On a recent trip to the city a friend and I killed some time waiting for a train by perusing one of the video shops near the station. Being a Central Coast boy, I was pretty shocked to discover just how many gay themed movies there were – in my local the only place you’d find those would be up the back, collecting dust among the four or five foreign movies they have.
If you’re anything like me and you don’t live in a cultural hub, then you might understand just how frustrating it is to try to find a film which features homosexual characters that aren’t two dimensional stereotypes. Now that the weather’s getting a little chillier I thought I’d share a few with you. Some are arthouse, some are Hollywood blockbusters, some foreign and some homegrown, but all of them are truly great.
2002 film directed Stephen Daldry and starring Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore and Nicole Kidman in her Oscar winning role.
This film is a must see if you haven’t already. The story focuses on three women set in three separate periods in time, all bound in one way or another by Mrs Dalloway, a novel written by Virginia Woolf. The story is cleverly written, Streep and Kidman are fantastic and the soundtrack by composer Phillip Glass is powerfully haunting, but it is an intimate kiss between Julianne Moore and Toni Collette that steals the show, and the question of why these two married women from the 50’s – a time where homosexuality was still considered a mental illness – to act as if nothing had ever happened stays with you long after the credits roll.
2008 biopic by Gus Vant Sant and stars Sean Penn as slain gay rights activist Harvey Milk.
Gus Vant Sant is the Steven Spielberg of gay cinema. His film Milk, another big Oscar contender, is the truly remarkable story of Harvey Milk, a San Franciscan gay rights activist and politician who, in the 1970’s was assassinated by former colleague Dan White in City Hall. The film is an inspiration for homosexuals everywhere, and shows Milk’s role in preventing the introduction of Proposition 6, a law that if passed would prevent gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools.
I loved this movie because its gay main character is assertive, strong, and stands up for what he believes is right. The toughest of you will be fighting back tears by the end. James Franco is also featured in a supporting role as one of Milk’s lovers and is brilliant eye candy.
Angels in America
2003 miniseries, based on the play and starring Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, Justin Kirk, Mary Louise Parker and Patrick Wilson.
OK, technically this is not a film, but this six hour long miniseries about AIDS and angels is not to be missed. The cast is brilliant, most actors playing at least two roles. Weeds fans will recognise Mary Louise Parker and Justin Kirk, Parker playing the insane wife of a gay Mormon and Kirk playing an AIDS patient who is continuously visited by an Angel.
The miniseries sheds light on the devastating impact AIDS has on the lives of sufferers and their friends and families, and shows that the ‘cure’ for the human condition lies in love for another. Streep is fantastic as usually but Pacino is the standout here – he plays as a ruthless lawyer, closeted homosexual and all-out bastard who is dying of the virus.
Running With Scissors
2006 film directed by Ryan Murphy and starring Joseph Cross, Annette Bening, Evan Rachel Wood and Alec Baldwin.
If any of you have had an older boyfriend, a bastard psychologist, and/or a clinically insane overbearing, alcoholic mother, then this is the movie for you. Based on the memoirs of Augusten Buroughs, the film follows his adolescent years spent living with his mother’s therapist and his insane family, showing how he copes with the anarchy around him. Some parts in the movie are painfully relatable, mainly it is a story about a diamond growing from the rough and trying to find an identity in a place where those around you often have more than one.
This 2005 epic by Ang Lee is an obligatory entry in all countdowns of gay films.
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in one of his final roles, Brokeback Mountain is by all means a tragedy but the rare moments the two main characters spend alone together, away from the discriminating and hateful eye of society, make it one of film’s greatest love stories.