Sunday, January 16, 2011

Gay-Themed Cinema: The List – Part 3

This is the concluding part of the list, covering letters N – Z.

Notes on a Scandal –  (2007; British) “When pottery instructor Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) dives into an illicit affair with one of her teenage students, she crafts a sticky situation that spells turmoil for herself and puts a fellow teacher in a tough spot. Faculty member Barbara Covett (Judi Dench) connects with the pretty new art teacher, but things take a turn when she learns Sheba's secret.” [Netflix]  Netflix reviewer:  “Nothing can quite prepare you for how you will experience this film. It has subjects that include adultery, an aging lesbian, a teacher having an affair with a teenage student, a family with a retarded child, just to name a few of the subjects that might make you think the movie will not be of interest. Nothing could be farther from the truth. How Richard Eyre, the director, takes these characters and intertwines their stories to keep you on the edge of your seat, like the best of thrillers, is what sets this movie apart from most others. Once into the story, you become spellbound in the tangled web of lies, deceits and danger … Above all, the outstanding acting by Dench, Blanchett and Nighy, make this a cinema tour de force. They make a formidable acting ensemble and the great adapted script and novel is at the heart of it all.”

Parting Glances – (1986; American) “Upwardly mobile Robert accepts a long-term assignment in Africa that will inevitably strain his relationship with his lover, Michael. Meanwhile, Michael tends the needs of his ex, Nick, whose punk band is making it big as he battles HIV in his tiny apartment. As Robert and Michael enjoy one last party with their hipster friends, the film explores the tensions of early AIDS-era Manhattan.” [Netflix] Netflix reviewer:  “It's my all time favorite gay movie! This is the true life of committed gay partners, with all the gritty parts of daily life, including the AIDS-crisis. Usually one sees gays in show biz, on stage, in bars, leading outrageous lives. This is real.”

Pedro – (2008; American) “Gaining fame on the third season of MTV's "The Real World" in 1994, Pedro Zamora put a face on the growing crisis of AIDS. This moving drama tells the story of this courageous activist, who died the day after the show's season finale aired. Born in Cuba, Zamora came to the United States in 1980, and at age 16 discovered he was HIV positive. Determined to educate the public about the disease, he discussed his life openly on the show.” [Netflix]

Prayers for Bobby – (2009; American) “Sigourney Weaver (in an Emmy-nominated role) stars in this heartbreaking TV drama inspired by the true story of gay rights advocate Mary Griffith. At odds with her gay son, Bobby, over his sexuality, Mary finds her once-unshakable faith on rocky ground when he commits suicide. When her pastor is unable to help her make sense of the tragedy, Mary embarks on an amazing journey of self-discovery that teaches her the wisdom of tolerance.” [Netflix]  Netflix reviewer:  “Sigourney Weaver gives one of the best performances I've witnessed … Ryan Kelley gave a five hanky performance as her son Bobby who struggles his whole life for his mother's acceptance as to who he really is. It's absolutely heart-wrenching the way Mary treated her gay son over the years and how she could just completely disown him. The fact is that many people have and still treat their own children this way when they come out (especially in the late 70s/early 80s when this was set), but watching it happen on-screen is just so devastating. This movie perfectly shows the struggles that some families go through during this difficult time and is a wonderful example of the way one should not react when their child/relative reveals their sexual orientation. Any family who is dealing with someone being gay, NEEDS to watch this film to know how not to treat them.”

Queer as Folk – (2000; American TV series) “Based on the British series of the same name, Showtime's 'Queer as Folk' presents the American version. Following the lives of five gay men in Pittsburgh, 'Queer as Folk' is a riveting drama full of sex, drugs, adventure, friendship and love. Although the creators of 'Queer as Folk' wanted to present an honest depiction of gay life, it is by no means a comprehensive depiction. In addition to the usual sexual escapades and relationships of the five friends, the show explores critical gay political and health issues.” [Imbd] From Mark:  “You fall in love with the characters and it becomes a part of you.”

Saturn in Opposition – (2007; Italian) “While having dinner at the home of Lorenzo and his lover, Davide, a close group of gay and straight friends reminisce about the past and take stock of their lives, until an unexpected tragedy begins tearing their relationships apart. Set in Rome.” [Netflix] Netflix reviewer:  “What a beautiful movie. It's about the love of friendship, the love that is friendship. Friendship not only between friends, but between lovers, and spouses, and friends of friends. It stays way this side of melodrama, though I think it could have, in other hands, been nothing more than that. Yes, if you are prudish or homophobic, don't bother; you won't get it. The vagaries of the human heart, the varieties of experience in human love are all on display here. But it's friendship that is valued above all.”

Save Me – (2007; American) “When young gay man Mark hits rock bottom, the well-intentioned Gayle and her husband, Ted, welcome him to Genesis House, a Christian haven for men like Mark to seek shelter and get on the right path -- the straight path. But problems arise when Mark's mentor, Scott, becomes too intimate, prompting Gayle and Ted to face some uncomfortable realities about love, salvation and human sexuality.” [Netflix] Netflix reviewer:  “Genesis House, a home for wayward homosexuals, sets the background for this beautifully told story. Gail and Ted run the house with deep Christian beliefs, that homosexuality can be changed by God's Grace. Mark has a serious addiction problem, so his brother sends him the Genesis House in order to get him clean and he hopes on God's Path ... [Gail] worries that the friendship between one of her residents Scott and Mark is becoming more than it should. The chemistry between Scott and Mark becomes evident as the movie travels through the months. I found this movie compelling to the point of my own beliefs. God is love and all of the Bible thumpers that say homosexuality is wrong, how can Love in any shape or form be wrong. Love is powerful, Love is great, and Love is the story told here. Highly recommended.”

Shank – (2009; British) “Though gang member Cal hides his sexuality, he secretly yearns for fellow thug Jonno. But after Cal saves Olivier, the victim of a gay-bashing by the gang, he embarks on a tender romance with the gentle student. Now the gang's manipulative leader, Nessa, is out for revenge. Simon Pearce makes his directorial debut with this gritty British drama.” [Netflix]

Shelter – (2007; American) “Zach sacrifices his dream of going to art school to support his ill father, sister and her young son in this moving drama. He finds happiness surfing with buddy Gabe. But when he falls for Gabe's older brother, Shaun, his world is turned upside down. Zach struggles to learn how to put his own needs first before the demands of his family.” [Netflix] Netflix reviewer:  “This movie was such a joy to watch ... It avoids any stereotypes - it's a beautiful movie where the characters happen to be gay. Trevor Wright and Brad Rowe are simply wonderful - they have some real chemistry which demonstrates their ability as actors to forge the emotional connection needed for this story. Ultimately this is a journey of figuring who you want to be and claiming that life. The acting was great and the dialogue was smart and believable (unfortunately this can be more difficult than one would think). The soundtrack alone is worth the rental of this fine movie.”

A Single Man – (2009; American) “This stream-of-consciousness, 1960s-era drama centers on a day in the life of George Falconer (Colin Firth, in an Oscar-nominated role), an English-born, Los Angeles college professor reeling from the recent death of his lover of 16 years.” [Netflix] Netflix reviewer:  “This is a very, very good film. It's a small movie about a huge subject for adults: Middle age, and loss. It's funny, it's serious, it's beautiful, it's intimate and it's timeless in its humanity. Colin Firth, in a magnificently understated performance which deserves every acting accolade available to someone in his profession, plays a man who loses his partner of 16 years. This tale, which takes place in the early 1960's and is based upon the novel by Christopher Isherwood, is of a 'gay' man who … has to deal with the overwhelming grief of his loss, and do it silently, internally. He is not given the respect and compassion that a straight person would automatically be given under the circumstances. He has to look at his life, and decide if it is worth living without the love of his partner Firth's performance is the main reason to see this movie, and ENOUGH of a reason to see it.”

The Sum of Us – (1995; Australian) “In this Australian comedy based on David Stevens's stage play, Jeff (Russell Crowe) is a young gay man living with his widowed father, Harry (Jack Thompson). Although Harry has always accepted the fact that his son is openly gay, his acceptance is challenged. Jeff brings home a potential lover one night, and in turn, when Harry gets involved with Joyce, a divorcée he met through a dating service, she and Jeff can't see eye-to-eye.” [Netflix] Netflix reviewer:  “Before he became a star hunk, Russell Crowe did small films with heart and soul. His talent for spectacle is well-known, but the subtlety to pull of this thoughtful, adjusted gay bloke appears to have gotten lost in the splash of Gladiator.  I laughed, cried and stayed glued to this film because it has in it a respect for the full person. Crowe and his father, wonderfully played by Jack Thompson, are real to us because their lives remind us of ours. A wonderful film with a respect for people.”

Tea and Sympathy – (1956; American) “Tom Lee is a sensitive boy of 17 whose lack of interest in the "manly" pursuits of sports, mountain climbing and girls labels him "sister-boy" at the college he is attending. Head master Bill Reynold's wife Laura sees Tom's suffering at the hands of his school mates (and her husband), and tries to help him find himself.” [Imbd]  Imbd review:  “Robert Anderson adapted his own play for the screen about a sensitive young man ostracized at his all-male school for pursuing interests not typically associated with red-blooded males circa 1950. Seems he enjoys cooking and sewing, singing folk music, and chatting with the faculty wives--all of which have alienated him from his classmates (as well as his own father!), though not the lonesome wife of the head schoolmaster, who takes a special and heartfelt interest in the lad ... Ironically, though the film has a dated viewpoint of masculinity--the opposite of which is practically labeled 'abnormal'--the picture has a large following among gays ... The production is plush and the story is engrossing despite the soapy undermining.”

The Times of Harvey Milk - (1984; American) Suggested by MoHoHawaii, who commented:  “a documentary that I like a bit better than the more recent biopic called Milk.” “Harvey Fierstein narrates this documentary by Rob Epstein about San Francisco's most colorful -- and tragic -- political figure: Harvey Milk, a staunch fighter for gay rights who helped forge a presence for the city's gay community in city hall. Milk became the first openly gay member of San Francisco's combative city council.” [Netflix] Netflix reviewer:  “This film is not only about Harvey Milk, a man who fought for the rights of everyone, not just the gay community, but about an important moment in gay history. In fact it is as important in many ways as The Stonewall Riots. If nothing else, the film makes a striking example of how, after 30 years, history is indeed repeating itself in society's view of gays and lesbians. This film NEEDS to be seen by everyone both gay and straight. For only by education, can we all be a truly free nation, a point wonderfully brought out in this extraordinary movie.”

Torch Song Trilogy – (1988; American) “Torch Song Trilogy is a magnificent homage to gay life in the 1970's and '80's, and it is as moving as anything I've seen. The story of Arnold, looking for love and dealing with a "meshugena" mother, is a study in courage while trying to be what your heart tells you you are. I've rarely learned so much about life from a single film. Fierstein, Matthew Broderick, Anne Bancroft and Brian Kerwin imbue their characters with reality and humor, and they take us on a ride we won't soon forget. Being a drag queen ain't easy, but it's what Harvey does best - that, and being a wonderful, feeling, caring human being. I defy you to come away unchanged.” [Netflix reviewer]

Touch of Pink – (2004; Canadian) “Alim is an Indo-Canadian man currently living in London, England, the move in order to get away from what he feels is his repressive life in Toronto under the watchful and critical eye of his widowed mother, Nuru. For Nuru and her equally competitive sister Dolly, the perfect public Muslim persona is the most important thing in life. Back in London, Alim is free to live openly as a homosexual, of which his mother is not aware. He is in a loving relationship with his live-in British boyfriend, Giles. To navigate through his complicated life, Alim uses the spirit of Cary Grant as his confidante and advisor.  Feeling like her life is missing a daughter-in-law as Dolly prepares for her son's "perfect" wedding, Nuru decides to reconnect with Alim in London. Not yet ready to tell his mother of either Giles or his homosexual orientation, Alim, with Giles' support, hides any aspect of this fact for Nuru's visit.” [Imbd]

Transamerica – (2005; American) “Bree gets the shock of her life a week before her final sex change surgery when she discovers a son she didn't know she had. After bailing him out of jail, the two set out on a cross-country journey riddled with road bumps.” [Netflix] Netflix reviewers:  “Inventive, fun, serious, laughs at itself, unbelievably great acting all around, intriguing story, full of great twists and turns of events. Even if you think the subject is not for you, the story is. If you've ever wondered why a person would want to have a sex change operation, this movie may make it reasonable to you. Good art can enlarge us.”  “A very real and informative story about a male-to-female transgendered woman who is forced to go on a journey of self-discovery before she can undergo gender reassignment surgery. Through tears and laughter, Bree and her son Toby bring out the best in each other, as they travel across the country. I left the theater with chills.”

Trembling Before G-d – (2001; Israeli) I haven’t seen this yet, but it would appear to be a movie which would be of interest to gay Mormons:  “Built around intimately-told personal stories of Hasidic and Orthodox Jews who are gay or lesbian, the film portrays a group of people who face a profound dilemma - how to reconcile their passionate love of Judaism and the Divine with the drastic Biblical prohibitions that forbids homosexuality.”  [Imbd] Netflix reviewer: “Can a gay person live a live of celibacy in order to not conflict with religious teachings? Can a gay person force him or herself to change so that a heterosexual marriage can work for them? Can a religion with thousands of years of tradition change to accommodate people who want to be more than casual, and not entirely welcome, participants? Can rabbis, people who care both about religion AND the Jewish people simply accept what they see as an immoral lifestyle because they want to see all people accepted into the larger community? What can be sacrificed for the sake if inclusiveness and what must remain intact for a religion to maintain its internal consistency?”

Trick – (1999; American) “Christian Campbell stars as Gabriel, a disconsolate, aspiring, gay Broadway songwriter who hits the club scene to forget his troubles and gets more than he bargained for. Heading home on the subway, he runs into Mark, one of the club's muscle-bound dancers. Mutually intent on a one-night stand, the two try to get jiggy, only to be foiled by visitors, roommates, pets, et al. Along the way, lust gives way to emotional bonding.” [Netflix] Netflix reviewer:  “A gay male friend suggested I watch this, and I loved it. I could truly feel Gabriel's awkward emotions and growing courage throughout the movie. Very funny but also quite heartwarming.”

Urbania – (2000; American) “Gritty urban legends and harsh realities unfold in this adaptation of Daniel Reitz's acclaimed play "Urban Folk Tales." In a dream-like state, the grieving Charlie spends a lonely night in New York City on the heels of a brooding stranger. A series of bizarre events and urban myths, including a poodle found dead in a microwave, leads to a climactic showdown where Charlie finds the redemption he's been seeking.” [Netflix] Netflix reviewer:  “Could be the best gay film I've seen--I was speechless afterwards. From beautiful gay love and horrific loss, to the darkest parts of us all (gay or straight) and ultimate redemption. The fact they could interweave urban myths into the "real" story is that much more ingenious.”

The Wedding Banquet – (1993: Taiwanese) “This lyrical film by Ang Lee dares to expand the definition of love. Wei Tong is a successful Manhattan businessman enjoying a thriving relationship with his live-in lover, Simon. Life is perfect, except his parents don't know he's gay. So, when they decide to visit from Taiwan, he asks his tenant, Wei Wei, for help. She agrees to pose as his fiancée -- a plan that goes a little too far.” [Netflix] Netflix reviewer:  “ACTING: 4 stars WRITING: 4 stars PLOT: 5 stars FUN: 5 stars This gay romance was a complete delight. The lead characters are handsome, intelligent and funny. Pretty good acting all around. The story is interesting, and realistic, and you don't want it to end. This is one of those films where you really care about the characters. I've seen this film many times.”

Were the World Mine – (2008; American) “When his drama teacher casts him as Puck in his school's upcoming production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Timothy (Tanner Cohen) turns in an inspired performance, whipping up a fittingly Shakespearean love potion with the power to turn people gay.” [Netflix]  Netflix reviewer:  “The story is basically about how Timothy discovers a love potion during one of the rehearsal sessions for the school's annual production of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer's Night Dream". Timothy is awarded the lead role of Puck and consequently proceeds to "sprinkle" the small town population with the love potion. But there's one interesting feature about the potion: it makes people love others of their own sex. In other words, everyone becomes gay! In spite of the potentially controversial theme, this is a sweet story whose message is simple: A request that people empathize with others who are unlike them. Cohen's singing voice is strong and the musical numbers are good if you can imagine a high school play with homemade fairy costumes, silver face paint and dark sets.”

Yossi and Jagger – (2002; Israeli) “Two Israeli soldiers try to find solace from the constant grind of war in this moving romantic drama. While preparing for a daring moonlit ambush in the snowy mountains of Lebanon, company commander Yossi and his platoon leader, Jagger, fall in love, carefully hiding their relationship from their comrades. But will the tragedy of war ultimately intrude upon the men's clandestine affair?” [Netflix] Netflix reviewer:  “A truly stunning film. For me the naturalness and believability of the relationship between Yossi and Jagger - sometimes light and playful yet often tender and moving - speaks to the talents of both the filmmaker and the two principal actors. I don't think there was a false moment during the entire film.”


  1. I've seen "Trembling Before G-d". It's intense and extremely poignant to Gay Mormons. I recommend it to anyone who wants to see a different, yet strikingly similar point of view of being gay in a staunch religious culture.

  2. This was a great series of posts. Thanks. I'd already seen about half of them and I was able to update my queue with the other half.