When we think about the depiction of gay people on TV or in cinema it is easy to imagine the stereotypical gays that usually adorn the small and silver screens. The thing is that for all the partially insulting LGBT characters that are out there, there is also a wealth of other ones that go against the grain and deliver standout performances in their own right.
In a break from my usual rants and recriminations I thought I would take a moment to appreciate my top five LGBT oriented movies, and tell you all about them. I will be ticking these off from bottom to top, and I will tell you why each of these were able to make a lasting impact on me.
Note* This is my own personal list and does not represent the opinions of LustralBoy.
5) Mysterious Skin
This film takes a difficult subject of paedophilia and rape and manages to deal with the real humanity that often gets forgotten about in most mainstream movies. It takes the typical role of victim and turns it on its head by showing how the victims of this insidious crime manage to grow up and move on with their lives. The main two characters, played expertly by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Brad Corbett, both manage to balance how different people react to trauma in different ways. Joseph’s character becomes precocious and with a more potent sexuality, whereas Brad’s becomes more androgynous and asexual. The reason this manages to strike such a chord with me is because it deals with the victims of a deeply personal tragedy, and shows that, even in the wake of such awful trauma, life is able to continue and people are able to grow and move past it.
Rent began its life on stage and managed to entrance a whole generation of theatre goers, both with its bright and bold characters, and a soundtrack that could make you dance, cry and smile in equal amounts. Some might say that the inclusion of a movie musical would itself be a little cliche. However, here we are seeing people who are not just there to make us laugh, but also to teach us a simple lesson, to live our lives to the fullest each and every single day. This film’s bohemian mix of characters makes for compelling drama as the events of the story unfold. It makes its viewers look to their own friends and realise the powerful bonds that exist between them. This film spoke to me because of how it dealt with HIV and AID’s and the realities of how it affected people during the 80’s. This gave the story a much needed edge. It was the touching funeral scene of Angel that cut me to my core, and showed the bitter realities of life and death. Of all the cast, Angel demonstrated the idea of living every day like it was his last, so to see him die in the arms of his lover after his long battle with AID’s really hammered home the point that life is short and meant to be enjoyed.
Milk has made its mark on the world thanks in no small part to the wonderful actor Sean Penn in portraying Harvey Milk in such an honest yet tender way. At its least, this is one of the best LGBT oriented movies that managed to break into mainstream cinema. It became a big winner during the awards season with Sean Penn himself picking up the Oscar for Best Actor. But to people who looked at the work behind the camera, they were astounded to find that so much of Harvey Milk’s personal life and loves were so intricately researched and observed, showing that this was a real labour of love for the cast and crew. Anyone familiar with the life of Harvey Milk knew that the story’s end was not going to be particularly happy. But even though we knew the ending, we still found ourselves tearing up and wishing we could turn back the clock and do everything a little differently. The final procession scene will go down as one of my all-time favorites with the whole community raising lit candles in memory of a fallen champion. It was a rare moment of brotherhood, and camaraderie, rarely seen in most LGBT movies, and made a deep impact for that reason.
3) Latter Days
Mixing the fun and freedom of the LGBT lifestyle with the restraint and grace of personal faith would be a risky venture for any film, but for such a low budget movie the odds already seemed stacked against it. The action follows Christian, a West Hollywood waiter and party goer, and Aaron a closeted Mormon missionary. Aside from both the actors being gorgeous to look at, they also managed to inject sincerity into their roles, and managed to create a perfect image of a couple in the flush of real love. The course of true love, however, never runs smooth and both characters found themselves fighting the odds to be together. With the help of support from friends they pick up along the way, they are able to find their way back to each other, and to share a real and honest relationship. Considering that both the main characters are played by two straight men, I should pass on special mention of their acting skills as they were able to be extremely intimate with each other. This gave the relationship on screen a more organic feel that went deeper than most films let you see. This film makes the list, simply for being a great popcorn movie that still has an amazing message that people will carry with them a long time after the movie is over.
1) Prayers for Bobby
When you first see Prayers for Bobby, I can guarantee you will need a box of tissues handy. This movie makes the risky but worthwhile decision to show how the coming out process does not affect just the individual, but also their close family. Sigourney Weaver is really able to turn her character into an ‘every-mother’ in a way that makes us all see our own mothers reflected back at us through her. To see her transformation from a coffee-table fanatic into a proud mother of her late son makes for extremely rewarding viewing and she is really able to show off her skills to create a subtle and nuanced character with a tremendous amount of grace and complexity. This movie also tackles the extremely risky subject of gay teen suicide which is currently once more on the rise. It sends a message out to viewers to be more tolerant and supportive of the people we love, regardless of how we may feel about their choices and lifestyles. This makes the top of my list for the simple reason that this film NEEDS to be seen by anyone and everyone whether they are LGBT or related to someone who is. It’s a heartbreaking yet triumphant piece of cinema, which manages to destroy you with the depths of its sadness, but uplift you with the sincerity of its message of love and tolerance.
Well this is my list in a nutshell and each entry managed to move me on both a mental, spiritual and emotional level. I heartily recommend them to anyone who wants to expand their horizons in the field of LGBT cinema and I promise that you will find your time well spent experiencing these wonderful movies.
Until next time my lovely readers, this is Jason, looking for the popcorn, signing off.
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