Saturday, January 15, 2011

Gay-Themed Cinema: The List – Part 2

                  This continues yesterday’s post and covers letters D – M.

Doing Time on Maple Drive – (1992; American) “This film was made for cable TV in 1992 … The subject matter is a dysfunctional family consisting of a retired military man who treats his family like recruits, a mother who is even colder and unforgiving than Mary Tyler Moore in "Ordinary People", two of their children who are great disappointments to the rest of the family, and their perfect son who makes his parents "proud" and is destined to carry all of his parents' needs. The son is attractive, smart, a Yalie, and engaged to marry a woman whom the parents "approve". The whole deck of family cards comes tumbling down when the perfect son has to confront whether he will be true to his true-nature homosexual needs or live only to please his parents ... The movie indirectly explores the rather untapped topic of heterosexual women who unknowlingly become attracted, engaged, and perhaps marry gay men who want to play that they are "perfectly" straight.” [Netflix reviewer]

East Side Story – (2006; American) “Dutiful grandson Diego Campos helps run the family restaurant, hides his gay relationships from his traditional Latino family and faces cultural changes to his ethnic enclave in this film festival favorite set in East Los Angeles. Diego finds himself navigating uncharted territory when his amorous aunt puts the moves on his boyfriend and an influx of gay white men move into the neighborhood.” [Netflix] Netflix reviewer:  “Hilarious....Sexy....A Real Feel Good Movie....I had the opportunity to watch this amazing film in LA at Outfest this year. Great performances all around, especially by the sexy Latino lead, René Alvarado and his love-starved aunt, played by Gladise Jimenez. Though he sometimes relies on stereotypes to get a laugh, this film maker definitely knows what he's doing. A great musical score enhances the authenticity of this outstanding comedy/drama.”

Eyes Wide Open – (2009; Israeli) “Aaron, a respected butcher and a family man in an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem, leads a conservative life of community devotion and spiritual dedication. Aaron's life undergoes a series of emotional changes following the arrival of a young apprentice to his shop. Consumed with lust, the handsome "Yeshiva" student irreversibly transforms the intricate beliefs in the once-devoted butcher's life - leading Aaron to question his relationships with his wife, children, community, and God.” [Imbd] Netflix reviewer:  “Aaron is a kosher butcher who has lived a sheltered life with his wife and family; he’s never even been outside the city walls. But when he hires Ezri as an apprentice the handsome young man awakens a long buried need within him and it isn’t long before smokey stares give way to ardent lovemaking. Aaron desperately tries to keep his home life, his faith, and his lover separate but his wife soon begins to suspect something is wrong and rumors begin to fly within the close-knit neighbourhood. Trapped between his perceived duties to God and family and his nascent love for Ezri, Aaron is forced to make a most painful and irreversible decision ... The hushed melancholy of the movie’s final scene, filmed in twilit shades of grey and blue, beautifully illustrates the power of religious dogma to shackle the spirit even as it claims to liberate. Powerfully done.”

Fire – (1996; Canadian/Indian) “Two Hindu women struggle with loveless, arranged marriages: Sita, who discovers that her husband has a mistress, and her sister-in-law, Radha (Shabana Azmi), who cannot give birth. As the lukewarm coals of their long-term relationships fade, the women ignite passion in their lives by finding comfort in each other. Director Deepa Mehta's drama is supposedly the first Indian film about lesbians.” [Netflix] Netflix reviewer:  “Fire is a beautiful, poignant love story that has wonderfully complex characters and a story that can make you feel happy, sad and outraged all at the same time. This is one of the few films about lesbianism that found a way to deal with the subject without exploiting it or cheapening the women portrayed. But not only does it have a wonderful story to tell it is also beautiful to watch. The director did a wonderful job capturing modern New Delhi. I highly recommend this film, it is funny and tragic and meaningful and all women whether lesbian or straight would probably find something to love about this film.”

For a Lost Soldier – (1992; Dutch) “Voor een Verloren Soldaat (For a Lost Soldier) is a startlingly frank look at a young boy's love affair with a Canadian soldier during the last days of World War II. Thirteen-year-old Jeroen (Maarten Smit) is sent by his parents from his home in Amsterdam to the countryside because of the food shortages in the cities. He is there when the Allied troops liberate the Netherlands, effectively ending the war for the Dutch people. Jeroen meets and is immediately attracted to Walt (Andrew Kelley), one of the Canadian soldiers. The resulting love affair is handled with extraordinary sensitivity and frankness; this story would never have been filmed in the US. Despite Jeroen's being underage, there is no suggestion of child abuse; indeed, at certain points the film makes clear that the young boy is pursuing the older man. Told in flashback, this achingly romantic film has a dreamlike quality that leaves you wanting more.” [Imbd]

Get Real – (1998; British) When homosexuality was still an absolute taboo in England, sensitive rural town model student Steven Carter hides his gay feelings, except for fat neighbor girl Linda. Suddenly his desperate search for partners in male public lavatories leads to a blind date with golden boy John Dixon, bound for an Oxbridge career. Steven finds the courage to approach John by volunteering for the school paper as sports photographer. A wonderful affair follows, but John is terrified of loosing his social status. As the boys' love blossoms, so grows despair about secrecy or outing consequences. A “tenderly romantic film.” [Imbd]

Grande École – (2004; French) – “Struggling to define his sexual identity, affluent Paul becomes the center of controversy at his elite private school when he acknowledges an attraction to a poor Arab man. The ramifications are shocking and, ultimately, life-changing. This drama, directed by Robert Salis and inspired by playwright Jean-Marie Besset, examines how race and social standing still wield a mighty influence in modern-day France.” [Netflix]  Netflix reviewer:  “Paul, a Business School student ambivalent about his career destiny, has a passionate love and sexual relationship with his girlfriend. But Paul notes increasing homoerotic feelings for a male roommate, who competitively flirts with him to see how far Paul will go. Paul's girlfriend becomes aware of Paul's feelings for the roommate and makes a contest for whom Paul will have--her or the roommate. Into this mix appears a young laborer, Meric, a Frenchman, for sure, born in Paris, but close to the Algerian and Arab roots of his immigrant parents. Meric is drawn to Paul after Paul defends Meric, and the two embark on a sexual and romantic relationship that causes both to grow.”

Hedwig and the Angry Inch – (2001; American) “Hedwig, born a boy named Hansel in East Berlin, fell in love with an American G.I. and underwent a sex-change operation in order to marry him and flee to the West. Unfortunately, nothing worked out quite as it was supposed to - years later, Hedwig is leading her rock band on a tour of the U.S., telling her life story through a series of concerts at Bilgewater Inn seafood restaurants. Her tour dates coincide with those of arena-rock star Tommy Gnosis, a wide-eyed boy who once loved Hedwig... but then left with all her songs.” [Imbd] Netflix reviewer:  “This film is, first and foremost, funny. Hilarious, in fact. Hedwig, the lead character, spews some fabulous one-liners ("One day in the late mid-80's, I was in my early late-20's;" "How did some slip of a girly-boy from communist East Berlin become the internationally-ignored song-stylist barely standing in front of you?"). And watching Midwesterners react to Hedwig had me laughing out loud. The movie's second and equally important feature is the music -- clever, tuneful songs ranging across the spectrum from hard-rock to country ballads. The best is "Origins of Love", a song spun from a writing by Plato (true!) and illustrated with apt animation. Finally, this film has a message, urging acceptance of our inner selves. You can't ask for more than this! "Hedwig..." delivers in poignancy, entertainment and punch.”

His Secret Life – (2001; Italian) “While recovering from the shock of her husband's death, an Italian woman discovers that her husband had had a secret lover for the last 7 years. But she's even more surprised to discover that he and his lover were part of an extended "family" of gays, transgenders and other social outcasts … a family she finds herself drifting toward as she overcomes the emotions of her husband's passing.” [Neflix] Netflix reviewer:  “Rarely has a movie had such great characters that you really care what happens to them. I hated to have the end come so soon. This was a wonderful film, and the music is awesome.”

In and Out – (1997; American) “When dim-bulb actor Cameron Drake (Matt Dillon) wins an Oscar for playing a gay Marine, he outs his high school drama teacher, Howard Brackett (Kevin Kline), in his acceptance speech. It all comes as a surprise to Howard -- not to mention to his long-suffering fiancée, Emily (Joan Cusack). With his wedding just days away and national media descending on his town, Howard's under the gun to prove just how much of a man he is.” [Netflix] Netflix reviewer:  “A totally hysterical look at what it could be like, coming out of the closet in a small town, after many years of denial. Kevin Kline and Tom Selleck were made for these roles. Joan Cusack and Debbie Reynolds of course, bring thier own flair of the dramatic arts to this movie. The "self help" tape bit is a side splitter! I laughed so hard I hurt myself! Whether you are gay or not, this is also a movie that shows there are gay men out there who believe in home life and marriage, without the stereotypical media crap that has been foisted upon all gay people.”

Is It Just Me? – (2010; American) “Although successful writer Blaine is kind and witty, he can't find true love because he's intimidated by the overt sexuality of guys such as his roommate, Cameron. But all that changes when he meets the man of his dreams online -- or does it? Shy Texan Xander seems to be Blaine's ideal man, but when Blaine accidentally posts Cameron's picture in his profile, a battle for Xander's affections ensues.” [Netflix]

I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing – (1987; Canadian) “Loony but lovable klutz Polly lands a job in an upscale art gallery. In a major gaffe, she hangs a piece of art she mistakenly credits to her boss, Gabrielle, but which really was created by Gabrielle's lover, Mary. And when she develops an inconvenient crush on Gabrielle, Polly's troubles begin to multiple faster than dabs of paint on a Jackson Pollock canvas.” [Netflix] Netflix reviewer:  “"I've Heard The Mermaids Singing" is a delightful little Indie gem about a quirky and lovable klutz who tries so hard to please everyone but is not equipped with the knowledge and ability to be able to see herself with any redeeming qualities and so she desperately attempts to find it through those she admires and emulate what she considers to be perfection. Awkward, shy and often painfully funny, Polly … lives alone and seems to have no friends but she loves taking photographs of ordinary people doing ordinary things and as the film opens, Polly is narrating her story to the viewer via a camcorder where she takes us into her whimsical world of fantasies, dreams, and shares private musings of her private life and the pretensions of the art world … Considered one of Canada's best films ever, the title is taken from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T. S. Eliot.”

Just Say Love – (2009; American) “After sharing stimulating conversation, philosophy-reading homosexual Guy and married carpenter Doug sleep together. Following their sudden tryst, the two seemingly opposite men explore their dreams, visions of happiness and possible future together. Adapted from David J. Mauriello's stage play, this male love story takes place on a sparsely decorated set that keeps distractions to a minimum.” [Netflix]  Netflix reviewer:  “Just Say Love is what I would call near perfect. Here, story and characters are king. This movie tells nearly the same story as Brokeback Mountain, but Just Say Love is so much better. Call it simple, stark, sparse, minimalist or anything similar and you are paying this movie a great compliment. There are not, as one reviewer stated, tortured gay souls in this film. There are two characters simply finding their place in the universe and in their own intertwined puzzle of life. It is about self discovery. It is about open hearts that follow paths to their destiny and the souls give them the space to breathe and live it. This is NOT about one gay man and one straight man. This is about love and the removal of labels. Just Say Love is in my top 5 best films EVER.”

The Laramie Project – (2002; American) “An all-star cast delivers a compelling performance based on a theatrical portrayal of reactions to the Matthew Shepard story, a 1998 murder that took place in Laramie, Wyo., and became a lightning rod for rallies against homophobia and hate crimes.” [Netflix] Netflix reviewer:  “The Laramie Project is not your average movie about a heinous crime; what makes this film so unique is that all the dialogue was taken from actual interviews with the residents of Laramie, with top stars giving a voice to the anger, confusion and fear these residents felt during that time. It really got under my skin, and helped me understand why Matthew Shepard's death has such a far-reaching impact on our society.”

Lilies - (1996; Canadian) Set in a Quebec prison in 1952. “Believing he's been called to hear a dying prisoner's final confession, bishop Bilodeau walks into a dangerous trap and is forced to confront the truth about his dark past. At the prison, Bilodeau learns that the convict is his childhood friend and one-time crush, Simon. Inmates kidnap the bishop and force him to watch a reenactment of the long-ago love triangle and youthful betrayal that led to Simon's imprisonment.” [Netflix]

The Line of Beauty – (2006; British) “Nick, a middle-class gay man, becomes drawn into the wealthy and politically connected Fedden family in 1980s England. He enjoys wild parties, lavish vacations and a busy love life -- until scandals and the AIDS crisis invade his world. Based on Alan Hollinghurst's Booker Prize-winning novel, this BBC miniseries traces Nick's sexual and political awakening against a backdrop of class struggle and corruption.”

Longtime Companion – (1989; American) “This ensemble piece centers on a group of gay men in 1980s New York City whose lives are changed by the puzzling new "gay cancer." The first film to have AIDS as its main subject, Longtime Companion is a powerful mix of historical realism and bittersweet drama. Winner of the Sundance Audience Award and numerous supporting actor awards for Bruce Davison, including an Oscar.” [Netflix]  Netflix reviewers:  “I know with the progress made in AIDS research and people living longer, this film could be considered by some an anachronism. That's not the case for me. I love it. I watch it every once in a while and I cry like a freaking baby. These guys are real. They represent my brothers who've passed on. They left behind families and lovers and friends whose lives are unalterably diminished by their deaths.”  “Without a doubt, A Longtime Companion is my favorite and most moving gay-themed film I've ever seen … This is a beautiful film about friendship, lost and hope … If there is one gay-themed film every gay or straight person should see -this is the film!”

Maurice – (1987; British) “Set in pre-war I England, this Merchant-Ivory drama (based on the controversial E.M. Forster novel written in 1914 but not published until 1971) is about the coming of age of two young college men (Hugh Grant and James Wilby) who meet at Cambridge University and fall in love. The movie casts a critical light on the era's moral hypocrisy, as Maurice and Clive struggle to make room for their forbidden love in an intolerant society.” [Netflix] Netflix reviewer: “A daring and romantic film for the neoconservative era of 1987 about how damaging the clash between repression/social conformity and individual freedom can be. The discovery that an individual was homosexual in Edwardian England could lead to a jail sentence and social ruin ... By the end of the film we are left with an admirable picture of the contrast between the sadness of remaining mired in the denial of true feelings and the upholding of social status quo versus the joy of individual expression.”

Milk – (2008; American) “Sean Penn (in an Oscar-winning role) stars in this fact-based drama about Harvey Milk, the openly gay activist and San Francisco politician who was murdered along with Mayor George Moscone by disgruntled city supervisor Dan White in 1978.” [Netflix] Netflix reviewer:  “"Milk" is a powerful film of both triumph and heartache and the total dedication of a young man who once declared, "I am almost 40 and have done nothing with my life." Harvey Milk's rise as the leader of the Castro Gay Community of San Francisco begins at this point in his life and we see television footage of police raiding gay bars, handcuffing the occupants and the giving of names to the newspapers which cost so many their livelihood. In rather ramshackle quarters, Harvey established the Castro where gay men of any age could gather and many had no other place to go. With his determination and ever growing realization that it was time to take on the system, he convinces his followers that "politics is theater" and after several unsuccessful attempts, he becomes the first openly gay man to achieve the position of Supervisor of the County. When the Gay Rights Ordinance is passed, his next hurdle is Proposition 6 and this is when he encounters his most forceful opponent, Dan White ... I love the words Harvey Milk speaks at the end of the film, "If a bullet enters my brain, let it explode every closet door." An experience not to be missed.”

My Beautiful Launderette – (1986; British) “Omar, a Pakistani, and his old school chum Johnny use stolen drug money to renovate a laundrette in a squalid London neighborhood. But conflicting interests soon threaten their newfound success. Hanif Kureishi received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay, a stunning portrait of two boyhood friends who are struggling to survive in racially tense Thatcher-era Britain.” [Netflix] Netflix reviewer:  “Some of the reviewers want this to be a gay film; some want it to be about how terrible things were in Thatcher's Britain. I suppose if you want the film to affirm your beliefs, you can make it do so. But My Beautiful Laundrette is so much more complex than that. All of its characters are trying to find their place in the world, and they're caught between conflicting roles. No one is wholly good or wholly bad. Yet each of the characters is worthy of close observation for just that reason. By the end of the film, none of the conflicts are resolved, and nothing is wrapped up in a nice pretty bow … There are no pat answers -- pretty much as there aren't in real life, and for me there didn't need to be any.”



  1. Dang, I'll never get through that Netflix queue! Good movies, I ordered In & out from eBay the other day. Hope you're having a great weekend!

  2. There was an English movie made in 1960 that was the first to deal openly with the subject of homosexuality. The main role was played by a major English movie star. He was considered quite courageous because at the time common wisdom was that this movie would kill his career. I don't know if it did or not. Years later it was learned that he was a closeted gay so he was a closeted gay man playing the role of a closeted gay man. This movie is credited with ending the laws in England that made homosexuality a crime punishable with prison time.



  3. You should add BENT, about gays in Nazi Germany, A SINGLE MAN, and even though it's not a great movie, MULLIGANS does tell a common story.

    thanks for the list. too bad there's not a "lavendar box" around he corner