of AIDS, including Arthur J. Bressan, Jr.'s Buddies (1985), the first American film to dramatize the AIDS crisis; Parting Glances (1986), written and directed by Bill Sherwood, about a group of New York friends and their responses to AIDS; Longtime Companion (1990), with a script by the noted playwright Craig Lucas, which also bore witness to the toll of AIDS on a circle of friends in the 1980s; Together Alone (1991), written and directed by P. J. Castellaneta; Gregg Araki's The Living End (1992); John Greyson's AIDS musical Zero Patience (1993); Randal Kleiser's It's My Party (1996), about the planned suicide of a man suffering from AIDS; and Love! Valour! Compassion! (1997), written by Terrence McNally and based on his Broadway success of the same name.

The Emergence of the Writer/Director

There is a long history of film directors who are also writers. The European auteurs such as Pasolini and Visconti often wrote--or at least collaborated on--their own scripts. This tradition has been continued by such contemporary glbtq directors as Pedro Almodóvar, Chantal Akerman, Monika Treut, and Rosa von Praunheim, among many others.

Since the late 1980s, with the emergence of gay and lesbian independent films and the "New Queer Cinema" movement, a proliferation of glbtq-themed movies has been released. This has been due in part to the economic viability of independent films, the growth of an audience responsive to queer-themed works, and the presence of openly gay and lesbian writer/directors who have brought their personal visions to the screen.

John Waters is one of the first openly gay writer/directors, and in many ways a trailblazer for "alternative" films. Unreservedly embracing camp, kitsch, and graphic bad taste, his films have addressed such subjects as crime, religion, racism, and sexual subversion, and are notable for their audacious, willfully demented dialogue. Divine (born Harris Glenn Milstead), a 300-pound cross-dresser, was the undisputed star of early Waters' movies until his death in 1988.

Waters began experimenting with 8 and 16mm shorts in the 1960s; early feature-length films such as Mondo Trasho (1969) and Multiple Maniacs (1970) were rarely seen outside of Waters' hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. With Pink Flamingos (1972), a boldly transgressive film about two families fighting for the title of "Filthiest People Alive," Waters finally achieved critical acclaim and notoriety. In the film's final scene, which firmly established the reputations of both Waters and Divine as cultural icons of outrageousness, one family matriarch (played by Divine) proves herself the "Queen of Filth" by ingesting fresh dog excrement.

While his more recent films, such as Hairspray (1988), Serial Mom (1994), and A Dirty Shame (2004), have had increasingly bigger budgets and greater technical proficiency, Waters' personal brand of absurdity has also been toned down to reach a broader, more mainstream, audience.

Gus Van Sant, the highly prolific and influential filmmaker, has worked both within and outside the Hollywood system. While he has directed films from other writers' scripts, including Good Will Hunting (1997) and a remake of the Alfred Hitchcock classic Psycho (1998), Van Sant's critical reputation derives mainly from those films he has both written and directed.

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