Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Gay-Themed Cinema

I’ve recently been told by a new friend who has been much more in touch with his gay self for quite a bit longer than I have, that it is “cute” and “endearing” how I’m catching up on gay-themed movies that I’ve never seen.  Every time I mention a movie, he’s already seen it.  It’s slightly frustrating and funny at the same time.  Mainly funny for him and frustrating for me. I feel like such a newbie! But we’ve all got to start somewhere, right?

So, what have I seen since coming out (to the extent I have)?  Well, the first movie I saw was Shelter, which I liked, partly because I could relate to Zach, the character who was caught in the web of his co-dependent family.  Then Brokeback Mountain, which I also liked, but in a different way of course:  I could really relate to the years of frustration and forbidden love.  And Latter Days, which I liked as well; I don’t think I need elaborate.

Then there was Milk, which opened my eyes to the early years of the gay rights movement.  It also reminded me of those days when Anita Bryant was on her broom, campaigning against something that seems to us today as such a simple and fundamental right, i.e., non-discrimination in housing.  I recall mentioning to my dad once, in a moment of rare unguarded candor, that I couldn’t see why she was on such a crusade, and why couldn’t she just leave homosexuals alone?  When I saw the actual footage of her in Milk, it made me cringe at just how horrible she was.

Then there was Were the World Mine, which I also enjoyed.  I’m ashamed to say I had never seen A Midsummer Night’s Dream prior to watching Mine, but I rectified that after seeing this gay fantasy version of Shakespeare’s classic.  I have now watched Mine several times, and my appreciation for it grows with each viewing.

Then there was 8: The Mormon Proposition, which really opened my eyes to the true role the Church played in California in 2008.  More faithful members of the Church should consider themselves warned, however.  It frankly made me feel sick at heart, then angry.  I'm due for another viewing of this.

Then Beautiful Thing, a lovely British coming-of-age/coming out movie from 1996 that I thought was very well done.  I loved the way it ended.

Then a couple of movies that aren’t worth mentioning, followed by In and Out, another older movie which I had never seen about a Midwestern high school drama teacher who is “outed” by a former student at the Oscars.  The teacher is just about to get married (to a woman) and is forced to come to terms with his sexuality.  Though the subject is serious, the treatment is light-hearted.  I especially liked the scene where he's listening to the tape about how to me a "real" man.  I'd watch it again.

Then, Breakfast with Scot.  I LOVED this movie.  I loved the actors; I liked the way the gay couple at the center of the plot was depicted; I liked the way that young Scot’s issues mirrored those of Eric; and I loved the message of the movie and what it says about gay couples.  I actually got my wife to watch it, and one of these days when my boys are ready to watch a gay-themed movie, it’s going to be this one.

Then, recently, I watched Billy Elliot and loved it.  It made me feel good.  Granted, it’s not gay-themed per se, but might as well be.  I found myself both jealous of and happy for young Billy, that he found and pursued his dream at such a young age and that his childhood friend found his gay self as well.  I also found poignant the juxtaposition of the youth pursuing their dreams against the older generation that either had no dreams or had somehow lost theirs as they had wended their way through life. 

Movies and TV shows currently in my Netflix queue include:  Just Say Love, Queer as Folk, Maurice, Prayers for Bobby, Longtime Companion, The Bubble, A Change of Heart and Pedro

Watching movies of all sorts is something I've embraced since coming out.  It's become an important part of both finding my Self and embracing who I am.  I’d welcome comments from anyone who has seen any of these movies I've mentioned, as well as suggestions for other gay-themed movies that you recommend.  This is not only for my benefit; I know that there are other guys out there, even more closeted than me, who would appreciate the recommendations.  I think it should also be said that there are a fair few straight folks who read this blog who might also appreciate your comments about movies that can offer them insights into the “gay world.”


  1. I had the exact same feelings... I had to watch all those movies either alone or with a begrudging boyfriend, because he had seen every gay film ever with his roommate down at BYU...
    The Bubble is one of my favorite films. Ah I love them all even the campy crappy ones, ok maybe not all of them but I feel like it was a rite of passage to watch all of them.

  2. I recommend "Notes On A Scandal". It's an excellently acted and directed, but also quite poignant and sad, film about a woman who can't bear to come to terms with her sexuality.

  3. I saw "A Single Man" this fall. That was really good. It stars Collin Firth as a college literature professor in Southern California. It's very heart wrenching as it goes through what he plans to be his last day as he intends to take his life that night. Though there is some humor in it, it's a very sad movie. He didn't ever hide who he was and yet he felt so invisible and misunderstood.

    Thanks for the other recommendations. I've only seen "Milk" on your list.

  4. Gay cinema was my one contact with "reality" prior to coming out. Thanks to the Internet, I think I've seen every gay-themed movie made in the last 40 years. Some of my favorites that you haven't mentioned include Angels in America (with Mormon characters central to the story), Get Real, Boy Culture, Bent, East Side Story, Grande Ecole, Is It Just Me?, Lilies, My Beautiful Launderette, The Sum of Us, Urbania, Touch of Pink, The Line of Beauty, Yossi and Jagger, A Single Man, The Mountain King, etc., etc., etc. Oh, and did I forget Dante's Cove?

    The quality of some of these movies is better than others, but they all touched me.

    While my need for a vicarious life through gay cinema has decreased significantly since I came out, I still enjoy with relish an occasional foray .

  5. @Crisco - Thanks for bringing up A Single Man. I had forgotten that one. I saw it as well a couple of months ago. Interesting twist at the end.

    I like just about anything with Colin Firth in it, although I found Dorian Gray just too dark for me. I'd like to see The King's Speech, but may have to wait for it to come out on DVD.

  6. I didn't see Shelter on the list. That is one of my favorites. Also add Shank to the list.

  7. I agree, A Single Man is really good. I recently watched Angels in America and I really liked it.

  8. I must agree with you on Breakfast with Scot in particular. It was nice to see characters that didn't so easily fit into the mold with the couple at the center of the film as well as the young Scot.

    I have little more to say after Clive's suggestions (evidence of good taste, for sure). I would add the movie Trick to your queue-- perhaps in place of QAF (the US tv series). I own it and see its value; however, it accomplishes the opposite of Breakfast with Scot in many ways. Saying more than that would prove uninvited-ly spoiler-ish.

  9. Also (because Clive mentioned Angels in America), I would recommend another HBO production. The Laramie Project is an amazingly original work, speaking in terms of 20th/21st century literature. Although it's not quite as powerful as a stage production, it's definitely up there on my list.

  10. I like most of the movies mentioned in the post and comments.

    I want to put in a plug for The Times of Harvey Milk (1984) a documentary that I like a bit better than the more recent biopic called Milk.

    I've Heard the Mermaids Singing (1988) is a story of a misfit. It has some gay themes but is really more about self-acceptance and social class. It's adorable.

    The Celluloid Closet (1996) is a great introduction to gay subtext in classic Hollywood movies. Our generation didn't invent gayness. Who knew?

    Parting Glances (1988) is a movie about AIDS and gay romance. I think it's worthwhile.

    I'm glad Yossi and Jagger got mentioned as well as Were the World Mine. I think these films get a prize for being some of the best ever made on a shoestring budget.

    If any straight folks are reading this thread, I'd say the two documentaries The Times of Harvey Milk (1984) and The Celluloid Closet (1996) are must-sees for you.

  11. Here are some of my favorites that I don't have already been mentioned:

    Before Night Falls
    All About My Mother (Todo sobre mi Madre)
    Boys Don't Cry
    Tea and Sympathy (1956 - Deborah Kerr)
    Hedwig and the Angry Inch
    Beautiful Launderette
    The Wedding Banquet
    The Sum of Us
    Save Me
    Burnt Money (plata quemada)
    Desert Hearts
    Bulgarian Lovers
    Far from Heaven
    Kiss of the Spider Woman


  12. For some light-hearted fun, watch "Adam and Steve" wiht Craig Chester, Malcolm Gets, Chris Kattan and Parker Posey. What a fun cast! My son and I quote lines from it constantly! :)

    If it's any consolation, I started the "Queer As Folk" series (US) last year and am just starting Season 4. I can't say enough good things about this series. You fall in love with the characters and it becomes a part of you. (A regret will be when I've finished the series...)

    Happy Gay-Themed Movie Watching!


  13. @ Trevor - Shelter was actually on the list, but was near the front, because it was the very first "gay" movie that I saw. :) I loved it. And thanks for "Shank". I had started to watch it, but lost interest, apparently just before he hooked up with Olivier. I went back last night and watched another 30 minutes or so and have it on the list to finish.

    @JonJon - Thanks for Single Man and Angels. I had forgotten about Single Man and have added that. I have watched the first part of Angels, but then couldn't go on because it was a bit too dark for me at the time. But that was a couple of months ago, and I'm going to put it back on my (ever-lengthening) list.

    @MoHoHawaii - Thanks for your contributions as well. I'm going to be posting a new list in the next couple of days and will definitely add your suggestions.

    @Philip - Wow! A lot of new titles. Thanks. I'll add these to the list.

    @Mark - Thanks for chiming in! I'll add "Adam and Steve". And thanks for the recommendation for Queer as Folk. I've yet to get to that in my Netflix queue, but I'm looking forward to it!

  14. I just watched Breakfast with Scot again this week for the second time. I first saw it a few months ago with my original mohomies (the four mohoteers?) when we were sifting through Netflix's instant watch selection, and I think we all fell in love with it. I liked it at least as much the second time. Even my straight buddy/roommate got hooked at least enough to watch it with me this week while working on his computer. As I turned it off, I said, "I think part of why I like that movie is that it gives me hope for the kind of life I want."

  15. @Original - I hear what you're saying. Glad to hear of someone else who loves it, too!