Monday, June 18, 2012

Film Critic B. Ruby Rich Wins Frameline Award - For My Sister

My big sister, who taught me the pleasure and power of words

While other first graders were listening to bedtime stories of Dick and Jane, my big sister was opening up the worlds of George Orwell's Animal Farm and Tolkien's The Hobbit for me to explore. She took me to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and the summer I turned thirteen, she let me visit her in her Chicago loft. I remember she had somehow secured a full size silk parachute and turned it into a circular room. At Yale she lived in a group house - the first I had ever heard of (again, I was thirteen).  Some of her roommates built a raft influenced by the boat building of Huck Finn and took me out on the river behind their rented house. 

What I mean to say is this: she was the coolest big sister a girl could hope for. In our pretty traditional working class / middle class family, she taught me through example that there were other ways to live. 

Here's her profile from the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle magazine. Enjoy!

Film professor and renowned critic B. Ruby Rich has the uncanny ability to recognize cultural history in the making, then coin it.

"Cinefeminism" and "new queer cinema" are both classic Rubyisms.

Her books, articles, film festival talks and lectures at UC Santa Cruz are filled with intellectual theories about how the cinematic landscape is being altered by Hollywood's traditional outsiders: gays, women, independent and foreign filmmakers.

But privately, she'll tell you that the first movie to truly shake her was "Psycho."
"I literally stopped taking showers for 10 years," she said, noting that she still bathed. "I've gotten over it, but it took me another 20 years before I could shower in a hotel when I was alone."

Rich doesn't even study horror as a genre, but what "Psycho" did was make her feel the lasting emotional power of a movie. If film could do that, just think what it could do if it revealed the intimate stories of those whom society overlooks? A lifelong career cracked open.

"Movies manipulate us into thinking," she said.

After decades of highlighting the work of independent directors, film distributors, writers and actors, Rich is the recipient this month of the Frameline Award, the highest honor bestowed by the annual San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival.

Rich is only the second film critic chosen in the award's 27-year history. The inaugural Frameline Award went to Vito Russo, who wrote 1981's "The Celluloid Closet," which was later turned into a documentary about the portrayal of gays and lesbians in film. Last year, the Frameline Award went to comic Margaret Cho.

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