Friday, January 14, 2011

Gay-Themed Cinema: The List – Part 1

Thanks for all those who commented on Wednesday’s post and added additional movies to a growing list of gay-themed movies and television shows that are now in my Netflix queue!  I started to prepare a list of suggestions received in response to Wednesday’s post, and this quickly grew to the point where I could see that I’d need to split it into two posts, then three posts.  This first post covers letters A – C.  Listing the titles of the movies/shows alphabetically, I have prepared brief synopses of and comments (taken from Netflix and IMBD) regarding each of the suggestions received, as well as a few others I have run across. I have certainly learned a lot from this exercise, gaining a small sense of the richness and texture of gay-themed cinema from nations around the world.  I hope that this list proves useful and informative to others as well.

8: The Mormon Proposition – (2009; American) “Filmmaker Reed Cowan examines that church's nationwide efforts to prevent the legalization of gay marriage -- including California's Proposition 8, which was passed by voters in 2008. Confidential church documents, statements by high-ranking church officials and other sources detail 30 years of efforts to turn back gay rights, particularly by the Mormon-sponsored National Organization for Marriage.” [Netflix] There are strong feelings in the Mormon and “gay Mormon” communities about this documentary.  Personally, I liked the film.  It was eye-opening and heart-rending.  I would recommend it to any open-minded Mormon and certainly to any gay Mormon.

Adam & Steve – (2005; American) “Teenage Goth couple Adam and Rhonda are club hopping when Adam spots a dancer he is immediately attracted to. Taking the dancer home, Adam is introduced to drugs by him, but their sexual escapade is interrupted by an embarrassing episode and the dancer leaves quickly. Years later Adam accidentally stabs his dog and brings him to a hospital where he is treated by a psychiatrist who once studied veterinary medicine. The doctor (Steve) and Adam start dating and fall in love. Rhonda, who has stayed Adam's close friend through the years, begins to date Steve's straight roommate at the same time. Months later Steve realizes that Adam was the Goth teenager with whom he had the embarrassing encounter, and breaks off the relationship, afraid that Steve will reject him when he finds out the truth.” [Imbd] Netflix reviewer:  “At last a gay film where everyone is not gorgeous, have flaws up the Ying-Yang, and has a great supporting cast.”

All About My Mother – (1999; Spanish) Oscar winner for Best Foreign-Language Film.  “A single mother in Madrid sees her only son die on his 17th birthday as he runs to seek an actress's autograph. She goes to Barcelona to find the lad's father, a transvestite named Lola who does not know he has a child. First she finds her friend, Agrado, a wild yet caring transvestite; through him she meets Rosa, a young nun bound for El Salvador, but instead finds out she is pregnant by Lola. Manuela becomes the personal assistant of Huma Rojo, the actress her son admired, by helping Huma manage Nina, the co-star and Huma's lover. However, Agrado soon takes over when Manuela must care for Hermana Rosa's risky pregnancy. With echos of Lorca, "All About Eve," and "Streetcar Named Desire," the mothers (and fathers and actors) live out grief, love, and friendship.” [Imbd] Netflix reviewer:  “This Academy Award winning story of Manuela and her three "Esteban"s powerfully (and sometimes humorously)explores love, sexuality, gender identity; and how, in the end, nothing but love really matters anyway. This film provokes laughter, tears and thoughtful reflection on our preconceived notions. This touches my heart every time I see it.”

Angels in America – (2003; American) “Angels in America is a 2003 HBO miniseries adapted from the Pulitzer Prize winning play of the same name by Tony Kushner. Kushner adapted his original text for the screen, and Mike Nichols directed. Set in 1985, the film has at its core the story of two couples whose relationships dissolve amidst the backdrop of Reagan era politics, the spreading AIDS epidemic and a rapidly changing social and political climate … It's 1985: God has abandoned heaven, Ronald Reagan is in the White House, and Death swings the quiet scythe of AIDS across the nation. In Manhattan, Prior Walter tells Lou, his lover of four years, he's ill; Lou, unable to handle it, leaves him. As disease and loneliness ravage Prior, guilt invades Lou. Joe Pitt, an attorney who is Mormon and Republican, is pushed by right-wing fixer Roy Cohn toward a job at the United States Department of Justice. Both Pitt and Cohn are in the closet: Pitt out of shame and religious turmoil, Cohn to preserve his power and image. Pitt's wife Harper is strung out on Valium, causing her to hallucinate constantly, and she longs to escape from her sexless marriage. An angel commands Prior to be a prophet. Pitt's mother and Belize, a close friend, help Prior choose. Joe leaves his wife and goes to live with Lou, but the relationship doesn't work out.” [Wikipedia]

Beautiful Thing – (1996; British) “The iconoclastic, underachieving denizens of a southeast London apartment building get an emotional wake-up call when two teenage boys -- next-door neighbors Jamie and Ste -- unexpectedly fall in love. This moving slice of affecting kitchen-sink realism from Britain's esteemed Channel Four Films is adapted from the hit West End play penned by Jonathan Harvey, who also directs.” [Netflix] Netflix reviewers:  “Set in a London housing project, the story follows the struggle of two teenage boys coming to terms with being gay. It's a powerful, yet heartfelt an iron fist in a velvet glove.”  “I first saw this in 1999 as I was starting to come out after a good friend suggested it … I've seen a lot of teenage boy-meets-boy movies and I still think this is probably my favorite of them. The acting is well done, the script is good, and the all Mamas and Papas soundtrack is awesome. Even if you're not gay, it is a great romantic film that explores the innocence of first love.”

Before Night Falls – (2000; American) “Spanning several decades, this powerful biopic offers a glimpse into the life of famed Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas, an artist who was vilified for his homosexuality in Fidel Castro's Cuba. Although Arenas finds success as a writer, he must eventually emigrate to New York City to enjoy unfettered creative freedom. Johnny Depp co-stars in two different roles as a transvestite inmate and as a warden.” [Netflix] Netflix reviewer:  “This film has it all. A great script, beautiful camera work, great acting, and a compelling story. Watching this movie provides a stunning 2 hours of cinema experience. It is a "must see" and one of my 5 top films for the year.”

Bent (1997; British) Max is gay and as such is sent to Dachau concentration camp under the Nazi regime. He tries to deny he is gay and gets a yellow label (the one for Jews) instead of pink (the one for gays). In camp he falls in love with his fellow prisoner Horst, who wears his pink label with pride. [Imbd]

Big Eden – (2000; American) “Successful but lonely New York artist Henry Hart (Arye Gross) returns to Big Eden to care for his ailing grandfather and winds up confronting his unrequited passion for his high school best friend and his feelings about being gay in a small town. As Henry works though his emotions, the townspeople quietly conspire to help him along, until Henry realizes new possibilities for both friendship and romance.” [Netflix] Netflix reviewer:  “This Movie has it all. Touching scenes of real life relationship problems, comedy, loving family relationships, great scenery and acting with a touch of Hollywood fantasy thrown in. You will laugh, cry and leave feeling really good about life.”

Billy Elliot – (2000; British) “When 11-year-old Billy Elliot trades boxing school for ballet lessons, his father -- a hardworking miner from Northern England who despises the idea of his son running around in toe shoes -- is less than pleased. But when the boy wins an audition for the Royal Ballet School, he experiences a change of heart. Stephen Daldry directs this Oscar-nominated drama that spawned a Tony-winning Broadway musical of the same name.” [Netflix].  This film is not about gays, per se, though Billy’s best friend is gay and is charmingly depicted as he first explores his sexuality.  But I think the film would speak to most gays in its portrayal of being true to oneself.  I agree with the Netflix reviewer who wrote:  “This movie is one of those rare treats that comes along only once every few years. It should have won Oscar for Best Picture, and best EVERYTHING! There is also a gay undertone to the story which is handled very deftly and with great care. A few scenes in the movie will make you cry, even if you're not the type to cry in movies. The conflict between Billy and his father/brother and the ending result are outstanding.”

Boy Culture – (2006; American) “In director Q. Allan Brocka's unconventional love story, a male prostitute with the enigmatic name of X carefully avoids personal intimacy and affection, and is only interested in sex when he's being paid for it. X maintains his stoic approach to sex and love until one of his regular customers tempts him to reconsider his position by sharing a meaningful story.” [Netflix]

Breakfast with Scot – (2007; Canadian) “Eric (Thomas Cavanagh) and his partner, Sam (Ben Shenkman), are pushed into becoming temporary parents to an 11-year-old boy with a fondness for gold chains, lace and the color pink while Eric's brother -- the boy's father -- is out of the country. Neither man ever saw himself as a father, but having such an undeniably colorful child around the house has a funny way of changing their minds.” [Neflix] Netflix reviewer:  “Breakfast With Scot turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable and uplifting family drama that was cute, funny, serious, and very entertaining all at once in one movie. I loved the way that everyone Scot came into contact with in this story essentially changed for the better - from the gay ex-ice hockey star turned sportscaster [Eric] who finally comes out, when everybody knows anyway, to the homophobic schoolyard bully who ends up the flamboyant Scot's best friend. The basic story line has Eric (Tom Cavanagh), the ex-hockey great and his partner Sam (Ben Shenkman) operating as a happy, childless, semi-closeted couple, that is until until Sam's nephew Scot, certainly not your typical preteen (think Boy George) shows up to shake the cozy twosome ... The highlight of this movie to me have to be the scenes with Eric and Scot, as Scot worms his way into Eric's heart with his honesty and tolerant view of life.”

Brokeback Mountain – (2005; American) “While working together near Wyoming's Brokeback Mountain in 1963, sheepherders Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) begin an increasingly passionate affair [that continues for almost two decades]. But keeping their relationship a secret from their wives (Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams) proves agonizing and all-consuming.” [Netflix] Netflix reviewer:  “I personally put this movie on top there with some of my favorites for several reasons. First, they did extremely well portraying how being homosexual conflicted with being a man in this time period, when most of them are expected to be tough as stone and able to support a family. There wasn’t as much freedom during that time, there were certain requirements that, through the eyes of homophobes and other anti-gay gangs, a male had to meet... just to stay alive. These two young, very good looking, men meet on Brokeback mountain and a spark ignites between them, a spark that only grows stronger the more time they spend together, and its beautiful to watch as it does. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal are phenomenal, award winning actors and the performance they give to the making of this film just leaves you speechless in the end. They let themselves get soo into the intimate scenes that you completely feel what the director was trying to accomplish. The director intended to create a feeling of intense regard and love between the men and he succeeds to the max.”

The Bubble – (2006; Israeli) “When a young Israeli named Noam falls for a handsome Palestinian he meets while working at a checkpoint in Tel Aviv, he recruits his roommates Yelli and Lulu to help find a way for the two to stay together. Director Eytan Fox's poignant film offers a glimpse at life inside the tumultuous borders of Israel, where everyday people are constantly surrounded by conflict.” [Netflix] Netflix reviewer:  “I thought this movie was a brillant piece of film-making, completely capturing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in very human terms. The reason why the movie works is that I cared very much for the characters. But none of them are exactly what they seem at first glance, none of them are innocent and all are victims. Eytan Fox brillants makes the relationship between Israeli Noam and Arab Ashraf a metaphor for the insanity that is the Middle East.”

Burnt Money – (2000; Argentinean) “Set in 1965, Burnt Money (released in Argentina as Plata Quemada) tells the true story of Angel and Sam, gay lovers who turn to crime, bank robbery and murder, holding Argentina and Uruguay in suspense as they lead the authorities on a two-month-long manhunt. Delicately balanced between gripping action and tender romance, director Marcelo Piñeyro's film premiered at the 2000 Toronto International Film Festival.” [Netflix] Netflix reviewer:  “This film is now one of my all time favorites. I still can't get it out of my mind. It is the best love story I have seen. Yes, the main characters happen to be gay, but this is not a "gay" movie. At least not the stereotypical gay movies that Hollywood has given us. This is simply a love story. One that can resonate with anybody … Leonardo Sbaraglia (El Nene) and Eduardo Noriega (Angel) played these roles beautifully …  Subtlely acted, yet so immensely moving … Cinema at it's best!”

The Celluloid Closet – (1995; American) “Narrated by Lily Tomlin, this acclaimed documentary takes its name from Vito Russo's groundbreaking book. The filmmakers examine the subtext of more than 100 Hollywood movies -- including Spartacus, Rope and Thelma and Louise -- and chart the cinematic journey of lesbian and gay characters. Film clips are paired with director, producer and actor interviews featuring, among others, Gore Vidal, Tom Hanks and Whoopi Goldberg.” [Netflix] Netflix reviewer:  “When the late Vito Russo published the book The Celluloid Closet in 1981 it was a meticulous and insightful look at how homosexuality had been portrayed by Hollywood. The book made me want to see all the film clips mentioned. This documentary gives a wonderfully representative sample of movie clips from Thomas Edison to the Silent Movies to pre- and post-Hayes Code and up to the 1993 Philadelphia. Various actors/actresses who are gay or who have played homosexual roles share insights and Lily Tomlin narrates … This film is a must-see for anyone interested in how gay men and lesbians have been portrayed in cinema in America.” 


  1. "Mulligans" is one that I didn't see in your posts and that I really liked. It's not some amazing academy award winner like Brokeback. But, it's a good story that men like us can relate to, it's filled with plenty of emotion, and just so happens to have some very good looking leading men.

  2. I liked Mulligans, I'd say you must watch "krampac" I don't know if thats the right spelling, but I saw it and actually wrote a paper on it for my spanish cinema class in college! very fun movie

  3. @Jeff and Recover - I'm glad you mentioned Mulligans. I actually watched that, but forgot about it. And, yes, Jeff, I could relate to it, and I agree about the leading men, one of whom stars in Dante's Cove. And Recover, I'll have to look up "krampac". Thanks for the suggestion!

  4. Has "C.R.A.Z.Y." been mentioned? It's a Canadian film; real fun to watch.

    Anyone seen "El Jardin Colgante"? I heard about it but never saw it. I think the title translates to "Hanging Garden" like in the time of Babylon.

    "Strawberry and Chocolate" ("Fresas y Chocolate") is another interesting film taking place in Fidel's Cuba.


  5. does a top 50 gay movies list each year. As I am also catching up on gay cinema, I tend to pick ones from their list. You can see at

  6. The movie/documentary that I most enjoyed this year was "Three." About a three-some that works. It caused me to re-think the whole idea of polyamory, if that is what it is called.

  7. And I'd like to add a personal favorite, "Ma vie en rose" "My life in Pink". This Belgian movie beautifully portrays a young child's sexual identity affirmation and the reactions in the family and entourage.

  8. @Philip - Thanks for the additional suggestions. I will add them to an addendum to the List next week. If you think of any others, feel free to add them as well.

    @Mister Curie - Thanks for the link!

    @Brother Parker - After checking Netflix, did you mean "Threesome"?

    @Libellule - Thanks for this suggestion! (I had forgotten about this one. Haven't seen it yet.)