Gay movies: An incomplete guide
Some good, some bad, but all worth watching.
The best gay movies I’ve seen
In the early days of cinema, there was plenty of gay subtext in movies but very few overtly gay characters. Reflecting the changing nature of society, we now have movies that portray the full range of gay men and the lives that we lead.
There is something special about watching a movie that somehow reflects your experience or your aspirations — to see characters embarking on a journey that mirrors some aspect of your life, or to watch a love story that you can emotionally connect with.
It’s this personal connection with the stories portrayed in gay movies that means that some people may respond really powerful to movies that others find a bit unwatchable.
Not all gay movies are great movies, but in their own way they have all contributed to the way that the world sees us and, more importantly, the way that we see ourselves.
This is not a definitive list, but here’s alphabetical summary of the best gay movies that I’ve seen:
- An assured directorial debut from Tom Ford, this is a beautifully stylish movie depicting the decline and redemption of a grieving English professor. Based on a novel by Christopher Isherwood, the story is set in the early 1960s. With a cast that includes Colin Firth and Julianne Moore, this is a polished movie in every respect.
- Written and directed by Jonathan Harvey, this is a sweet and touching story about growing up gay in London. Great music and great performances underscores that figuring out who you are can be fairly confusing wherever you come from.
- Adapted from a short story by Annie Proulx, Ang Lee’s movie stars Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal and tells the story of an intense but tragic relationship between two American cowboys. It was a beautiful, heart-wrenching short story and the movie more than does it justice.
- Set in the heady of days of the 1930s in Berlin, this musical directed by Bob Fosse helped establish Liza Minnelli as a star. The decadent glamor, the bohemian lifestyle, and the sexual ambiguity make this a fascinating and exciting movie.
- Adapted from the stage musical of the same name, John Cameron Mitchell’s story follows the trials and tribulations of a singer who survives a botched vaginoplasty, escapes East Germany, and tries to find love, fame, and fortune.
- Almodovar’s first explicitly gay movie, this is the story of an intense love triangle between three men — charged with obsession, jealousy, and dark secrets.
- This was the first major movie to deal with the impact HIV and AIDS, chronicling the first years of the AIDS epidemic through the stories of a group of friends in New York City in the early 1980s.
- Adapted from the novel of E.M. Forster, director James Ivory presents a beautiful period piece starring Hugh Grant, telling the story of gay love in Edwardian England.
- Stephen Frears took on a complex and clever screenplay by Hanif Kureishi to create a compelling commentary on issues of sexuality, race, culture, and the socio-political context of the UK in the early 1980s. This was one of Daniel Day-Lewis’s early roles and helped establish his reputation as an actor willing to take risks with difficult characters.
- Gus Van Sant’s screenplay drew its inspiration from the Henry IV plays of Shakespeare. This was an important movie because it cast two prominent Hollywood actors — Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix — as gay hustlers. Despite its relatively edgy subject matter, the movie was a mainstream critical and commercial success.
- Gregg Araki directs a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a carefully constructed movie that explores the impact of sexual abuse. Strong performances and a well-told story.
- Documenting the ball culture in New York in the 1980s, Jennie Livingston’s documentary Paris Is Burning is a revealing observation of race, class, gender, and sexuality in the United States at that time.
- The documentary gave the world a glimpse into an intriguing, inspiring but marginalised community, and in the process helped to elevate much of the language and aesthetic of the ballroom scene into popular culture today.
- Despite the adversity of racism, homophobia, AIDS and poverty, the documentary shows that the balls provided people with an escape, a fantasy, a family, and a sense of belonging.
- Balls were a celebration and showcase where a marginalised group of people could come together and help each other to feel like stars and to feel the adrenalin of applause and recognition from the world.
- The documentary is also a fantastic snapshot of what New York City was like at that time — gritty, edgy, dangerous, and exciting.
- Paris Is Burning has become a significant cultural touchpoint for the gay community around the world, particularly the world of drag, with RuPaul’s Drag Race elevating much of the language and pageantry to become part of everyday gay life.
- It’s also a useful starting point for a discussions around why the people captured in the documentary were generally aspiring to be part of an affluent white culture, idolising affluent white women, and how that might reflect or contrast with the experience of marginalised communities today.
- Paris is Burning is what a documentary should be. It tells a story that you wouldn’t otherwise hear, it engages with its subject, and it shapes how you view the world.
- Pink Narcissus is an arthouse movie that brings to life the erotic fantasies of a gay hustler.
- Released in 1971, it was written and directed by James Bidgood, and stars Don Brooks (Angel), Bobby Kendall (Pan), and Charles Ludlum.
- Shot on 8mm film, over-exposed with bright lighting and intense colours, the movie was mostly filmed in a Manhattan loft. The scenes were filmed over an extended period of time (1963–1970) and was reportedly released without Bidgood’s consent so it was credited to Anonymous.
- In many way it mirrors the style of the films of Peter de Rome who was also creating arthouse gay films in New York around that time.
- Pink Narcissus was one of the first gay movies that I made a determined effort to go and see. It was the early 90s and I snuck out of college to see a screening at the nearby Carlton Picture-house. Weirdly surreal and erotically charged, this was one of the movie experiences that confirmed for me beyond any doubt that I was gay and I wanted to dive into the world that was being hinted at in Pink Narcissus.
- Following the traditional formula of the classic road movies, writer/director Stephan Elliott’s twist is that he is following the adventures of two drag queens and a trans woman. Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, and Terence Stamp are bedecked in some spectacular costumes as they stomp through the choreography and Australian outback.
- Playwright Mart Crowley adapted his off-broadway production for this movie directed by William Friedkin. Set in New York City in the late 1960s, the film was seen as groundbreaking because it was pretty much the first major movie that revolved around gay characters.
- Written and directed by Greg Berlanti, this is an ensemble piece telling the story of a group of gay friends in West Hollywood. This is seen as an important movie as it was one of the first to show a group of normal gay guys living pretty normal lives.
- Written by Larry Kramer and directed by Ryan Murphy, this tells the story of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City in the early 1980s. With a stellar cast that includes Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons, Alfred Molina, Jonathan Groff, and Julia Roberts, this is an incredibly moving story with heart-breaking performances.
- To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar is more than just an unusually long movie title.
- Released in 1995, this was really the first Hollywood movie since 1959’s Some Like It Hot that had its stars cross-dressing. While Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon jumped into women’s clothes out of necessity, the stars of To Wong Foo were depicting something else completely.
- In the movie the three main characters are referred to as drag queens, but it’s a bit of an old fashioned or a fantasy version of who drag queens are. Looking at the characters from today’s perspective it would seem more accurate to describe them as Trans.
- Directed by Beeban Kidron, stars Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, and John Leguizamo took a risk with these roles but they embraced their characters and committed to the performances.
- Also in the cast are Stockard Channing and Blythe Danner who can both be relied upon to bring some solid class to anything that they tackle.
- This is a movie that is in many ways inspired by the absurdist comedy tradition of American cinema, which sometimes feels a little out of step with how we expect film-makers to tell stories today. Regardless, To Wong Foo is still watchable, still enjoyable, and is definitely one of the movies that helped mainstream Hollywood understand that its audiences would respond positively to sympathetic gay characters.
- Harvey Fierstein adapted his play, telling the story of gay relationships and family in New York City in the 1970s. The movie stars Anne Bancroft and Matthew Broderick.
- An English movie exploring what can happen with a one-night-stand, this is notable as it was written and directed by Andrew Haigh who has gone on to create the successful Looking television series for HBO.
- A romantic fantasy loosely structured around a boy’s school production of Midsummer Night’s Dream. As the story unfolds, fantasy and reality begin to blur and while this at first feels a little disjointed, as the film gains momentum it really starts to gel. There’s some fantastic songs in this almost-musical, and some really emotional moments that had me in tears. Seriously, I cried a lot. Definitely worth watching.
- A touching and tragic love story between two Israeli soldiers. Director Eytan Fox keeps the melodrama to a minimum, using subtle storytelling and moments of intimacy to convey the connection between the two men.
A collection of reviews (in alphabetical order) about the gay movies we’ve seen recently that bring the drama.
- Studio 54 remains culturally iconic as a symbol of 80s glamor and decadence. This was the club in New York City where the world came to party.
- It’s a period of time that is rich with stories to be told, and it is easy to see why writer/director Mark Christopher was drawn to this era. Christopher conducted extensive research over a number of years, producing two short films before securing funding from Miramax to produce a full-length feature that was released in 1998.
- On paper the casting looked strong, it was a subject that excited people’s imagination, and there was a real sense of anticipation that this would be a movie worth watching.
- It’s well documented that the critical and public reaction was particularly underwhelming.
- As often happens with big studio movies, there were test screenings and studio interventions that resulted in a number of scenes being cut, or re-shot completely.
‘We were both trying to make the best movie possible…’ Christopher is quoted as having said at the time, diplomatically describing the delicate creative process when a studio is determined to create a movie that audiences will respond positively to.
- While it had been a long time since I’d seen the original studio cut of this movie, I was excited to see the new director’s cut that was released in 2015.
- This version still has some flaws as a movie, but it is undoubtedly a lot better than the version that was originally released.
- From a technical perspective you can generally see which scenes have been added back in as they have been treated differently, or have less production on them. From a creative perspective what has been added back in is a lot more drug-taking and a lot more guy-on-guy action, but also the characters seem to follow narrative arcs that make more sense than the version that was originally released.
- It is hard not to love the cast of this movie. Ryan Phillippe not only looks amazing, but delivers a really strong performance as central character Shane, Breckin Meyer is adorable as Greg, Salma Hayek shines as Anita, a young Mark Ruffalo has a small role, and Mike Myers nails it as Steve Rubell. There’s plenty of celebrity cameos to spot and the music makes you feel mighty real.
- For me, the second half of the movie is still lacking an emotional hook or dramatic punch, but I guess I never really wanted the party to end.
- For his debut feature, After Louie, Vincent Gagliostro gives us the story of Sam (Alan Cumming) — a New York artist who survived the AIDS epidemic of the 80s and 90s.
- An unexpected story about love in Ohio.
- August is the feature film debut for writer/director Eldar Rapaport.
- Starring Murray Bartlett as Troy, August tells the story of a man returning to Los Angeles after living in Barcelona for five years. Troy’s return creates problems for his ex-boyfriend Jonathan (Daniel Dugan) who is trying to move on from Troy and build a new relationship with Raul (Adrian Gonzalez).
- This feature-length production is an expansion on an earlier work from Rapaport — a 2005 short film that also starred Bartlett and Dugan.
- The measured pace of August allows story to slowly unfold as the dynamics of Troy, Jonathan, and Raul are explored.
- Intelligent filmmaking.
- Written and directed by Joseph Graham, Beautiful Something follows the interlocking stories of four men on one night in Philadelphia.
- A contemporary story of the challenges of love, set in Southwest Virginia.
- Written and directed by Thomas Bezucha, Big Eden tells the story of Henry Hart (Arye Gross) — a successful artist in New York who is drawn back to his hometown when his grandfather (his only surviving family member) has a stroke.
- Although initially only planning to stay a few days, Henry quickly reconnects with the people of his youth — including best friend Dean (Tim DeKay) and schoolmate Pike (Eric).
- While the motivations of the characters aren’t always that clear, the strength of this movie is in the way that it creates a believable sense of community in which to play out this story. It’s a likeable cast with some nice moments of comedy as well as real emotional depth — particularly between Henry and his grandfather Sam (George Coe).
- Definitely worth watching.
- Written and directed by Q. Allan Brocka (known for the Eating Out franchise, and the Rick & Steve animated series), Boy Culture is an adaptation of Matthew Rettenmund’s novel of the same name.
- The film tells the story of Alex (Derek Magyar), an escort in Seattle, confessing to Gregory (Patrick Bauchau) — an elderly client — his dilemmas regarding housemates Joey (Jonathan Trent) and Andrew (Darryl Stephens).
- Filmed in only 18 days, Boy Culture benefits hugely from the sharp eye and incisive writing of Q. Allan Brocka. The cast are watchable and despite the relatively slim premise, this is a more intelligent gay film than you might be expecting.
- A military love story set in the time of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
Seeking solace in online love.
- Filmmaker and actor Phillip Irwin Cooper draws on his own experiences in this story of a son’s return home to Alabama, where he is faced with caring for his ill mother (Mariette Hartley) and reconciling with his supportive father (John Heard) while also coming out later in life and discovering romantic feelings for a childhood friend from a life he left behind in the deep South.
- Cooper immerses us in the nuances of a southern community and family life, balanced against the complexities of coming to terms with the changing family dynamics of getting older and finding your place in the world.
- With its gentle pacing, and affection for its characters, this is a watchable film.
- It’s become something of a cult classic.
- Written and directed by William Friedkin, and starring Al Pacino as a A police detective goes undercover in the underground S&M gay subculture of New York City to catch a serial killer who is preying on gay men.
- When I watched it the first time, it seemed to have gaps in the narrative that didn’t make much sense — I’m guessing there was quite a lot that was left on the editing floor.
- Ultimate, it’s seen as a homophobic disaster.
- An unconventional gay movie that takes a surprising twist.
- Written and directed by Grant Scicluna, Downriver is the story of James — a teenager who has served time for drowning a young boy when he was a child, although the body was never found. In an attempt to right past wrongs and uncover the truth, James takes dangerous risks to find redemption and return the missing body to the grieving mother.
- Filmed near Warrandyte in the south-east of Australia, most of the film is set amidst the river forest in which the original crime took place.
- The film’s cast includes:
- Reef Ireland as James; Kerry Fox as Paige; Tom Green as Anthony; and
Charles Ground as Damo.
- This is Grant Scicluna’s feature debut and it’s a surprisingly dark and gripping thriller. Dark, outback thrillers such as these have become a bit of a staple of the Australian film industry but what feels fresh about this story is that most of the main characters are gay — however their sexuality is only incidental to the story.
- Kerry Fox (originally from New Zealand) has become a staple of Australian films and here she effortlessly delivers the role of Paige — the conflicted mother of James. The ingeniously-named Reef Ireland is perfectly cast as the damaged anti-hero; and Tom Green (Anthony) and Charles Ground (Damo) — who both worked on the TV series Camp that starred Rachel Griffiths — bring a naturalness to their roles.
- An intelligent and watchable thriller mystery.
- Dream Boy is written and directed by James Bolton. Based on the novel of the same name by Jim Grimsley, it tells the story of two gay teenagers who live in a rural community in the south of the United States.
- Nathan (Stephen Bender) has recently moved into the district with his parents. Living next door is Roy (Maximilian Roeg). Their friendship is at first tentative, soon becoming physical as the attraction between them grows.
- This is quite a dark story — much of the drama created as a result of the abuse that Nathan suffers at the hands of his father. Bender and Roeg create believable, watchable characters, but the story is slightly confusing — in particular Roy is a bit unfathomable and perhaps needed a bit more depth in order for the movie to pack real emotional punch.
- An interesting side note is that a young Rooney Mara appears as Roy’s girlfriend, and singer Rickie Lee Jones appears as Roy’s mother.
- I am a sucker for movies about food and family, so writer/director David Au’s film Eat With Me had me in tears without even trying.
- The story of a mother and son — each of them on a journey to find themselves and each other — Eat With Me perfectly captures the pain and confusion that life and love always seem to throw up along the way.
- Inspired by a real-life moment between his parents, this is a story that Au has been working on since 2003 when the script began life as a short-film.
- Finally realised as a feature-length production, Au has assembled a strong cast for Eat With Me — Sharon Omi (as the mother Emma); Teddy Chen Culver (as the son Elliot); Nicole Sullivan (as neighbor Maureen); and a nicely played cameo from George Takei.
- A drama that immerses us into the murky world of memory, morality, and religion.
- Read my full review and interview with filmmaker Terrance Odette.
- Flawless is a relatively low-key movie from writer/director Joel Schumacher.
- Schumacher’s slightly improbably view of life in New York City brings us the story of Walt Koontz (Robert De Niro) — an ultraconservative ex-cop who suffers a stroke. His rehabilitation program includes singing lessons with Rusty (Philip Seymour Hoffman) the Trans woman who lives next door.
- Despite the in-joke references to (award-worthy) My Left Foot — the role of Walt seems well within De Niro’s comfort zone. Probably of most interest is Seymour Hoffman as Rusty, the Trans woman who also sings and performs as a drag queen and takes a mothering role to those around her.
- Worth watching.
Global Warming (2015)
- Four short films about finding love in different parts of the world. Watchable and entertaining.
- Written and directed by Joshua Lim, Godless is a careful exploration of the complexity of fraternal sibling relationships.
- Lim brings us the story of the Flanigan family. Nate (Craig Jordan) is a college graduate who has moved home to live with his mother after his father passed away. Nate’s brother Steven (Michael E. Pitts) is away at college. Both brothers are gay. When their mother dies, Steven returns home for the funeral. Lim uses flashbacks to reveal the complexity of the relationship of the brothers, as they struggle to renegotiate how to move forward with their lives.
- This is challenging subject matter and Lim tackles it intelligently and sensitively. Consciously and deliberately avoiding any sensationalism, the tone throughout the movie is quite muted — almost shying away from dramatic tension in favour of static camera shots and heavy silences.
- Jordan and Pitts are solid and believable as the Flanigan brothers. I would have loved to have seen a bit more emotion and angst from both of them, but my sense is that it was a directorial decision to take quite a muted approach to the way that the brothers express their feelings.
- The dynamics between gay brothers is not something that is often delved into — Godless is a thought-provoking film that draws you in to the story of this family.
- A short film from Brandon Zuck about how people survive after the end of the world
- Hara Kiri is Henry Alberto’s take on the Romeo and Juliet doomed and tragic love story.
- When August (Jesse Pimental) suggests a suicide pact to his lover Beto (Mojean Aria), the skater soul-mates emerge to defiantly ride through one final Los Angeles day punctuated by moments of lyricism, chaos, and contention. How far can love take you? To the very end? On their final night, August and Beto discover an unpredictable environment and a unique cast of characters as they skate toward a certain end. As dawn rises on their final morning, the only question remaining will be…who ends it first?
- Written by Chuku Modu and directed by Jonny Ruff, Heavy Weight sketches the story of a boxer who finds his world turned upside-down by the arrival of a new fighter at his club.
- Holding the Man is the film adaptation of Timothy Conigrave’s memoir of the same name. The screenplay was written by Tommy Murphy, who also adapted the memoir for the stage.
- This is an incredibly sad and emotional story. You have to watch this movie, but you’re going to want to make sure that you’re in the right headspace for it.
- Conigrave’s memoir tells the story of his relationship with John Caleo. They met at high school in the late 70s, and their relationship survived for 15 years until death separated them. Both Conigrave and Caleo were diagnosed as being HIV-positive in 1985. Caleo died of AIDS-related illnesses in 1992, Conigrave died of AIDS-related illnesses in 1995. Conigrave’s memoir was released in 1995.
- The memoir had a powerful impact when first released in Australia — its story of love and loss somehow put a human face to the devastation caused by the HIV virus in those early decades.
- Director Neil Armfield has assembled a fantastic cast for this film adaptation.
- At the heart of the story are Ryan Corr (Tim) and Craig Stott (John) — believably authentic as they bring these characters to life throughout the years. In supporting roles are Guy Pearce, Anthony LaPaglia, Kerry Fox, and Geoffrey Rush.
- Murphy and Armfield have respectfully brought the story of Tim and John to life on screen. It’s impossible not to be overwhelmed by sadness by everything that their story reveals.
- Written and directed by Ian Samplin, Hunter tells the story of two friends who find a stranger passed out on their doorstep.
- It’s a bit slow-moving, and somehow makes living in NYC’s Lower East Side seem a bit miserable, but it’s watchable.
- Stars Jack Falahee; Giles Matthey; and Ella Hatamian.
- Adapted from an article written by Benoit Denizet-Lewis and directed by Justin Kelly, I Am Michael the movie tells the real-life story of Michael Glatze — a leading gay journalist and activist in the US who ultimately renounced his homosexuality and became a Christian minister.
- There is a strong creative team behind this movie — Gus Van Sant is credited as executive producer, and Jake Shears was in charge of the music.
- As well as Franco (as Michael Glatze), and Quinto (as Glatze’s boyfriend Bennett), the cast includes Emma Roberts, Charlie Carver, and a perfectly-pitched cameo by Daryl Hannah.
- The style of the movie is deliberately fragmented, chopping between locations and points in time. Glatze is not a particularly appealing character, and it’s a little difficult to empathise with him, his motivation, and the choices he’s making, but it’s hard not to be intrigued by the journey that he embarks on.
- Despite the difficult character that he is portraying in this movie, Franco continues to demonstrate his enormous skill as an actor. He seems to inhabit this role effortlessly, subtly conveying the confusion and torment that his character is struggling with.
- Quinto has less to work with, but is totally in command of his emotions, full of restrained fury and occasional outbursts of heartbreak and despair.
- In many ways, I Do is a period piece — a movie about a group of characters in New York City whose lives and loves are complicated by the laws applying to same sex couples at that time.
- Written by David W. Ross and directed by Glenn Gaylord, I Do tells the story of Jack (David W. Ross) — an immigrant from England who is desperate to stay in New York City so he marries his best friend Ali (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) even though he is in love with Mano (Maurice Compte).
- It’s a strong cast and the story hangs together well, although the story drags a little. This was a movie of its time and part of the cultural tsunami that has helped to make marriage equality a reality in the United States.
- Andrew Keegan and James Franco play lovers and partners in porn in King Cobra.
- Writer/director Justin Kelly gives us King Cobra — the behind-the-scenes, based-on-a-true-story drama of Cobra Video, the gay porn studio that launched the career of Brent Corrigan.
- King Cobra introduces us to Brent Corrigan when he was seventeen and known as Sean Lockhart (played by Garrett Clayton). A meeting with the founder of Cobra Video — Stephen (played by Christian Slater) — leads to Sean’s introduction into the world of gay porn and the launch of his career as Brent Corrigan. When rival porn producers Joe (James Franco), a former youth pastor with a bad temper, and Harlow (Keegan Allen), a former military man, set their sights on stealing Sean from Stephen, a porn turf-war ensues, resulting in a gruesome murder.
- The film also stars Alicia Silverstone, and Molly Ringwald.
- Kelly has created a dramatic, watchable film, with strong performances from the entire cast.
- A film that explores the magic and mystery of reconnecting with a past love.
- Written and directed by Philipp Karner, this is a grown up movie about a grown up gay relationship and a glimpse into life in L.A.
- Not everyone loved Andrew Haigh and Michael Lannan’s series Looking (2014–2015), produced for HBO. If you were being simplistic you could describe it as Sex and the City for gay men (set in San Francisco).
- There was quite a bit of feedback (from gay audiences) that they didn’t identity with the characters or that nothing happened.
- However I really loved Looking — it was one of the few times that I have felt that my life and my experience was being represented and reflected on television in a really honest and authentic way — and I was disappointed when it was announced that it wasn’t being renewed for a third season.
- So I’ve been looking forward to the feature-length finale that Haigh and Lannan have delivered.
- The original cast has been reassembled, but we are picking up the story almost a year on from the end of series two.
- Cast includes: Jonathan Groff; Frankie J. Alvarez; Murray Bartlett; Lauren Weedman; Russell Tovey; Raul Castillo; and Daniel Franzese.
There’s a nice cameo from Tyne Daly (of Cagney & Lacey fame), and Haigh continues to demonstrate his ability to intelligently use music — somehow Automatic by the Pointer Sisters was a genius choice.
Looking shows us a world where gay men and their friends go to work, hang out, have dinner, make mistakes, have relationship problems, and discuss their hopes and dreams. It shows gay men living in a fully realised way.
Being gay isn’t a drama for the characters in Looking. Being gay is normal and everyday — it’s life that provides the drama.
As a fan of the show this feature-length finale delivered everything that I’d hoped for. Reconnecting with characters that I loved, and getting some emotional closure on the storylines that I’d immersed myself in.
However, I suspect that if you hadn’t seen the television series then this instalment wouldn’t make much sense to you, and that you’d find it a bit lacking in dramatic tension.
This may be one for the fans, but it’s smartly written, clever, intelligent, and with an engaging cast that have created memorable characters. You can’t ask for more than that.
Love in the Time of Civil War
- Love in the Time of Civil War (L’amour au temps de la guerre civile) tells the story of the fairly grubby and unglamorous life of Alex (played by Alexandre Landry) — a young gay guy living in Montreal. Directed by Quebec filmmaker Rodrigue Jean, this is a movie that celebrates the gritty realism of everyday life in a big city where people do whatever they have to do in order to get by. Landry is convincing as the confused and directionless young, gay guy who lurches from one drug-fuelled encounter to the next. However it’s hard to feel much sympathy for any of the characters — they’re a fairly unlikeable lot. This is a story that won’t give you many laughs — it is a bleak insight into a world that you don’t really want to be part of. It does however shine a light into the spiral of despair that drug addiction can create. Observational film-making with a message.
- This is a delicate film — from the subtle, nuanced performances, to the slowly revealed, if sometimes obtuse, storyline.
- Written and directed by Ira Sachs (you may have seen his 2012 release Keep The Lights On), Love Is Strange is a thoughtful exploration of relationships, family, New York City, and getting older.
- A beautiful score, an eye for detail, and some stunning moments of stillness really held the attention, but it was the performances from the stand-out cast that Sachs has assembled that really elevated this movie to something special.
- Cheyenne Jackson and Manny Perez play the hot gay cop neighbours; Marisa Tomei effortlessly brings tension and emotion to every scene; and John Lithgow and Alfred Molina are the married couple trying to navigate their way through the changing circumstances around them.
- This is much more than a simplistic movie about gay marriage. This is a heartfelt ode to love, family, and the people who make a difference in our lives.
- The feature film debut from writer/director Mikal K. Odom, Luv Don’t Live Here tells the story of Reggie Hamilton — a gay black man whose life takes a 180-degree turn when he becomes severely ill. Not willing to part with the way life was before, Reggie finds himself not only fighting for his health, but unearthing harsh truths about himself and the relationships he holds dear.
- A filmmaker from Philadelphia, Odom is also known as a theatre writer, director, producer and actor.
- The cast includes: Nathaniel Ryan as Reggie; Robert Mack as Kevin; and Oliver Feaster as Spain.
- While the pace and performances are a bit uneven, the heart of this movie is undeniable. A powerful story exploring the strain felt by family and friends when coping with illness.
- Written and directed by Chris Kelly, this is a sad family drama undercut with some wry, gallows humour.
The story follows David, a struggling writer who lives in New York with his boyfriend, as he moves home to Sacramento to care for his dying mother.
It’s sharply observed, and Molly Shannon is excellent, but if you’re upset by family members dying of cancer then you need to approach this with caution.
Cast includes: Jesse Plemons; Molly Shannon; Bradley Whitford; Maude Apatow; Madisen Beaty;
- Pasolini is Abel Ferrara’s re-imagining of the final days of Italian writer and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini.
- Pasolini was outspoken and controversial. He was murdered in 1975. He was 53-years-old.
- With a screenplay from Maurizio Braucci, Ferrara has created an incredible tribute to a creative talent that has reportedly been a big influence on his career.
- Ferrara’s frequent collaborator Willem Dafoe takes the role of Pasolini, bringing to life his demanding and highly-strung nature and his hunger for sex.
- There is an interesting supporting cast also — Adriana Asti is breathtakingly good as his mother Susanna; Maria De Medeiros shines as close friend Laura Betti; and Ninetto Davoli (one of Pasolini’s lovers who often appeared in his films) makes an appearance as Epifanio — a character in a movie that Pasolini is trying to make.
- This movie isn’t a biopic in the traditional sense — it is based on the people involved, it traces the events as they unfolded, but it is more of an exploration of Pasolini’s state-of-mind at that point in his career; how he viewed the world, his creative process, his weaknesses.
- Authentically capturing the era, Ferrara has successfully created a compelling period piece — evoking the violence and uncertainty that characterised the city of Rome and Italian politics at that time, the volatility of the environment in which Pasolini lived and worked.
- Whatever you think of Pasolini’s work, this is a vivid tribute and celebration of the man as an artist — an important reminder of the power of filmmaking.
- Written and directed by J.C. Falcón, People You May Know draws its title (and its key storyline) from the world of social media and the practice of cat-fishing — falsely using someone else’s identity to establish a romantic connection with an unsuspecting person.
- People You May Know is a thoughtful and considered exploration of how people respond when their friendships are tested and the boundaries are renegotiated.
- Written and directed by Yen Tan, Pit Stop tells the story of two gay men living in a small town in Texas.
- The film follows the separate stories of Ernesto (Marcus DeAnda) and Gabe (Bill Heck). Gaby is struggling to move on after an affair with a married man has ended, while Ernesto is struggling to make a fresh start while he has two ex-boyfriends complicating his life. This is small-town Texas and it’s a monotonous, blue-collar world that leaves both men emotionally isolated.
- This is a very measured movie — avoiding melodrama or over-complicating the story.
- A poignant ode to man’s eternal yearning for intimacy.
- Written by Stephen Beresford and directed by Matthew Warchus, Pride is based on a true story of lesbian and gay activists in the UK who helped the coal miners during their bitter strike in 1984. It’s uplifting story told with plenty of comedy and warmth. Cast includes: Ben Schnetzer; George MacKay; Andrew Scott; Freddie Fox; Dominic West; Paddy Considine; Imelda Staunton; Russell Tovey; and Bill Nighy.
- A modern take on Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Set at an isolated all-boys military academy, it follows the forbidden relationship between two cadets. Interesting concept, particularly if you know the play although possibly a little slow-moving if you’re not a Shakespeare fan.
- Written and directed by Shiloh Fernandez and Mardana M. Mayginnes, Queen of Carthage is directed by Mayginnes and stars Fernandez.
- The cast also includes Keisha Castle-Hughes (nominated for an Oscar for her leading role in Whale Rider), and Graham Candy.
- A young American guy is travelling in New Zealand, ultimately becoming obsessed with one of the local guys that he meets.
- It’s a dark story of damaged people and desire.
- This is grassroots film-making — the budget was USD$12K and the movie was finished a matter of days before its first screening at the festival that I saw it at in London. In spite of these limitations this movie hangs together surprisingly well. It’s an interesting exploration of the legalisation and corporatisation of same-sex marriage — set in Seattle in the lead up to a vote on the issue in that state (which was subsequently passed to make same-sex marriage legal). It was interesting to see Seattle on the big screen but also interesting to see the ‘Queer’ perspective of the gay community explored with affection.
- A lonely, middle-aged man hires a hustler to recreate a road trip from his past.
- Read my full review which includes an interview with filmmaker Nick Corporon.
- Written and directed by Rob Williams, Role/Play tells the story of Graham (Steve Callahan) and Trey (Matthew Montgomery) — both of whom have suffered public embarrassments and have retreated to a resort in Palm Springs for some privacy. As their paths cross they realise that they have a lot more in common than they first realised.
- Interestingly, Callahan and Montgomery are husbands in real-life, so it’s a little surprising that this whole project doesn’t feel a bit more natural and authentic in its delivery.
- One of the challenges that Williams has given his cast is that this is a movie that is very heavy on dialogue — extended discussions and debates about public life versus private life, about the role of gay media, about the need for gay role models, and what it means to be a professional gay.
- Perhaps this type of dialogue would have worked better as a play, but even then it would have all been very wordy.
- I actually found the ideas and points of views being discussed by the characters very interesting, but I never felt particularly invested in the characters themselves.
- Role/Play is a worthy contribution to queer culture.
Saturday Night at the Baths (1975)
- Written and directed by David Buckley, this is an extraordinary glimpse into the gay scene of New York City in the mid-70s. With much of the action filmed on-site at the Continental Baths, this film represents what life was like in that small window of time after the Stonewall riots and before the emergence of HIV and AIDS.
- Michael (Robert Aberdeen) is a young musician who has recently arrived in New York from Montana. He lives with his girlfriend Tracy (Ellen Sheppard). Michael considers himself to be straight, but out of necessity takes a job as the pianist at a gay bathhouse which is managed by Scotti (Don Scotti).
- Written by Jon Robin Baitz and directed by Roland Emmerich, this fiction-based-on-fact drama was universally criticised as white-washing a key moment in recent gay history. It’s actually not as bad as everyone made it out to be.
- The Stonewall riots have become such an iconic touch-point in gay identity politics that it was never going to be easy to make a film that pleased everyone, or anyone.
- I can understand that the film’s decision to focus the narrative on the experience of a young white boy from the mid-west irks a lot of people, but it was clear that the protests were led by the diverse rabble of street hustlers, drag queens, lesbians, and trans people who had nothing left to lose. I wasn’t there, I’ve only learnt about the Stonewall riots from other people’s accounts, but I’m pretty sure that there would have been a few young white boys from the mid-west working as street hustlers on Christopher Street at that time.
- What’s probably more important is that this movie has been made at all — a biggish budget move about the Stonewall riots at the very least helps educate younger generations about the history that led up to this point, the factors that contributed to this brief outburst of defiance, and how it has subsequently helped to shape the world as we know it now.
- Stars: Jeremy Irvine; Jonny Beauchamp; Joey King; Vladimir Alexis; Karl Glusman; Otoja Abit; Jonathan Rhys Meyers; and Ron Perlman.
- Written and directed by Joseph Graham, the story follows a young hustler (Benjamin Bonenfant) as he leaves the apartment of a client, tries to find his way out of the building, but encounters numerous other residents along the way. Also appearing are Nick Frangione, Artem Mishin, Carlo D’Amore, and Michael Klinger. There’s a sense of Hotel California, and elements of Barton Fink, in this episodic but watchable narrative.
- Written and directed by Sean Baker, Tangerine tells a relatively simple story: Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) has just finished a 28-day prison sentence. Her best friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor) fills her in on what’s been happening while she’s been away — primarily that Sin-Dee’s boyfriend Chester (James Ransone) has been having an affair with Dinah (Mickey O’Hagan). Sin-Dee decided to track down Chester and Dinah to confront them. Along the way we also meet cab driver Razmik (Karren Karagulian) who is a regular customer of both Sin-Dee and Alexandra, which ultimately causes complications with his wife and mother-in-law.
- One of the strengths of the movie is the raw realness of main actresses Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez — trans women that Baker met at an LGBT Centre in Los Angeles. They had no professional acting experience prior to this production.
- Another interesting aspect of the movie is that it was shot with three iPhone 5s smartphones. The quality of production that Baker has achieved with relatively basic equipment is really impressive.
- Fresh and watchable, this is a great movie.
- Written and directed by Tom Shkolnik, The Comedian serves up a slice of London life as we follow the misfortunes of struggling comedian Ed (played by Edward Hogg).
- Ed is trying to pay the bills with a job he detests, while failing to get his big break in stand-up comedy, and unsuccessfully juggling the affections of his house-mate Elisa (Elisa Lasowski) and his boyfriend Nathan (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett).
- This is film-making that embraces the observational, a natural style that allows plenty of space for improvised dialogue, giving its characters room to breathe as each scene unfolds.
- The Comedian feels very current, presenting London as Londoners live today. Struggling, worrying, trying to find a way forward through love and life.
- While the use of a hand-held camera for exterior shots was occasionally a little distracting, there is an authenticity to this film that at times feels like watching a cleverly constructed reality program.
- The action moves along unhurriedly — encounters, conversations, and moments of intimacy define the experience of the characters. London provides a familiar urban backdrop — glimpsed through the announcements on a bus, a bagel from Brick Lane, the lights of the city’s streets.
- This is impressive film-making and Shkolnik draws honest and engaging performances from his cast.
- Some will find The Comedian a dissatisfying movie — little is resolved and much is left unanswered, but for most of us that’s the way life goes.
- Ronald Harwood’s 1980 play tells the story of travelling theatre troupe in England during World War II. Focusing on the decline of the ageing actor who leads the troupe (known only as Sir); his dresser (Norman); his wife (Her Ladyship); and the stage manager (Madge). The play was well received, with long runs in both London’s West End and on Broadway. It was adapted as a film in 1983 and was nominated for five Academy Awards.
- Director Richard Eyre has taken the helm for this new adaptation for the BBC and he has assembled a dream cast — Anthony Hopkins (Sir); Ian McKellen (Norman); Emily Watson (Her Ladyship); and Sarah Lancashire (Madge). Edward Fox (who played Oxenby in the 1983 film version) takes the role of Thornton.
- Eyre cleverly short-cuts some of the opening scenes of the play by opening the story in the middle of a crisis. There is a full-house in the theatre waiting to see the company perform King Lear, but it seems that Sir’s fragile health and state-of-mind will require the performance to be cancelled.
- Shakespeare’s Lear is for many actors the career defining role — a role that both Hopkins and McKellen have delivered to critical acclaim (Hopkins in 1986; McKellen in 2007). As the bombs fall and the sirens sound, this touring production of a king who descends into madness is the perfect context for a compelling exploration of delusion, loyalty, and love.
- This is a production that requires some concentration — in the opening scenes in particular I found it difficult to follow some of the dialogue, although it may just have been that it took me a little while to get used to the thick northern accent of McKellen’s character. The lines are delivered quickly, intimately, as we are immersed into the backstage world of the theatre.
- The acting here is phenomenal. It’s no real surprise that McKellen and Hopkins are outstanding, but their performances in The Dresser must surely rank among the greatest in their careers.
- The revelation is perhaps Sarah Lancashire in the role of stage manager Madge. With a long career in British television, Lancashire’s portrayal of Madge is crackling with control and restraint — the scene where her unrequited love is revealed is breathtaking.
- With his trilogy of films that began with The Falls, writer/director Jon Garcia uses a love-story to explore the challenges faced by gay men raised in the Mormon faith.
- Written and directed by Thomas Bezucha, The Family Stone is an American comedy-drama with a killer cast — including: Diane Keaton, Dermot Mulroney, Luke Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Sarah Jessica Parker, Claire Danes, Tyrone Giordano, and Craig T. Nelson. The story revolves around the Stone family, gathering together at Christmas in New England. It’s melodramatic, and a bit cliched and self-help driven, but predictably this is a movie that reduces me to tears. The family’s youngest son Thad (Tyrone Giordano) is an architect who is deaf, gay, an architect, and cute.
- John Hurt stars as Quentin Crisp in this iconic adaptation of the autobiography of England’s Stately Homo.
- Read my full review.
- The New Twenty is a low-budget movie about a group of friends in Manhattan. They’re about to hit 30 and they’re all having metrosexual mid-life crises of varying sorts.
- It’s fairly slow moving — there’s a slightly interesting exploration of HIV stigmatisation, but not much else to commend it.
- The Object of My Affection is the film adaptation of a novel (of the same name) by Stephen McCauley. The screenplay was written by Wendy Wasserstein and the film was directed by Nicholas Hytner.
- The cast includes: Jennifer Aniston; Paul Rudd; John Pankow; Allison Janney; Alan Alda; Nigel Hawthorne; Amo Gulinello; Tim Daly; and Steve Zahn
- Sidebar: Interesting that a very young Hayden Panettiere makes an appearance in this — she’s the definition of a hard-working actress.
- The film tells the story of a pregnant New York social worker (Aniston) who develops romantic feelings for her gay best friend (Rudd) and wants to raise her child with him, but then it gets complicated.
- It’s a big-name cast and while everyone is happily delivering within their comfort zones, you can’t criticise the acting.
- I haven’t read the novel, and maybe the film adaptation is fairly faithful to its source material, but there’s something about this movie that I really don’t like.
- Hytner is a big name in the theatre world — his big hits have included Miss Saigon, The History Boys, and One Man Two Guvnors. He was artistic director of the National Theatre in London for ten years. Having worked with Nigel Hawthorne on The Madness of King George (1994) it’s unsurprising that Hawthorne makes an appearance here also. Hytner is a gay man, so you can’t accuse him of not being connected to the subject matter but he was born in 1956 so his experience of being gay is obviously different to men of younger generations.
- Also, it has to be acknowledged that making ‘a gay movie’ in the late 90s was very different proposition to making a similar movie today. At the time of this movie, Aniston was on the crest of her Friends-stardom. Rudd had had a hit with Clueless. For everyone involved, making a gay movie would have carried some level of career risk, and I imagine that the producers (Laurence Mark) and studio (20th Century Fox) would also have been fairly cautious — keen to make a film that wouldn’t offend anyone and would be commercially successful.
- The good news is that it was commercially successful. Everyone made money and no one was offended.
- But it’s hard to watch this film today without feeling disappointment at its determination to show just how ‘normal’ gay men can be. It’s a very sanitised, white-washed view of the gay experience, show-casing just how great a white gay-best-friend can be. How gay guys can be so great that you wouldn’t even know that they were gay, that you can pretty much pretend that they’re straight, and that they probably would fall in love with you if it wasn’t for those other pesky gay guys continually trying to lead them astray.
- As everyone gets their happily-ever-after, and the final credits roll, Sting sings You Were Meant For Me. It’s that kind of movie.
- Directed by Ben A. Williams, The Pass has been written by John Donnelly, adapting his own play which was staged at the Royal Court in London in early 2014.
- Most of the original cast from the play are reprising their roles in the film:
Russell Tovey plays Jason — the star footballer;
Lisa McGrillis plays Lyndsey — the opportunistic table dancer;
Nico Mirallegro plays Harry — the eager room-service waiter; while
Arinze Kene picks up the role of Ade (replacing Gary Carr).
- With its theatre roots, The Pass has a very clear structure — three scenes, three hotel rooms, each set five years apart.
- The use of an ellipsis to jump the narrative forward is clearly flagged with a graphic on the screen, and more subtly with effective hair and wardrobe adjustments.
- It’s a story that feels very of the moment — at a time when professional football around the world is grappling with the challenge of creating a supportive environment in which players who are gay might consider being open about their sexuality.
- Over the course of ten years we follow the fortunes of Jason — as a 17-year-old hoping for his break; at 22 at the peak of his career; and then at 27 when he is struggling with the consequences of the choices he has made.
- This is a perfect role for Tovey — authentic and believable at every stage of the rise and fall of Jason. Tovey brings to life the boyish-laddishness; the arrogance and control of celebrity; and the despair and confusion as he begins to lose it all.
- McGrillis and Mirallegro make the most of their scenes, instantly establishing their characters and the role that they play in this story. Kene delivers an impressively understated performance that packs a real emotional punch.
- By giving us Jason’s story in distinct chapters, or snapshots of these moments in time, Donnelly is effectively exploring the emotional and human impact that leading a double life can have on celebrities and sports stars. The downside of this structure is that we don’t really have an opportunity to build any emotional connection with Jason or the other characters — we are observers, objectively standing by while the protagonists trade verbal punches.
- The promotional material for this film relies heavily on the (numerous) shirtless scenes of the super-buff footballers, but there is some real depth with this film and it’s impossible not to be impressed by Tovey who seems adept at choosing roles that play to his strengths.
- The poignant coda of the film gives us a glimpse into what was and what could have been.
- There will come a time when we won’t be able to understand why a professional footballer wouldn’t be open about their sexuality, but as the world stands today The Pass vividly brings to life the dilemma and the consequences that a number of top-level players must be grappling with.
- I’m staying with my sister in Perth for a few days, it was a Saturday night so she decided it was a good opportunity to leave her husband and children at home so that she and I could head to the local cinema in Leederville.
She checked the times and decided on the 18:50 screening of Felony starring Joel Edgerton. However when we rocked up to the cinema, Felony was already sold out and the next available option was The Skeleton Twins starting at 19:15. Neither of us knew much about The Skeleton Twins, except that I’d heard that it was a bit dark. We looked at the poster — starring Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, “Hilarious!” screamed the promotional blurb.
“I’m pretty sure that it’s not funny…” I suggested to my sister.
“It’s not good? You’ve read a review?” she asked.
“No… I mean that I don’t think it’s a comedy…”
“Well we don’t really have any other options so let’s give it a go!” she shrugged.
We killed fifteen minutes wandering up and down the main street of Leederville — all the restaurants and bars were full, everyone was out for a good night.
It was free seating so luckily we took our seats on the early side as the cinema was totally rammed, not a spare seat, quite a few people around us also saying that had planned to see Felony. I wonder what they thought of The Skeleton Twins.
For me this is a great movie. It is definitely not a comedy.
Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader are both gifted comedians, gifted comedic actors, and this movie has some funny moments, but writer/director Craig Johnson has created a detailed and nuanced movie about a very damaged family and the struggles they face trying to come to terms with themselves and each other and somehow move forward with their lives.
Wiig and Hader handle it perfectly.
In supporting roles, Luke Wilson nails it as the “labrador” husband, Joanna Gleason wrings the most out of her brief appearance as the mother, and Ty Burrell isn’t quite given enough to work with to distance himself from his Modern Family character.
As we came out of the cinema, my sister turned to me and said:
“Did you find that a bit weird — that we were watching a movie about a sister and gay brother and here we are, you know, you’re my gay brother.”
“Yeah… a little… “ I nodded.
“Let’s go get a drink!” she declared. I think we both needed it.
- The Skinny is written and directed by Patrik-Ian Polk.
- It tells the story of Magnus (Jussie Smollett) who gets more than he bargained for when his college buddies join him for a weekend in New York on Gay Pride weekend. Langston (Shanika Warren-Markland); Sebastian (Blake Young-Fountain); Kyle (Anthony Burrell); and Joey (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman) are excited to be staying with Magnus in New York, but less pleased when they discover that his boyfriend Ryan (Dustin Ross) is keeping secrets.
- Also appearing are Darryl Stephens and Wilson Cruz who have collaborated with Polk on other projects.
- This is a likeable cast and a watchable story. There are plenty of moments of comedy, but Polk doesn’t let the good-natured humour stand in the way of the development of his characters and their stories.
- Another impressive production from Patrik-Ian Polk.
- A meditation on love, family, and the memories that make us who we are.
- Written and directed by Paul Schrader, The Walker tells the story of Carter Page III (Woody Harrelson), an escort in Washington D.C. who becomes embroiled in a murder investigation.
- The Walker can be seen as an instalment in Schrader’s night workers series of films — beginning with Taxi Driver (1976), followed by American Gigolo (1980), Light Sleeper (1992) and now The Walker (2007).
- Schrader takes a very measured pace in telling this story, gently observing the veneer of polite society adopted by the political and social elite in Washington D.C.
- The strength of this film is its cast — an incredible ensemble of Kristin Scott Thomas, Lauren Bacall, Ned Beatty, Lily Tomlin, and Willem Dafoe. At the heart of this movie though is Woody Harrelson.
- As a middle-aged gay man, escorting wealthy women to social events, Harrelson gives a very mannered performance — his control and reserve reflecting his family background and his determination to maintain appearances at all costs. It’s not an easy character to warm to — we are given few insights into any internal conflict, or the consequences he faces for being an unwitting player in the political intrigues around him.
- Worth watching.
- Tiger Orange tells the story of two estranged brothers in California. Both brothers are gay.
- Chet (played by Mark Strano) is the older brother who stayed at home, cared for their ill father, and took over the family hardware store. Todd (played by Frankie Valenti) left for LA to pursue his dreams of acting. They are reunited when Todd returns home, broke, homeless, and seeking refuge with his brother.
- Director Wade Gasque has collaborated on this project with his lead Strano (who wrote the screenplay). However it is Valenti’s performance as Todd that provides the drive and energy for this movie. You may have seen Valenti performing under his pseudonym Johnny Hazzard — he was in a lot of Chi Chi LaRue movies — but he is a surprisingly good actor.
- Exploring what it would be like to grow up with a gay brother, Tiger Orange also highlights how our choices as gay men shape our lives — do you choose to fit in or choose to stand out.
- This is a well written story, the cast is strong, and Gasque delivers a tight, watchable movie.
- Written and directed by Rob Moretti, Truth is a suspenseful, psychological thriller that tells the story of Caleb (Sean Paul Lockhart), and his dangerously intense relationship with Jeremy (Rob Moretti).
- This is a challenging project but Moretti generally holds it together pretty well, and Sean Paul Lockhart (who used to perform as Brent Corrigan) is surprisingly good in a difficult role.
- A story about love and family that packs an emotional punch.
International gay movies
Some of our favourite gay movies are made in languages other than English.
Here’s our guide (in alphabetical order) of some of the international gay films that we’ve seen recently.
- All About My Mother is one of Pedro Almodóvar’s greatest films.
- Released in 1999, the story centres on Manuela — an Argentine nurse who lives in Madrid where she manages the organ donor program for a major hospital. She is a single mother to her teenage son Esteban. On his 17th birthday Esteban is killed in a car accident, and that’s where Manuela’s journey begins. It’s a fascinating story with superb acting throughout from the cast of Cecilia Roth (Manuela); Marisa Paredes (Huma Rojo); Antonia San Juan (Agrado); and Penelope Cruz (Rosa).
- This is filmmaking from an artist at the top of his game.
- Beau Travail (which translates in English to Good Work) is a masterpiece from writer/director Claire Denis that was released in 1999. The French-language film is loosely based on Herbert Melville’s novella Billy Budd which was written in 1888.
- Denis sets the action in Djibouti, and the protagonists are soldiers in the French Foreign Legion.
- With a dramatic soundtrack drawn largely from Benjamin Britten’s opera of Billy Budd, this is a world of intense internal emotions where everything is amplified by the spectacular surrounding landscapes. Sargent Galoup (Denis Lavant) becomes obsessed with new soldier Gilles Sentain (Gregoire Colin) — an obsession that ultimately destroys him.
- It’s visually stunning and and a brilliant interpretation of a classic story.
- With his film Body Electric (Corpo Eletrico), filmmaker Marcelo Caetano immerses us in the day-t0-day life of people who live in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo.
- This is a richly textured and authentic portrait of working life in contemporary Brazil. It offers insights into the characters’ daily lives — whether it’s at work, home or during leisure hours in clubs and bars; flirting, drinking, dancing and making love with unabashed passion.
- Written and directed by Florian Gottschick, this is an intense German-language film.
- Two couples visit a home from their past. The combination of sexual tension and long-buried grudges threatens to tear them apart.
- Cast: Anna Grisebach; Benno Furmann; Vladimir Burlakov; and Kai Ivo Baulitz
- There’s a surprising twist in this movie, that elevates it’s dream-like flashbacks to something that’s never quite explained.
- Filmmaker Erick Salas Kirchhausen gives us Des/Esperando — starring Tomas Colvin and Fernando Quintana, this is an intense, moody, and slow-moving exploration of a toxic relationship.
Do Começo ao Fim (2009)
- Do Começo ao Fim (From Beginning to End) is a Portuguese-language film from Brazil, written and directed by Aluizio Abranches.
- Francisco (João Gabriel Vasconcellos) and his younger half-brother Thomás (Rafael Cardoso) have a close relationship growing up, but this spills over into a sexual relationship and deep emotional connection as they grow older.
- It’s a surprising story, sensitively told, with no judgment.
- Written and directed by Robin Campillo, Eastern Boys tells the story of Daniel (Olivier Rabourdin) — a middle-aged businessman, whose attempt to proposition a young Ukrainian hustler called Marek (Kirill Emelyanov) ends with disastrous consequences. Surprisingly, Marek re-emerges into Daniel’s life, and Daniel attempts to free them both from Marek’s past.
- Although initially it all seems quite implausible, this is a well-written story — Campillo keeps the pace and tone of the movie surprisingly restrained and understated, observing events without judgement as they unfold.
- Very watchable.
- Reigniting childhood passions in the wetlands of Argentina.
- Read my full review and interview with filmmaker Papu Curotto.
- Written and directed by Jérôme Reybaud, Four Days in France (Jours de France) stars Pascal Cervo (as Pierre) and Arthur Igual (as Paul).
- Pierre and Paul are lovers, but suddenly and unexpectedly Pierre decides to go on a solo expedition across France — using Grindr as his navigating tool. Paul follows, trying to unravel what has driven Pierre to undertake this journey, also using Grindr as his guide.
- It’s effectively a road movie coloured by the people that the two protagonists meet along the way.
- There is an overwhelming sense of loneliness and isolation that seems to envelope the characters of this film, punctuated by some perfectly observed encounters.
- Technology can take us in unexpected directions.
- The criminal law of Sri Lanka prohibits anyone from engaging in ‘gross indecency’, however exactly what constitutes gross indecency is not defined.
- In 2013, Equal Ground (an LGBTI advocacy group in Sri Lanka), produced a report for submission to the Human Rights Committee in Geneva.
- In that report they claimed that the gross indecency provisions of the Sri Lankan penal code were used to specifically target same-sex intercourse between men. Equal Ground also claimed that LGBTI people in Sri Lanka are subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention, as well as abuse and violence at the hands of the police.
- According to Equal Ground, while arrests under the gross indecency provisions don’t result in convictions or penalties, arrests result in bribery, blackmail, extortion, violence, or coerced sexual favours.
- It’s in this context that Visakesa Chandrasekaram has created the movie Frangipani. Chandrasekaram is a human rights lawyer and activist and he has written the screenplay, produced, and directed this movie — his feature-length debut.
- Frangipani tells the story of friends Sarasi and Chamath and the love-triangle that develops when Nalin enters their lives.
- According to the British Film Institute, this story of two men and a woman is the first Sri Lankan movie that tackles a gay relationship.
- While Chandrasekaram shows the harassment and social stigma that gay men endure in Sri Lanka, the focus of the movie is on the relationships between the main characters, the emotional turmoil that they experience, and the need for gay men to find love and intimacy regardless of the obstacles in their way.
- Free Fall tells the story of Marc (Hanno Koffler) — A successful career as a policeman, a long-term girlfriend, a baby on the way — but Marc’s world starts to spiral out of control when he meets fellow policeman Kay (Max Riemelt) on a training camp.
- Koffler and Riemelt as the central pair of lovers are authentic and compelling (although the sex scenes felt a bit lightweight — a minor complaint). There’s nothing simple or straightforward about the choices that the characters make — their actions have consequences and not everyone gets a happy ending.
- Free Fall is intense, moody, and packs an emotional punch. Exactly how I like my German movies.
- From Afar (Desde allá) is a Spanish-language film from Venezuelan writer/director Lorenzo Vigas.
- It tells the story of Armando (Alfredo Castro), a wealthy middle-aged man, who becomes involved with Elder (Luis Silva), a young boy from a street gang.
- Set in Caracas, the film slowly draws us into the world of Armando. With limited dialogue, we observe from a distance the lives unfolding on screen. There are also glimpses of day-to-day life in Venezuela — queues for basic necessities, streets filled with petty crime.
- Themes of alienation, and the search for intimacy are presented, much however is left unexplained — the viewer is left to draw their own interpretations regarding the motivations of the characters and their backstories.
- From Afar won the Golden Lion at the Venice International Film Festival and this is undeniably masterful film-making. A script that keeps us guessing with subtle surprises, acting that somehow creates authentic characters with deeply internalised emotions, and a measured and controlled pace that leaves you gasping as the credits roll.
- I saw this film at the BFI Flare LGBT film festival in London with a sell-out audience on a Saturday afternoon. Normally everyone is pretty quick to spring up out of their seats at the end of a movie, but for this one no one moved, slowly watching the credits, getting their heads around the abrupt ending, perhaps expecting some sort of coda that would explain a bit more of the story, wanting more.
- That’s the sign of a good movie.
- Written and directed by Karim Aïnouz, Futuro Beach is a Brazilian/German co-production and in many ways reflects the creative journey of Brazilian-born Aïnouz who now lives in Berlin.
- Telling the story of German tourist Konrad (Clemens Schick) who is rescued by Brazilian life-guard Donato (Wagner Mouro), this is an exploration of love, passion, and family — acknowledging and embracing the excitement, uncertainty, and confusion that inevitably comes with all of that.
- Told in three parts, Aïnouz uses a sequential timeline but is happy to leave the the audience to fill in the blanks in the ellipsis between chapters.
- The performances of lead actors Mouro and Schick are strong and compelling, but Jesuita Barbosa (as Donato’s brother Ayrton) is perhaps the surprise packet — delivering a powerful performance that simmers with barely contained fury.
- I particularly loved the evocative landscapes, the clever use of music, and some of the most authentic gay sex scenes that I’ve seen captured on film. There was nothing that explicit in the sex scenes, but they effectively conveyed the kind of rough physicality and raw passion that happens in real life but rarely in popular culture.
- The movie closes to the sound of Heroes by David Bowie — a song about two lovers, written while Bowie was living in Berlin. It was an uplifting way to release some of the tension and intensity that had been building throughout Futuro Beach.
- An exploration of gender and identity.
- Read my full review which includes an interview with filmmaker Alexandra-Therese Keining.
- In his debut feature Heartstone (Hjartasteinn) filmmaker Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson gives us the story of Thor and Christian — best friends who live in a remote fishing village in Iceland.
- This is an intense drama, played out over a long summer, as the two boys slowly learn about life, growing up, and their own desires.
- Gudmundsson has drawn on his personal experiences to create this story — he grew up in a small fishing village, and was inspired by a dream of a childhood friend who had taken his own life.
- The film beautifully observes the mundane reality of everyday and domestic life, contrasted against the dramatic and soaring landscapes stunningly captured by cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grovlen.
- There’s an intimate connection between the characters and the natural world — life, death, and renewal are every day constants.
- Heartstone is a powerful coming-of-age story that reminds us all of the complexity and heartbreak of growing up.
- A compelling insight into some of the less desirable aspects of growing up in contemporary Thailand.
- Life in the city of Santiago in Chile gets complicated for Bruno (Francisco Celhay) as a chance encounter makes him question the choices that he has made. In The Grayscale is director Claudio Marcone’s debut feature, and it’s a gentle, contemplative study of a man who is struggling to work out his sexuality and what this means for the people who love him.
- Bruno is a successful architect, married with a young son, but Bruno is unsettled and has moved out of the family home — unable to articulate to his wife or to himself what he is unhappy about.
- Bruno’s work brings him into contact with tour guide Fernando (Emilio Edwards). Fernando is openly gay and eventually Bruno is unable to deny the attraction he feels — their tentative relationship forcing Bruno to make some choices about who he is and how he wants to live.
- Marcone’s style is quite thoughtful, using a steady pace and often an ellipsis to jump the story forward. He’s well-served by his leads — Celhay effectively conveys the uncertainty and conflicting emotions that Bruno has to work through; Edwards is an engaging contrast with his clear understanding of his sexuality and his all-or-nothing passion for Bruno.
- An assured and intelligent debut that has delivered a very watchable movie.
- Prolific young filmmaker Xavier Dolan is back, immersing us in family melodrama with It’s Only the End of the World — an adaptation of the play Juste la fin du monde by Jean-Luc Lagarce.
- Dolan won the Palme dOr for this film at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, so it was an expectant audience at the London Film Festival screening that I attended. Dolan was on hand to introduce the film (and participate in a question and answer session following), accompanied by Marion Cotillard and Léa Seydoux.
- A true ensemble piece, Dolan is blessed with a high-profile, power-house cast: Nathalie Baye as Martine; Vincent Cassel as Antoine; Marion Cotillard as Catherine; Léa Seydoux as Suzanne; and Gaspard Ulliel as Louis.
- Dolan describes the story of this film as fairly pedestrian and everyday — a man returns to his family to announce his impending death, however the family reunion doesn’t quite go as he had planned. Words are used to fill silences, and important things are left unsaid.
- Dolan’s film isn’t perfect — there are some scenes that seem a little mishandled, or slightly at odds with the rest of the film — however this is impressive work from an obviously talented directed.
- With the camera deliberately up close and intimate, Dolan really lets his actors shine — Cotillard is phenomenal as always, but it’s a very balanced production with each character fully realised.
- The final confrontation as the film builds to a close is breathtakingly good — perfectly demonstrating the weird and inescapable madness of being part of a family.
- A German-language film from Piotr J. Lewandowski.
- We don’t get to see many movies from The Netherlands, but it’s fantastic that Jongens (which translates as Boys) is getting a wider audience.
- Written by Chris Westendorp and Jaap-Peter Enderle, and directed by Mischa Kemp, Jongens was originally produced for a Dutch television channel aimed at children and young teens — it got such a positive response that an international release was secured.
- Essentially it is a coming of age drama — 15-year-old Sieger (Gijs Blom) lives in a rural community with his widowed father Theo (Ton Kas) and his older brother Eddy (Jonas Smulders). Sieger’s main focus is his running club — when he selected to join a relay team he meets Marc (Ko Zandvliet) and the emotions unleashed set Sieger’s world spinning.
- It’s a simple enough story but its beautifully told with enormous restraint and compassion for its characters. Blom and Zandvliet are convincing as the confused young teens finding their way, but this is a strong ensemble cast that creates a believable world in which we can immerse ourselves.
- Ka Bodyscapes is the latest film from writer/director Jayan K. Cherian and it had its premiere at the 2016 BFI Flare LGBT film festival.
- Set in Kerala, India, the story explores the world of three friends: Haris (Jason Chacko); Vishnu (Rajesh Kannan); and Sia (Naseera).
- In a community filled with misogyny and homophobia, the three friends struggle to find their place in the world — they search for freedom but are consistently constrained by the traditions of their families and the religious conservatism of their society.
- Cherian was in attendance for the screening and participated in a Q&A session following the film.
- While Ka Bodyscapes presents its story in narrative form, and can be viewed as a stand-alone movie, this is film-making as activism. Working with local LGBTI activists, Cherian used their stories to create the characters and key elements of the story and bringing them into every aspect of the film as cast and crew.
- During the post-screening discussion, Cherian explained that this type of subject matter would normally be presented as a documentary but he found that he got a stronger audience response when a semi-fictional narrative was created to carry the story and convey the messages.
- It is unclear when Ka Bodyscapes will be able to be shown in India, but for Cherian the film-making process itself is a powerful force for change in helping to bring focus to the challenges faced by LGBTI people in contemporary India.
- At a time when video-on-demand platforms and digital distribution of content are changing the game for film festivals such as BFI’s Flare, it is films such as Ka Bodyscapes that are an important reminder why niche film festivals continue to have value and continue to have power. The Flare festival is an opportunity to see films that you wouldn’t otherwise get to see, to appreciate films within a broader context, to hear directly from film-makers as to how and why they have produced their work, and to share a movie-going experience London’s LGBTI community.
- Two men attempt to reconnect in this emotionally raw and politically radical gay love story from India.
- Whilst in Mumbai on a short business trip, confident young hotshot Jai (Shiv Pandit) meets up with his old friend Sahil (Dhruv Ganesh) for a road-trip through the Western Ghats. Leaving his boyfriend Alex (Siddharth Menon) behind, Sahil attempts to forget his troubles. Jai, on the other hand, is out to cut loose and have some fun. Over the course of the next 48 hours, the pair gradually reveal a complicated history, raising some painful truths in the process although much is left unexplained.
- Shot in complete secrecy in a country where homosexuality is still punishable by law, Saria’s debut film is bold and important — politically radical and emotionally raw. That it exists at all is something to celebrate, but that it is such a confident, compelling and emotionally rich piece of work is nothing short of extraordinary.
- I saw this film at the BFI’s Flare LGBT film festival in London. Saria was in attendance with producer Arfi Lamba and they participated in a Q&A following the screening.
- Saria is justifiably proud of this film — written as a way to cope with a heartbreak of his own. The film’s title amuses him — it instantly causes confusion as people try to work out how to pronounce it: ‘It’s love guys!’ he laughed, ‘It’s spelt a bit weird, it may look a bit different, but at the end of the day it’s just love — this is just a love story.’
- Particularly impressive is Dhruv Ganesh — compelling as Sahil. Sadly, Ganesh died of tuberculosis while the film was in post-production. His first lead role was his last, and his loss clearly has an emotional impact on Saria who explains that he isn’t able to accept the loss of Ganesh because he continues to live on through this film.
- Written and directed by Guy Lee Thys, Mixed Kebab is set in Antwerp and tells the story of Ibrahim (Cem Askant) — although his family lives in Belgium they follow traditional Muslim and Turkish traditions.
- Ibrahim begins a relationship with Kevin (Simon Van Buyten), however Ibrahim’s family have arranged for him to marry his cousin and he knows that they wouldn’t understand that he is gay.
- Eventually the truth emerges, trigged by the actions of Ibrahim’s younger brother Furkan (Lukas De Wolf) who is drifting into the influence of Islamic fundamentalists.
- It’s a well-written story and intelligently explores the many challenges faced by people moving between cultures and searching for new identities.
- Written and directed by Gaël Morel, Our Paradise tells the story of Vassili (Stéphane Rideau), an ageing gay hustler in Paris with a penchant for violence. While wandering through the Bois de Boulogne (a cruising park), Vassili stumbles across a young boy, unconscious. The boy refuses to remember his name or his past, so Vassili christens him Angelo (Dimitri Durdaine) and takes him under his wing. The film also stars Béatrice Dalle as Anna, a past lover of Vassili.
- This is a dark and gritty view of the life of gay hustlers in Paris, and it is at times difficult to watch. The version I saw used some clumsy post-production effects to cover any nudity which was a distraction.
- Interesting but not much fun.
- A poignant movie from Brazil exploring adolescent male friendship and the boundaries of intimacy.
- You’ve got to love the French.
- Sexual Chronicles of a French Family pretty much does what it says on the tin.
- There’s a bit sex, quite a lot of talking, looking wistful, or miserable, or both, but not a lot actually happens.
- Watchable enough, but there’s better French movies out there. And better sex movies too.
- Stranger by the Lake (L’Inconnu du lac) is an extraordinary movie on a number of levels.
- A French-language production, written and directed by Alain Guiraudie, the film tells the story of Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) who frequents a gay beach and cruising area near a lake (shot at Lake of Sainte-Croix in Provence). Franck meets Michel (Christophe Paou) and they quickly begin a passionate affair that is restricted to their encounters at the lake. The story takes a dark turn when one of the gay sunbathers is murdered. Franck is torn between fear and desire as things begin to spiral out of control.
- Guiraudie won the Best Director award at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and it is impressive work. It’s dreamy celebration of male nudity and gay cruising reminded me of the films of Antonio Da Silva, light shimmering across water as men lie languidly on the rocks. Boys In The Sand by Wakefield Poole is also obviously a huge influence.
- In Stranger by the Lake, Guiraudie portrays a relentlessly male world — there are no female actors or characters in the movie.
- While there is extensive full-frontal male nudity throughout the movie, there are also a couple of explicit sex-scenes (that were filmed using body doubles).
- Erotic, intelligent, and insightful. A great movie.
- Written and directed by Hilton Lacerda, Tattoo (original title Tatuagem) is a film from Brazil — telling the story of forbidden love during the time of a repressive regime, a young soldier falls for an older cabaret artist.
- Jesuíta Barbosa is particularly impressive as the young soldier.
- The Club (El Club) is a Chilean drama co-written and directed by Pablo Larrain.
- The story that is slowly revealed is that four retired Catholic priests live in a secluded house in a small seaside town, their lives following a frugal routine overseen by a female caretaker.
- The initial assumption is that the four priests have been banished because they are suspected of child abuse, but it’s more complicated than that — they each have their own secrets and guilt, even their caretaker.
- Their quiet world is thrown into chaos when a new outcast priest is added to their number.
- In interviews, Larrain has said that his inspiration for this story was the fate of Catholic priests in Chile who had been sent to retirement homes in silence. This isn’t a concept that Larrain is approaching lightly, his past work has focused on the power dynamics of government and society in Chile. He is once again working with an ensemble of actors that he deeply respects and has collaborated with on various projects.
- There’s not many laughs in The Club, and it takes its characters down a dark and unforgiving path. However it is an extraordinary insight into a forgotten world that apparently many in Chile would like to remain forgotten.
- François Ozon’s fascination with human sexuality continues in this surprising story inspired by a Ruth Rendell novel.
- A dramatic exploration of the clash between religion, education, and teenage rebellion.
- Read my full review.
- A brief encounter at a sex club could be the start of something beautiful.
- Read my full review which includes an interview with filmmakers Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau.
- Written and directed by Klaus Händl, Tomcat is set in Vienna and gives us the story of the relationship between Andreas (Philipp Hochmair) and Stefan (Lukas Turtur).
- Andreas and Philipp are in their early 40s, established, and successful. A key part of their domestic life is their pet cat Moses.
- Their life seems almost Edenic — and this is captured beautifully in a languid style, with clever choices of music. The sex scenes are also handled well — these are authentic men, in love, enjoying their lives, and enjoying each other.
- Spoiler alert — the tone of the film changes dramatically when their beloved cat Moses is killed unexpectedly.
- The relationship falls apart and there is some quite heavy-handed symbolism, eye-for-an-eye style.
- While not without its issues, this is an interesting film from Händl and, in parts, a mature exploration of relationships between men.
- Utopians is the latest film from Scud — a filmmaker based in Hong Kong.
- It’s an erotic, coming-of-age story that follows Hins (Adonis He), a young student who finds himself unexpectedly attracted to his handsome, outspoken male professor, Ming (Jackie Chow). Despite — or perhaps because of — his conservative upbringing, Hins is intent on getting close enough to Ming to understand him. It’s an experience that transforms his life and comes to define his adult identity.
- Written and directed by Chucho E. Quintero, Velociraptor is a Spanish-language film set in Mexico, just before an imminent apocalypse.
Alex (Pablo Mezz) and Diego (Carlos Hendrick Huber) are two friends who share their last day together.
- A low-budget but intelligent exploration of young men exploring the bonds of friendship and testing their sexuality.
- Set amidst the drag scene of Havana, filmmaker Paddy Breathnach gives us a restrained and contemplative movie that celebrates resilience and finding strength from your weaknesses.
- Xenia is a Greek-language film from writer/director Panos H. Koutras.
- Strangers in their own birthplace, 16-year-old Danny (Kostas Nikouli) and 18-year-old Odysseas (Nikos Gelia) journey through parts of Greece in search of their Greek father, after their Albanian mother passes away.
- An extremely watchable movie, with engaging characters, there are plenty of surprises as the brothers reconnect with each other and search for their father.
- Surreal elements (such as the pet rabbit) suggest obvious echoes to Richard Kelly’s Donny Darko, and there is a passion for music and performance that draws on the work of Pedro Almodovar, but within those influences Koutras is still able to present a unique voice and a fresh telling of a familiar story.
- Along the way we are given insights into life in modern Greece — the economic uncertainty, the challenges faced by migrants, and the rise of nationalist fascism.
- One of the musical heroes of the mother of Danny and Odysseas was Patty Pravo — a famous Italian singer who was hugely popular in the late-1960s and 1970s. Pravo’s hit Tutt’al Più plays a key role in the movie and Pravo makes a brief cameo in the movie.
- Another great performance sequence in the movie is set to the track Rumore by Raffaela Carra:
- In You & I, writer/director Nils Bökamp has created a beautiful summer road-trip love story.
- Jonas is an aspiring photographer who lives in Berlin. He invites his friend Phillip from London to join him on a road-trip to the Uckermark region of Germany to explore and take some photos. Along the way they pick up a young hitchhiker, Boris, which brings an unexpected tension to their friendship.
Gay comedy films
It’s not a definitive list, but here’s an alphabetical summary of the gay comedies that we’ve seen recently.
- A likeable comedy about friendship and identity in modern America.
- Directed by Julie Davis, All Over the Guy is written by Dan Bucatinsky, who also stars as Eli — set up on a blind date by his best friend Brett (Adam Goldberg). The date is with Tom (Richard Ruccolo) — the best friend of Jackie (Sasha Alexander) who has just started dating Brett.
- Nothing goes smoothly as we relive the various stages of Eli and Tom’s relationship in flashback as Eli recounts his heartache to the receptionist of an HIV clinic (Doris Roberts in a perfect cameo).
- Bucatinsky has created an intelligent script and both he and Ruccolo give us solid performances. What really makes this movie though is the detail and cameo performances that happen in the sidelines. Goldberg is always weirdly watchable, Christina Ricci pops up as Eli’s sister, and Lisa Kudrow is brilliantly surreal as a voice-over artist.
- A very watchable LA love story.
- Another Gay Movie is written and directed by Todd Stephens and is a gay movie in the absurdist comedy tradition which is beloved by American film-makers.
- Michael Carbonaro as Andy is particularly engaging (although his career hasn’t really taken off); Graham Norton was an odd casting choice.
- It’s a watchable movie and quite sexy in parts.
- There’s a lot worse gay movies than this one.
- Written by Jeremy Huntington and directed by Dave Padilla and Steven Vasquez, this is a comedy about gay relationships. It stars Daniel Selon, Kendra Thomas, and Jared Welch. Unfortunately it is unwatchable.
- Bear City delves into the lives and loves of a group of friends who are part of New York City’s gay bear scene.
- Written and directed by Douglas Langway, this is a light-hearted comedy that follows new-boy Tyler (Joe Conti) as he seeks to immerse himself in the masculine culture that he fantasises about and secure the attention of alpha-daddy Roger (Gerald McCullouch).
- An affectionate exploration of a gay subculture that doesn’t usually get a lot of screen-time.
- Written by Robert Farrar and directed by Rose Troche, Bedrooms and Hallways tells the story of Leo (Kevin McKidd) who joins a men’s group and falls in love with Brendan (James Purefoy) — one of the other guys in the group, who is straight, or straight-ish.
- Also appearing are Simon Callow, Jennifer Ehle, Tom Hollander, and Hugo Weaving.
- This story might seem completely far-fetched, but I had a boyfriend a few years ago who had been through something like this men’s group, so I found it a fairly authentic representation of how ridiculous this kind of thing can get.
- This is a film dealing with sexual fluidity really before that became a thing.
- It’s very English, but nicely done. Although the flat that Leo shares with his housemates on Old Street is clearly fantasy land. There is no flat on Old Street that looks that amazing.
- Real estate fantasies aside, there’s a lot worse gay movies out there than Bedrooms and Hallways.
- Written and directed by Darren Flaxstone and Christian Martin, Buffering tells the story of a young British gay couple who decide to turn to online cam porn in order to pay the bills. Stars Alex Anthony, Conner Mckenzy; Jessica Matthews; Oliver Park; and Bernie Hodges. It almost works, but somehow needed to be sexier, or darker, or funnier.
- Written by Q. Allan Brocka and directed by Phillip J. Bartell, this is the second instalment of the Eating Out series.
- Stars Jim Verraros; Emily Brooke Hands; Rebekah Kochan; Brett Chukerman; Scott Mickaryous; Mink Stole; and Marco Dapper.
- Stupid-funny and watchable.
- Eating Out — The Open Weekend is the fifth instalment in the series of movies created by Q. Allan Brocka.
- The plot is fairly inconsequential — the boys find themselves in Palm Springs and have decided to expand their horizons with open relationships and sexual abandon.
- This is absurdist American comedy, so it’s meant to be a bit ridiculous and over-the-top.
- The main characters are played by Chris Salvatore and Daniel Skelton, but cameos from Rebekah Kochan and Mink Stole are probably the best thing about this movie.
- Written and directed by J.C. Calciano, eCupid is gay comedy about the pitfalls of online dating in Los Angeles.
- Marshall (Houston Rhines) has hit the seven-year itch in his relationship with Gabe (Noah). Marshall signs up for eCupid — an online dating service. The dating service program (voiced by Morgan Fairchild — who also appears as an all-knowing waitress) takes over Marshall’s phone and computer, turning his life upside down.
- The cast are watchable enough, but the plot of this movie didn’t make much sense to me. I couldn’t really understand how or why the omnipotent dating program was screwing up everything in Marshall’s life, or how or why we ultimately got to a happy ending.
- Writer/director Terracino gives us a comedy with plenty of emotional depth and insights into the damage that toxic relationships can do. Stars Fabio Costaprado; Quentin Araujo; and Elena Goode.
- While the opening scenes seem a little clunky, this is a film that quickly finds its rhythm. Definitely worth watching.
- Directed by Charlie Vaughn, First Period is written by its star Brandon Alexander III.
- This could have gone spectacularly wrong, but somehow it works.
- New girl Cassi (Brandon Alexander III) and awkward nerd Maggie (Dudley Beene) decide to win the school’s talent show in order to become popular and date hot boys. Standing in their way are school bitch Heather (Lauren Rose Lewis), her best friend Other Heather (Karli Kaiser), and their boyfriends Brett (Leigh Wakeford) and Dirk (Michael Turchin).
- Alexander and Beene aren’t pretending to be girls, or indulging in some sort of cross-dressing trans humour, they are affectionately bringing to life these genuine characters in this tribute to the 80s teen movies that defined this genre.
- The over-the-top and stupid-funny humour is in the vein of Molly Shannon’s Superstar, and the prominently featured gay characters and storylines are handled in matter-of-fact, Clueless teen-girl style.
- Good fun.
- Written and directed by H.P. Mendoza, Fruit Fly is a musical fantasy that follows the story of Bethesda — a Filipina performance artist who moves into a San Francisco art commune. It’s heart seems to be in the right place, but it’s a bit silly and struggles to hold your attention. Stars L.A. Renigen.
- If you’re a single woman or a gay man then you might need some help if you are wanting to start a family.
- In Gayby writer and director Jonathan Lisecki gives us the story of Jenn (straight) and Matt (gay) — best friends from college who have been unlucky in love and decide that the solution would be to have a baby together.
- In the opening scenes I wasn’t sure I was going to like these characters — they are living in LA and are a bit self-absorbed. However as the story unfolded and you start to appreciate their vulnerability and flaws, they are surprisingly likeable.
- Jenn Harris (Jenn) and Matthew Wilkas (Matt) manage to create authentic characters, despite the slightly absurd plot developments. Lisecki casts himself as Nelson (Matt’s gay best friend) — understandably giving himself all of the best lines.
- If you’ve thought about starting a family and would need to be a bit creative about the process, then you’ll probably identify quite a bit with what these characters are going through and the lengths that they’ll go to in order to have a baby.
- This is a good gay movie.
- Written and directed by Don Roos, Happy Endings weaves together a number of different narratives and interconnected characters.
- Watchable, but not life-changing.
- Cast includes: Lisa Kudrow; Steve Coogan; Bobby Cannavale; Maggie Gyllenhaal; Tom Arnold; and Laura Dern.
- Directed by Matt Kugelman and produced by Ash Christian, Hurricane Bianca tells the story of a New York teacher who moves to a small town in Texas, gets fired for being gay, and returns disguised in drag to get revenge on the people who were nasty to him.
- The film stars Roy Haylock, better known as drag alter-ego Bianca Del Rio, and an ensemble of actors and comedians, including: Rachel Dratch; Alan Cumming; Margaret Cho; RuPaul; Willam Belli; Shangela; Joslyn Fox; and Alyssa Edwards.
- While it feels a little under-written, the team do an impressive job on a small budget.
- However this isn’t doesn’t seem to have the same cross-over appeal that we saw with Priscilla Queen of the Desert, or To Wong Foo — it needs a bit more of a dramatic arc, a bit more depth on characters, and a bit more scope to enable Roy Haylock to translate his killer instincts as an insult-comic into a fully realised character on the big screen.
- Written and directed by Tim Sullivan, this is a spoof of American high school horror and musical films — all mashed up together. Stars Sean Paul Lockhart (formerly known as Brent Corrigan). It’s stupid funny.
- Is it just me? is an American gay comedy from writer/director J.C. Calciano.
- Writer Blaine (Nicholas Downs) hooks up online with hot new guy-in-town Xander (David Loren) but there’s a case of mistaken identity as Xander thinks he’s chatting with Blaine’s roommate Cameron (Adam Huss).
- The set-up is old-school and feels a bit dated given the changing way that technology is used in today’s dating world, but the characters are appealing and Loren is puppy-dog cute.
- This is a by-the-numbers gay movie.
- Film noir, West Hollywood style.
- Read my full review which includes an interview with filmmaker Casper Andreas.
- Longhorns is a light-hearted period-piece comedy.
- Set on a Texas university campus in 1982, writer/director David Lewis brings us the story of Kevin (Jacob Newton) — a young guy fighting against his gay sex fantasies, determined to be straight.
- Increasingly confused by his homo-erotic friendships with buddies Justin (Kevin Held), Steve (Dylan Fox), and Danny (Stephen Matzke), it’s not until Kevin meets Cesar (Derek Efrain Villanueva) that he begins to accept that he’s gay.
- 1982 is an interesting point in time in which to set a gay coming-of-age comedy. It was 1982 when the world began to realise the havoc that the HIV virus was causing to the health of gay men. It seems strange that Lewis specifically sets the story in 1982 but makes no reference to AIDS or the growing hysteria that was being fuelled by the emergence of the HIV virus.
- Putting historical context to one side, Longhorns seems to have its heart in the right place, the cast and characters are likeable, and there’s plenty of full-frontal male nudity.
Make the Yuletide Gay (2009)
- Written and directed by Rob Williams, this is a simple enough story of a gay guy who is out at college but not at home. His secrets get harder to keep hidden when his boyfriend unexpectedly turns up for Christmas with the family. Stars Stars Keith Jordan and Adamo Ruggiero.
- Written and directed by Robert Schrock, this is a musical Review of gay experiences as told through song, stage choreography and full-frontal nudity.
- Cast: Kevin Alexander; Joe Souza; Phong Truong; Jason Currie; Joseph Keane; Anthony Manough; Andrew Blake Ames; Vincent Zamora; James Hodges; and Salvatore Vassallo.
- It’s likeable, but could do with some sort of narrative to elevate it.
- A light-hearted look at the question: What if your boyfriend suddenly became pregnant?
- Written and directed by Mike Donahue, this is a gay mid-life crisis movie set in West Hollywood. It all feels a bit forced and not very authentic.
- A mockumentary exploring the disenfranchised white voters of the United States.
- The latest work from filmmakers Rob Willliams and Rodney Johnson is Shared Rooms — a romantic comedy set in the Silverlake neighbourhood of Los Angeles, bringing together three interrelated tales of gay men seeking family, love and sex during the holiday season.
- The Big Gay Musical is actually a lot better than you would imagine. The story line is snappy and engaging, the musical numbers are really pretty good (I would go and see this musical), and the performances from Daniel Robinson and Joey Dudding are really engaging.
- There is storyline that plays off HIV stigmatisation in a negative way that feels a bit dated, but otherwise this movie is holding up well and is worth watching.
- Director Mike Nichols has assembled a strong remake for The Birdcage — the Hollywood version of La Cage aux Folles. Robin Williams and Nathan Lane play the gay nightclub owners, Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest as the conservative parents, Dan Futterman and Calista Flockhart as the star-crossed lovers, Hank Azaria as the butler, and Christine Baranski as the absent mother.
- It’s hard not to like The Birdcage — the characters are fairly stereotypical and broadly drawn, but essentially its heart is in the right place and is relatively faithful to the original.
- Worth watching if just to see Gene Hackman in drag.
- Written and directed by J.C. Calciano, this is better than you might be expecting. The set up is relatively cliched — two best friends in West Hollywood make a pact to be boyfriends if they’re still single after ten years. Stars Jack Turner and Michael Adam Hamilton.
- Jeffrey A. Johns writes, directs, and stars in this celebration of finding yourself through musical theatre.
- Watchable and entertaining.
- What Happens Next is a comedy from writer/director Jay Arnold. It tells the story of Paul (Jon Lindstrom) — a successful businessman who has recently sold his business and retired. To give him something to focus on, his highly-strung sister Elise (Wendie Malick) gives him a puppy. While walking the puppy in the park, Paul meets fellow dog-owner Andy (Chris Murrah) and suddenly Paul begins to question the identity that he has built for himself.
- The script is slightly absurdist, with the lives of the characters becoming increasingly linked and connected, but Lindstrom, Murah, and Malick do their best to make their characters likeable. It would have been interesting to explore the age-gap between Paul and Andy — while it’s obviously not uncommon to have a considerable age gap between gay men who are attracted to each other, in the context of the story of these characters it would have perhaps added some extra layers to test what was bringing these two men together.
- However the main issue with the movie is its pacing — it feels as if Arnold really needed someone objective to step in and bring an editing eye to what is obviously a labour of love.
- Enjoyable but it just needed to be a bit shorter and punchier.
- Written and directed by Matt Riddlehoover, West Hollywood Motel brings together the stories of the various people staying in a motel.
- Stars Matt Riddlehoover; Andrew Matarazzo; Amy Kelly; Phil Leirness; Cesar D’La Torre; Starina Johnson; Heather Horton; Luis Lucas; Anna Sondall; David Vaughn; and Jared Allman.
- There’s a fantasy element at work in some of the plot lines that are sometimes a bit hard to follow, but it’s watchable.
- A gay slasher comedy from Jim Hansen and Jeffery Self and their L.A. comedy collective.
Film-making can take many forms, but one of the hardest is creating documentaries to explore a topic in a factual and objective way.
In alphabetic order, here is a guide to some of the gay documentaries that we’ve seen recently.
- A documentary that explores the conflicts between LGBTI people of faith and the churches that they seek to be part of.
- Read my full review and interview with filmmaker Scott Sheppard.
- JJ Yosh is a young ecovisionary who is driven to help the earth. In this documentary, he embarks on a journey around the world to investigate the secrets behind a lost pyramid energy technology.
- Directed by William Fairman and Max Gogarty, Chemsex is unique exploration of how a search for intimacy is leading many gay men to risk everything.
- A project that began as an exposé of the world of drug-fuelled sex parties, chill-outs, and bareback sex, clearly evolved into a deeper understanding of some of the emotional and physical complexities at play for the men who find what they need in this kind of encounter.
- From an objective perspective, this documentary could easily be perceived an important educational tool — a warning call of some deep-seated health issues impacting the gay community. However, what’s fascinating about what is revealed by the filmmakers are the insights into internalised shame, cycles of self-destruction, and the search for human connection and redemption.
- A thoughtful and intelligent contribution to our understanding of why the coming out process is still an important milestone for LGBTI people.
- I think that Do I Sound Gay? caught me just at the wrong moment.
- Writer/director David Thorpe seemed excited to be presenting the European premiere of this documentary at the BFI Flare festival in London, and it was a full-house at the British Film Institute screening on the Southbank.
- Thorpe described the inspiration for this documentary as being his ‘gay mid-life crisis’, finding himself single and the ‘wrong side of forty’, Thorpe began to question his identity and in particular hating the way that his voice sounded.
- The documentary traces Thorpe’s exploration of the role that our voice plays in our identity and what it means to have a voice that could be characterized as sounding ‘gay’.
- Thorpe is an engaging personality and this is a well-structured piece of work. It was also interesting to hear from personalities such as Margaret Cho, Tim Gunn, Dan Savage, David Sedaris, and George Takei who all appear in this documentary to share their thoughts.
- However there were two key aspects in Do I Sound Gay? that grated on me.
- Firstly, there were a number of references to Thorpe being single, how miserable it is to be single, and how it is easier or better for people who are not single. I find this a bit self-defeating — if you are defining yourself by your relationship status then you’ve clearly got some self-esteem issues.
- Secondly, Thorpe seemed to be presenting the aspiration to sound ‘less gay’ as being completely valid. While Thorpe ultimately seems to find some level of self-acceptance, the documentary appears to present speech-therapy for gay men as a viable or even aspirational form of self-improvement.
- I totally get the desire to fit in, the pain and discomfort that can come from feeling different. I also understand the interesting dynamic of how gay men seem to place a higher value on masculine characteristics as being sexually desirable. But I left the cinema feeling angry — angry that Thorpe seemed to be adding to the perception that gay men are being judged for being different, and angry that he seemed to be perpetuating the notion that to sound ‘gay’ is something to be ashamed of.
- Good documentaries should provoke a reaction from their audience. This one got a reaction from me.
- Colin Rothbart’s documentary Dressed As A Girl is a loving tribute to East London’s drag scene.
- Beginning with the debauchery of Gay Bingo (that began around 2003) and ending with the respectability of being the landlords of The Glory — the East London, alternative-gay hotspot.
- Filmed over six years, and following the ups and downs of a loose collective of six performers:
- Reminscent of Paris Is Burning, these are personal and touching stories of a group of outsiders struggling to find their place in the world.
- I’ve never been to the Folsom Street Fair — San Francisco’s leather-fest that has grown to become a global brand — but it’s something that I’ve heard so much about that it’s definitely on my list of iconic gay events that I want to get to someday.
- Documentary-maker Mike Skiff is clearly a fan. Folsom Forever interviews community leaders, activists, and volunteers to chronicle the social, political, and community impacts and benefits of this annual celebration of kink.
- Beginning in 1984, the Folsom Street Fair began as a local initiative to help raise money for AIDS charities and to try and cling on to the spirit of the city’s gay leather scene in the face of increasing gentrification.
- Today it has evolved into a major tourist attraction for San Francisco, and embedded itself into the public consciousness — even being featured on HBO’s recent series Looking.
- If you’re wanting an understanding of San Francisco’s gay scene today, or looking for some inspiration to plan your next vacation, then Folsom Forever will have you packing your leather and booking your flight.
- We see a lot of football on television, and footballers seem to be constantly in the media.
- However we rarely get to see what happens when a team of professional footballers are alone, traveling between games, killing time between their training and match commitments.
- Film-maker Martín Farina’s brother Tomas was a professional footballer with a team in Argentina. Through this connection, the film-maker was able to travel with the team, filming them, observing them.
- Farina acknowledges that it is still difficult to catch the players off guard, that they are performing for his camera just as they perform on field for their fans.
- What is revealed is the team’s relaxed intimacy, their camraderie and trust.
- While there are no ground-breaking revelations, and not a great deal actually happens during Farina’s time with the team, this is a fly-on-the-wall documentary that gives us an insider’s perspective on life in a professional football team. It also gives us a lot of locker-room shower scenes — something we can all be grateful for.
- Directed by Maya Newell, Gayby Baby is a documentary that follows the story of four children being raised by same-sex parents in Australia.
- Newell (who was raised within a same-sex parented family) captured the footage of the families features over a period of three and a half years. The period that the film covers was a time of discussion and debate in Australia regarding same-sex parenting and marriage equality.
- We meet Gus, Ebony, Matt, and Graham, and the four different families to which they belong — three lesbian couples, and one gay couple.
- What makes this powerful storytelling is that Newell primarily lets the children do the talking, observing their lives and eavesdropping on their conversations. It’s a low-key, unsensational approach that gently makes the point that families with same-sex parents are pretty much like any other family — not perfect, trying to do the right thing for the children, trying to hold it all together.
- Given the gentle nature of the this documentary, it is a little surprising that it’s had such a dramatic reaction. Adrian Piccoli — the minister for education in the state of New South Wales (of which Sydney is the capital) — issued a directive that the film was not to be shown in schools. You would have to assume that the minister hadn’t seen the documentary — it’s impossible to imagine what possible grounds could have been dreamt up to justify a ban.
- Gayby Baby is a thoughtful documentary that clearly makes an intelligent contribution to the marriage equality discussion in Australia and the understanding of families with same-sex parents around the world.
- Produced and directed by Jeffrey Schwarz, I Am Divine is a documentary that celebrates the life and work of drag icon Divine.
This is a loving homage to a towering personality and talent, with extensive interviews with filmmaker John Waters, as well as Divine’s mother and notable collaborators such as Tab Hunter, Ricki Lake, and Mink Stole. A great showcase for a unique and fearless talent.
- Written and directed by Charlie David, this documentary gives a brief history of gay porn and then interviews a number of stars of the gay porn industry. Porn stars that make an appearance include Brent Everett, Colby Jansen, Johnny Rapid, and Rocco Reed.
- A respectful documentary that explores the challenges that gay men and lesbians face in meeting the societal and family expectations of their culture.
- Worth watching.
- This project from Travis Matthews and James Franco had as its creative starting point the “lost” 40 minutes of film cut from iconic Al Pacino movie Cruising (1980), and it features un-simulated gay sex. This is clever film-making — essentially a movie about making a movie inspired by a movie, so you’re never quite sure whether what you’re watching is real fly-on-the-wall footage, scripted “reality” or just pure fiction. In the end it doesn’t really matter — it’s good and it works and keeps you guessing.
- A documentary celebrating the work of the fearless black lesbian who helped shaped the LGBTI community in LA.
- Documenting today’s ballroom scene in NYC
- Directed by Gabrielle Burton, Kings, Queens, and In-betweens is a documentary focusing on the drag performers in Columbus, Ohio.
- The documentary explores the surprisingly vibrant drag culture of this mid-western city, as well as broader questions about what gender is and how we define our identity.
- Surrounded by the ghosts of a generation lost to the AIDS epidemic, eight gay men search for meaning in a life they never expected to have.
- Produced by the San Francisco Chronicle, Last Men Standing charts the lives of eight long-term survivors who live with AIDS long after they assumed they would be dead from it. Each profile is emblematic of thousands of other victims whose stories are not often told. Ageing well has always been an issue for gay men, but for this generation the pain and joy of surviving often comes with feelings of loss and an intense sense of guilt. Their strategies for dealing with the challenges that life has thrown them offer a valuable lesson in how to live. The realities of social isolation and financial insecurity alongside health issues are sometimes heart-breaking to hear, but are balanced by tales of late blooming love and inspiring social interaction.
Lucy: My Transgender Life
- The story of one woman’s journey to self-acceptance.
- First time directer Melinte Reitzema has made a short film about the life of Sink The Pink dancer Lucy Fizz.
- Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures is an examination of the life and work of the controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.
- Directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, this is a respectful and thorough telling of Mapplethorpe’s story.
- Like every gay man that I know, I’ve always been intrigued and excited by Mapplethorpe’s powerful images, but I’ve never really known that much about the man himself. With extraordinary collaboration from Mapplethorpe’s friends, lovers, family, and models, this documentary presents the artist as talented and determined.
- The documentary also gives us insights into life in New York City in the 1970s, the power of money in the 1980s, and the impact of AIDS — which claimed the life of Mapplethorpe at age 42, as it did so many others at that time.
- I saw this documentary at the BFI Flare LGBT film festival in London — it was a sell-out screening on a Saturday night. Fenton Bailey was on hand to present the film and participate in a Q&A. Bailey credits Mapplethorpe himself for the richness of material that they had to work with in making this documentary — Mapplethorpe wanted his story told and urged all of his close circle to ensure that his name lived on.
- There’s a lot more to Mapplethorpe than just a couple of controversial photos. This documentary will serve the man well in keeping his reputation and legacy alive.
- A murder that shocked the world has inspired this heartfelt tribute from Michele Josue.
- The documentary seems to have been funded by the Matt Shepard Foundation, so there are some facets of this story that seem to have been deliberately avoided, but this is an important reminder of the brutality of this murder and how it shocked the world.
- First held in 1972, Miss Gay America is a pageant for drag queens.
- Pageant is a documentary that follows five contestants who are all aiming for the crown of the 2006 Miss Gay America pageant.
- Filmmakers Ron Davis and Stewart Halpern take a respectful approach, carefully documenting the aspirations, the dreams, and the journeys of their main subjects.
- Thanks to RuPaul’s Drag Race, this is a world that we are a lot more familiar with in today’s context, so in many ways Pageant doesn’t add a lot to that narrative, merely presenting the pageant version of drag for what it is.
- What is interesting is to see Drag Race favorites Victoria ‘Pork Chop’ Parker and Alyssa Edwards competing for the crown. Another fascinating dynamic is the bromance between Robert Martin and Jake Fisher.
- Interesting to watch.
- A thoughtful documentary that captures an important contribution to the modern identity of gay men.
- In his documentary Seed Money, filmmaker Michael Stabile tells the story of Chuck Holmes — the man who created the iconic Falcon Studios, setting the standard for gay porn in the 1970s and 1980s.
- Holmes is an interesting character, and Seed Money competently chronicles his life, career, impact and death. Perhaps of greater interest though, are the glimpses of San Francisco and the role that porn was playing in shaping gay identity at this time.
- Tab Hunter was one of the major stars of the Hollywood studio system in the 1950s. By any standard he was incredibly attractive. He was also gay.
- With the documentary Tab Hunter Confidential, director Jeffrey Schwarz has delivered a respectful, insightful tribute to Tab Hunter and his career.
- In 1997, filmmaker and former Miss America, Elizabeth Ward Gracen, interviewed three drag queens who competed in the Miss Gay America Pageant system.
- The interviews explore gender, identity and what it was like to grow up gay in the South at the end of the 20th century.
- The Athletic Model Guild was a publishing and production house that operated in Los Angeles in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s — this is the subject of the documentary The Golden Age of the American Male.
- The creative force behind the Athletic Model Guild was Bob Mizer.
- Mizer created magazines and short films. Although some, such as the groundbreaking Physique Pictorial, masqueared as publications for budding body builders, the real purpose was to serve as erotica for men who were aroused by other men.
- The actors and models that Mizer used were drawn from the peripherary of the mainstream movie industry in Los Angeles — young guys hoping for their big break, rent-boys and rough trade.
- The Golden Age of the American Male — which screened this week as part of London’s BFI Flare film festival — is a compilation of some of the films produced by Mizer’s Athletic Model Guild.
- Viewed from today’s perspective, Mizer’s films seem silly and hammy, albeit produced with an easy humor and knowing sense of fun.
- What’s interesting is that they give some insight into what it was like to be a gay man in Los Angeles during that period. It is easy to imagine that the guys that appeared in Mizer’s short films were at the Hollywood parties, lounging by the pools of the rich and famous, and readily available for hire by the hour. These boys generally appeared to be having a good time.
- In a broader context, Mizer’s erotic aesthetic has clearly played a pivotal role in shaping our sense of modern masculinity and what it means to be sexually appealing as a gay man. He had a fascination with military uniforms, with leather, discipline and control, and exploring the intoxicating allure of men in positions of power.
- Cultural phenomena as diverse as Tom of Finland, Andy Warhol, Falcon Studios, and David Hockney have all been influenced by the work of Mizer. The way that men are presented in today’s fashion and advertising campaigns celebrate and objectify the body in a way that was first explored by Mizer.
- The magazines and movies of the Athletic Model Guild were primarily distributed by mail-order, at a time in the United States when it was illegal to produce, own, or distribute this type of material. Indeed, Mizer himself was convicted in 1954 of distributing obscene material via the mail.
- It’s hard to comprehend how important it was to consumers of Mizer’s work to know that they were not alone, that there were others out there who wanted the same thing, who felt the same way, who desired the masculinity represented by the confident and uninhibited young men of Los Angeles.
- The world today is clearly a different place from Los Angeles in the 1950s, but it is Bob Mizer — who died in 1992 at the age of 70 — and the Athletic Models Guild who have helped to shape who we have become.
- Filmmaker Jennifer M. Kroot gives us a respectful celebration of the life and work of the author in The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin.
- Following his evolution from a conservative son of the Old South, into a gay rights pioneer, whose novels began as a serial in a newspaper but became an iconic story that helped define the identity and legacy of San Francisco.
- As well as extensive interviews with Maupin, the film also includes conversations with Laura Linney, Ian McKellen, Margaret Cho, Neil Gaiman, and Amy Tan.
- There’s some fantastic glimpses of San Francisco as Maupin first knew it, but also the overriding sense of inspiration — as Amy Tan put it perfectly, through his work Maupin somehow made you want to tell your stories.
- If you’re a fan of Tales of the City then this is essential viewing.
- The Queen is a phenomenal documentary — a glimpse into the hidden world of drag queen pageants in the US in the late 1960s.
- Director Frank Simon documents the national pageant of 1967, held in New York City. Presiding over proceedings is Sabrina — the alter ego of 24-year-old Jack Doroshow.
- While the glimpses of rehearsals, costume fittings, and the competition itself are fascinating, the real insights are from the fragments of conversations between the contestants that are captured by the camera — everything from draft boards, sexual identity, sex-change operations, and life as a drag queen.
- Jack’s protégé is Richard Finnochio whose alter ego is Harlow. When Harlow wins the competition, Crystal — the reigning queen of Manhattan — let’s fly with allegations of favouritism.
- The Queen slightly pre-dates the ball scenes that were documented in Paris is Burning, but there are brief glimpses of Dorian Corey and Crystal LaBeija. Andy Warhol also makes a brief cameo.
- It’s easy to see how cultural touch-points such as To Wong Foo and RuPaul’s Drag Race have drawn their inspiration from The Queen and the world which this film has managed to capture.
- Uncle Howard is an intertwining tale of past and present — the story of filmmaker Howard Brookner whose work captured New York’s artistic community in the late 70s and early 80s, and his nephew’s personal journey 25 years later to discover his uncle’s films and the legacy of a life cut short by AIDS.
- Brian Spitz directs Unhung Hero — a documentary that follows Patrick Moote on a journey of self-discovery regarding his slightly smaller than average penis.
- Moote travels the world talking about penis size and techniques to enlarge the penis — even coyly trying a few of them.
- Ultimately, it all feels a bit contrived and with few insights into why penis size is important and the emotional impact often experienced by men with a small penis.
- Directed by Barak Heymann and Tomer Heymann, Who’s Gonna Love Me Now? is the story of a 39-year-old Israeli living in London who discovers he is HIV-positive and begins a journey of reconciliation with his deeply religious family in Israel.
- The documentary contrasts the man’s difficulties finding acceptance at home in Israel, with the life he’s built in England as a member of the London Gay Male Chorus. Family, friends, and the film’s protagonist are seen in close, spontaneous moments of laughter, confrontation, and forgiveness.
- It’s a thoughtful, reflective story that highlights the challenges faced by gay men who come from religious communities, and the tensions that their sexuality inevitably creates within their families.
- Writer Katherine Thompson and director Gillian Armstrong have created Women He’s Undressed to celebrate the story of Orry-Kelly — a costume designer who played a key role during the golden era of Hollywood cinema.
- Thompson and Armstrong were drawn to Orry-Kelly’s story because he was relatively unknown in his home country of Australia, despite being celebrated by the film industry in America.
- As costume designer for nearly 300 films — including Some Like It Hot, Casablanca, An American in Paris and Now, Voyager — Orry-Kelly designed for stars such as Marilyn Munroe, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Rosalind Russell, and Errol Flynn.
- Talented, daring, brash, bold, Orry-Kelly was the first Australian to win three Academy Awards.
- Women He’s Undressed is a behind-the-scenes look at Orry-Kelly’s life and career — including his friendships with Jack and Ann Warner and influential columnist Hedda Hopper and the protection that they offered for the openly gay designer.
- Armstrong blends a series of interviews — including Jane Fonda, Angela Lansbury, Catherine Martin, and Leonard Maltin — with hyper-stylised recreations of key episodes of Orry-Kelly’s story.
- If you’re a film or fashion buff then you’ll find plenty of interest in Women He’s Undressed.
- Directed by Jeffrey Schwarz, this is arespectful exploration of the rise of 70s porn icon Jack Wrangler, and also provides useful insights into gay sexuality and identity at that time.
Coming of Age Movies
These are the gay coming of age movies that we’ve seen recently (presented in alphabetical order):
- Hattiesburg, Mississippi is a part of the world that writer/director Patrik-Ian Polk knows well. It’s his home town, it’s where he went to college, and it is where he has set his latest movie Blackbird.
- Polk (together with co-writer Rikki Beadle-Blair) have taken the novel by Larry Duplechan and transferred the action from 1970s California to the conservative and religious heartland of present-day Mississippi.
- The result is a stunningly good movie. A young guy struggles to make sense of his sexuality amidst an emotionally charged world of family, grief, lust, and love.
- It is an outstanding cast that Polk has assembled for this project. Isaiah Washington (as the supportive but distant father), new-comer Julian Walker (as confused and conflicted Randy), and Mo’Nique (mesmerising as the grieving mother).
- ‘When we were writing the role of the mother we were determined to write something with enough complexity and depth that it would appeal to an Oscar-winning actress…’ explained Polk following the film’s screening at the BFI Flare festival in London. ‘Not that we ever expected to be able to get an Oscar-winning actress to take the part, but Isaiah sent the script to Mo’Nique and within a couple of days she had signed on.’
- Blackbird is a project that Polk has been working on since he first read Duplechan’s novel over a decade ago. In the meantime he has built an impressive reputation with Punks, Noah’s Arc, and The Skinny.
- This is confident, assured film-making. Highly recommended.
- Camp is a movie that follows a familiar formula — American kids heading off to summer camp to fulfil their dreams and discover some life lessons.
- Written and directed by Todd Graff, the film is based on his own experiences at a similar camp called Stagedoor Manor and a number of scenes in this movie were filmed there.
- There’s some talented singers in the young cast, but ultimately it’s a relatively unsatisfying film. I found the role of the gay characters struck a slightly odd note — there are a number of gay guys in the film, but it felt as if they weren’t being celebrated but pitied.
- Points of interest are the appearance of a young Anna Kendrick, and a cameo by Stephen Sondheim.
- Written and directed by Stephen Dunn, Closet Monster is a surprising dark and surreal coming-of-age story.
- Oscar lives in a small town in Canada — his confidant is a pet hamster named Buffy. Damaged by his parents’ turbulent divorce, and emotionally scarred by a violent homophobic attack he witnessed as a child, Oscar struggles to negotiate his emerging sexuality and a desire to escape everything that is familiar.
- Written by David Brind and directed by Adam Salky, Dare is the feature length version of Salky’s 2005 short-film of the same name.
- It’s a US high-school coming-of-age story, with a few additional complications.
- The cast includes: Emmy Rossum; Zach Gilford; Ashley Springer; Ana Gasteyer; Rooney Mara; Alan Cumming; and Sandra Bernhard.
- Surprisingly watchable — a strong cast supported by intelligent writing.
- The one-liners and snappy come-backs are so quick and constant throughout Dear White People that this is the kind of movie that you could easily watch again just to make sure you got all the jokes and jabs of this tightly written debut feature from Justin Simien.
- Set on a college campus, the story follows a group of undergraduates trying to work out exactly where they fit in when the world around them seems full of contradictions and complexity.
- Written and directed by Simien, this is an impressive debut. While the pace of the movie dragged occasionally, the structure effectively ran with a number of narrative strands and managed to draw them together for a satisfying conclusion.
- Simien is well-served by his strong cast: Tessa Thompson (as Sam White) is believable and watchable; and you might remember Tyler James Williams (who plays Lionel Higgins in this) as the nerd from Everybody Hates Chris; but it’s a strong ensemble effort that makes this movie work.
- An impressive debut that confirms that Justin Simien is a talent to watch out for.
- Departure is a coming-of-age drama — the feature film debut for writer/director Andrew Steggall.
- Beginning at dawn on the first day that we meet the characters and ending at night on the sixth day of their journey, Departure charts the end of a summer, the end of a childhood, and the end of a family.
- Edge of Seventeen is a coming-of-age movie set in 1984. Written by Todd Stephens and directed by David Moreton, this tells the story of schoolboy Eric (Chris Stafford) who is trying to figure himself out with the help of his best friend Maggie (Tina Holmes) and boss Angie (Lea DeLaria).
- There’s some great music featured in the soundtrack, and the fashion takes us right back to the 80s. However it’s the portrayal of confusion and uncertainty as we follow Eric’s journey that is the most authentic aspect of this film.
- It wasn’t easy in the early 80s to find meaningful role models for gay men, and Stafford captures that intoxicating mix of fear and possibility perfectly in his performance as Eric.
- A great chance to revisit some of the highs and lows of the 80s in an outstanding coming-of-age movie.
- Kerstin Karlhuber’s first feature-length film gives us the story of James (Michael Grant). After a long stay in ex-gay conversion therapy, James returns home to his family farm and his emotionally distant father, Richard (Tom Wopat). After Richard pressures James to give up his music career and take over the farm, James agrees as a way to make up for his past. Soon, however, James finds himself face-to-face with a former lover, Charlie (Josh Green), who wants to help him turn away from his new beliefs and family expectations, and follow his dreams of studying music.
- Exploration isolation and despair for a gay teenager in an indigenous community in Canada.
- Written by George Northy and directed by Darren Stein, G.B.F. (which stands for Gay Best Friend) is a story set in a U.S. high school where Tanner Daniels accidentally becomes the first out gay student and suddenly finds himself in high demand as the G.B.F. to the school’s most popular girls.
- This movie is a lot better than you might be expecting. While the premise sounds a bit cliched, the writing is intelligent and the characters have a bit more depth than is typical in these movies — without losing the absurd sense of fun needed to make any teen high school movie a success.
- One of the strengths of this movie is its cast. Michael J. Willett (Tanner) is particularly good as a young guy trying to figure things out; Paul Iacono (Tanner’s best friend Brent) brings the comedy; Sasha Pieterse, Andrea Bowen, and Xosha Roquemore give good Mean Girls as the school’s queen bees; and there’s cameos from Megan Mullally, Natasha Lyonne, Evanna Lynch, and Joanna Levesque.
- G.B.F. accurately captures the complexity of being a gay teenager in today’s world — figuring out who you are, negotiating how and when to reveal your sexuality to the world, and making sense of why that changes everything.
- Geography Club tells the story of Russell (Cameron Deane Stewart). He’s 16 and trying to figure things out. He finds refuge with some misfit kids who have formed a Geography Club — a cover-story for some of the gay and lesbian kids at the school. But things get worse for Russell before they get better — not helped by his best-friend Gunnar (Andrew Caldwell), the amorous Trish (Meaghan Martin), and football quarterback Kevin (Justin Deeley). The cast also includes Scott Bakula as Kevin’s father, Nikki Blonsky as Therese, and Ana Gasteyer as a sympathetic teacher.
- Directed by Gary Entin, the screenplay was adapted by Edmund Entin from the novel by Brent Harbinger.
- While there are a lot of aspects to this story that feel familiar, this is a watchable cast and Entin keeps the pace moving along.
- There is a happy ending, but it’s not quite what you might be expecting.
- An intelligent, contemporary coming-of-age story that will help remind us all that being a teenager is a pretty confusing time, whoever you are.
- Written by Patrick Wilde and directed by Simon Shore Get Real tells the story of Steven (Ben Silverstone) a young gay guy nearing the end of high school who is finding sexual release through anonymous encounters. However things get complicated when one of those encounters turns out to be John (Brad Gorton) — one the popular guys from his school.
- This is a movie that struck an emotional chord with me — although the movie was made in 1998, the play was written in 1992, just a few years after I finished high school. This was a time in England when the age of consent for gay men was five years older than for straight men, and the legislation known as Section 28 prohibited schools and local authorities from depicting gay relationships as acceptable or normal. Wilde deliberately wrote Steven as being 16 years old — Steven was breaking the law by having sex whereas his straight peers were not.
- There is a brilliant scene in the movie where Steven is receiving an award (for writing) in front of the entire school and he somehow finds the courage to voice his true feelings and be open about his homosexuality. It’s the kind of speech that I wish I’d had the strength to make when I was at school, but I never did.
- The movie also portrays the reality of gay sexual encounters at this time — cruising or ‘cottaging’ in toilets and parks — without any judgment or sensationalism.
- While this is a period piece in many respects, it’s such strong writing and with excellent performances from the young cast that it has stood the test of time well.
- Definitely worth watching.
- Written and directed by John Butler, Handsome Devil gives us the story of Ned (Fionn O’Shea) and Conor (Nicholas Galitzine) — forced to share a bedroom at boarding school although they seem to have nothing in common. Helped by their supportive English teacher Dan Sherry (Andrew Scott), an unlikely friendship begins to develop until Ned commits an act of betrayal that messes everything up.
- In many ways, this is a classic coming-of-age story. But it’s better than you might expect — there’s plenty of charm in the characters and the storytelling, with some convincing performances that keep you engaged right to the end.
- A respectful exploration of coming-of-age within a religious family.
- Writer/director Stephen Cone’s latest production is Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party — a coming-of-age movie set within a conservative Christian community in the US.
- Cone (himself the son of a Southern Baptist minister) has crafted a story that unfolds over the course of one eventful day in the life of 17-year-old preacher’s kid Henry (Cole Doman), who is trying to navigate his faith, secrets, and sexuality within the restrictions of his family and religious community. Helping to shape his big day are Henry’s mother (Elizabeth Laidlaw), his father (Pat Healy), and 19-year-old sister Autumn (Nina Ganet), plus we meet closeted young Logan (Daniel Kyri).
- This is a respectful and unhurried exploration of how families and communities have to negotiate some of the more uncomfortable terrain of growing up, intelligently reflecting Cone’s insider’s-view and respect for the people he is portraying in this movie.
- Kids In Love is directed by Chris Foggin, with a screenplay by Preston Thompson and Sebastian De Souza (who both star in the film).
- It’s a coming-of-age story set in London. Jack (Will Poulter) is contemplating his imminent gap year before starting college. A chance encounter with Evelyn (Alma Jodorowsky) brings Jack into the Bohemian world of Notting Hill, giving Jack an alternative perspective on the choices available and how to follow his heart.
- Cast: Will Poulter (Jack); Jamie Blackley (Tom); Alma Jodorowsky (Evelyn); Preston Thompson (Cassius); Sebastian De Souza (Milo); Cara Delevingne (Viola); and Gala Gordon (Elena).
- This is an entertaining and watchable film — in some ways it feels like a Millennial’s take on the films of Richard Curtis. A love-letter to London and the transformative power of the people in your life.
- While there a few holes in the script, everything is spelt out perhaps a little emphatically, and it sometimes feels like you’re watching an extended episode of Made In Chelsea, the ensemble cast bring a naturalness to the screen that almost makes you want to quit your job, take up photography, and immerse yourself into a life of cigarettes, secret clubs, dramatic love affairs, and weekends in the country.
- Written and directed by Lee Galea, this is a surprisingly sad and heartbreaking coming-of-age story set in Melbourne Australia. Stars Tristan Barr and Lucas Linehan.
- Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List is a contemporary rom com with a Modern Family sensibility.
- This is the story of downtown New York girl Naomi (Victoria Justice) and her best friend and neighbor Ely (Pierson Fode). Their relationship is ideal in every way except that Ely is gay and eventually they are both going to have to face the realities of growing up.
- Directed by Kristin Hanggi (Rock of Ages) and written by Amy Anderson, this is a movie that has a strong sense of teen fiction for girls. The cast are engaging and they doggedly work their way through the angst, redemption, make-overs, and cup-cakes required of teen movies.
- From a gay perspective, the romance between Ely and Bruce 2 is handled sensibly, and Ely’s lesbian mothers are a matter of fact, not a dramatic plot point. However the downtown Manhattan that Naomi and Ely inhabit is really only recognisable by the Washington Square landmark and a bit of Sex and the City fantasy of what life in New York is like.
- Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List is a light, easy to follow, and optimistic modern girl’s guide to romance.
- Written and directed by Jay Dockendorf, this is a meditative slice of life following two young guys in Brooklyn.
- It’s not often we get a glimpse into the lives of young gay men who are black, muslim, and living in New York City.
- Scottish artist-filmmaker Henry Coombes delivers a debut drenched in smoke, surrealism, anarchy, and psychoanalysis.
- Albert (David Sillars, who co-created the story) is an ageing gay bohemian, an artist and part-time psychoanalyst, and a disciple of Carl Jung (whose spirit speaks to Albert through his cherished houseplant).
- When a friend (Marcella McIntosh) asks him to counsel her grandson Ben (Jonathan Leslie), whose boyfriend troubles have left him depressed, Albert reluctantly agrees, and an odd inter-generational mentoring relationship begins.
- Written and directed by Leon Lopez, Soft Lad tells the story of David (Jonny Label) — a young, gay guy who has fallen in love with his brother-in-law Jules (Daniel Brocklebank). Guilty about betraying his beloved sister Jane (Suzanne Collins), and guilted by his best-friend Stacey (Laura Ainsworth), David breaks it off with Jules and throws himself into a new relationship with Sam (Craig Stein). However an unexpected revelation means that the history between David and Jules implodes the family.
- In many ways this film has the feeling and structure of a stage-play — intense, contained scenes that steadily progress the narrative to its explosive conclusion.
- It’s a strong cast, creating believeably authentic characters. Worth watching.
- Spa Night is writer/director Andrew Ahn’s feature-length debut — immersing us within the Korean-American community of Los Angeles.
- The story follows David (Joe Seo) — a dutiful 18-year-old as he struggles to make his parents proud while grappling with his sexuality amidst the nocturnal world of karaoke bars and the all-male spas of Koreatown.
- Written and directed by Joey Kuhn, Those People was inspired by Kuhn’s experience of falling in love with his best friend at college. It also draws heavily on the story of Bernie Madoff’s son Mark (who committed suicide two years after his father’s arrest.
- The story follows Charlie — a young, gay painter who is torn between an obsession with his infamous socialite best-friend and a promising new romance with a concert pianist.
The cast includes:
Jonathan Gordon as Charlie
Jason Ralph as Sebastian
Haaz Sleiman as Tim
Britt Lower as Ursula
Meghann Fahy as London
Chris Conroy as Wyatt
Allison Mackie as Priscilla
Daniel Gerroll as Dick Blackworth
Max Jenkins as Dracula
- This is a watchable and intelligently written film. It’s a bit of a throwback to the brat-pack films of the mid-80s (think St Elmo’s Fire), but that’s not a bad thing.
- Written and directed by Stephen Cone, The Wise Kids is a coming-of-age tale set within a strongly religious community in South Carolina.
- Three high school seniors — Brea (Molly Kunz); Laura (Allison Torem), and Tim (Tyler Ross) — contemplate life after graduation as they grapple with some of the contradictions that they are encountering between their face and the world into which they are about to embark.
- This is semi-autobiographical territory for Cone (who also appears in the movie as a married man questioning his sexuality) — he is the son of a Baptist preacher. Cone clearly retains a lot of affection and empathy for the communities and people that have inspired these characters.
- The structure that Cone’s has chosen for this story is episodic — using a clearly signposted ellipsis to move the story forward in chapters, although the narrative all takes place within one year.
- Intelligent film-making supported by a strong cast.
- Written and directed by Todd Verow. Three friends at the end of high school are trying to navigate their way through life in Bangor, Maine. Stars Brad Hallowell; Gregory J. Lucas; Michael Dion; and Hilary Mann.