CINEMA: THE FINAL FRONTIER

TWO NEW MOVIES POSE THE QUESTION, CAN'T HOLLYWOOD TREAT GAYS LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE?

AS THE NIGHTCLUB CROWD WAITS impatiently downstairs, Starina, the headliner, sits at her dressing table. She powders away the age lines. She applies mascara to the eyes that have bewitched a thousand sailors. She runs an electric shaver over her chin stubble. It's hard work being a drag queen, as Starina (Nathan Lane), diva deluxe of The Birdcage, can testify.

And as any moviegoer can tell you, it's even harder to find much evidence of homosexuals on the Hollywood screen. The Birdcage, opening this week, is the rare exception. This gently supportive comedy about gays, a sweet parable of family values,...

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