Film | Nathaniel Rogers | Oscars

Movies: Best LGBT Characters of the Film Year

 No wonder they're smiling. The Kids Are All Right won 4 Golden Globe nominations.



...lives for the the tail end of each year. That's when Oscar buzz wags the film dog. He blogs daily at the Film Experience. Follow him on Twitter @nathanielr.


With 2010 about to wrap, let's do a top ten list albeit a very specific one. Let's make like Barbara Walters and choose The Most Fascinating (Fictional, LGBT) People. Barbara obviously uses a different criteria than "fascinating" in her annual roundup. Hers  seems closer to "constantly in the news /has overworked publicist"  and our choices are also debatable. The ranking is somewhat arbitrary. It's a glorified excuse to talk about people, in this case the LGBT characters who were on movie screens in 2010. So let's get to it.

Facebook The Invisible Man
This following list is dedicated to the openly gay "Chris Hughes" in THE SOCIAL NETWORK (review), portrayed by Patrick Mapel (pictured left with Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg in the movie). Because this excellent movie chooses to focus so tightly on its intellectual property lawsuits, fraternity "punch" lust, and that central squabbling sextet of Ivy League straight boys (Zuckerberg, Saverin, Narendra, Parker, and "the Winklevii"), it apparently didn't have much room for diversity; the women and the gays involved in the Facebook story don't get much attention.

The Lady Doth Protest Too Much
The list is also dedicated to Ken from TOY STORY 3 (review) who would like to remind you that he is not a girl's toy.

Dishonorable Mention ~ The Odd Couple
While Sex & The City 2 (review) was not a "good" film by any standard definition, the reviews were so rabid and demented that you'd think loving shoes was the worst of all moral failings and having a vagina was cause for auto-scorn. Please note that movies about wealthy men displaying, boasting of, indulging in, talking about or fighting over their personal billions   -- Inception, Iron Man 2, Wall Street Money Never Sleeps, The Social Network and more still -- never have critics screaming "Out of touch! Tasteless! Insensitive in this economy!"  but show us four women who refuse to fly coach...

Lost in the uproar was its tone deaf and über obnoxious gay wedding.



Seriously, what was with putting Stanford and Anthony together? Worse yet, since they're the only flag-bearing gays in the Sex & The City world, their "open marriage" (distressing to our girls, who were always more prudish than the show's detractors claim)  essentially reinforces all the ol' tired "gays can't be monogamous arguments. More importantly, it totally spoils all those "which Sex & the City/Golden Girls character are you?" debates and online quizzes by implying that all gay men are Blanche/Samantha. If you fancy yourself a Carrie or a Charlotte or a Miranda, you will certainly object.

 In fairness, the  "Hate at First Sight Actually Means You'll Fall in Love" trope is very common in romantic comedies, if decidedly less so in life, so there's no reason that Sex... shouldn't employ it. But if this story decision was meant to be a long arc joke it just didn't pay off.


10. "Joan Jett" in THE RUNAWAYS
This 70s bio of pre Go-Gos grrrl rockers focused on "ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-cherry bomb" Dakota Fanning, but Kristen Stewart gave her best performance just off center as the iconic musician. Robbed of her usual mannerisms (was it the wig that freed her?) Stewart turned her familiar solemn pout into a rock chick snarl and captured Jett's sapphic rebel energy at its earliest stage. Whether Jett was urinating on guitars, commanding the stage or putting the moves on bandmates, Kristen didn't give a damn about her bad reputation.

09 "Sean" in BURLESQUE
Stanley Tucci may have just been in Burlesque (review) to remind Cher of how fierce she is. Just like he was there in The Devil Wears Prada to remind Meryl as Miranda Priestley how fierce she was. And just like he was there in Julie & Julia to remind Meryl as Julia how fierce she was. But he's good at the role, you must admit. At least Sean escapes the confines of this Tucci-perfected role and diva-adjacent relationship just long enough to have some obviously successful sexcapades with a hot young stud. Nigel would be so jealous.

08  "Lisbeth Salander" in THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
The appeal of the Millenium Trilogy, those massive bestsellers about an antisocial computer hacker (Lisbeth) and an investigative reporter on the trail of serial killers is largely lost on me. But I couldn't not include it, given that you see people reading these books everywhere, David Fincher (The Social Network) is remaking it as we speak, it inspired a hilarious New Yorker spoof and it was the single biggest subtitled hit at the box office (and even more successful elsewhere). The Swedish film  didn't make any fuss at all over Lisbeth's fluid sexuality which is as it should be. Not that you could label Lisbeth that easily anyway. The appeal of the character may lie completely in her unknowability. Even Noomi Rapace's much lauded performance played with the idea of her impenetrable psyche.

07 "Miguel" in UNDERTOW
In this moving Peruvian drama, an Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film, Miguel is in love with another man. There are several problems: he's married, his wife is pregnant, they live in a deeply religious village and a tragedy will turn Miguel's life upside down. Here's my interview with the director.

06 "Nina Sayers" in BLACK SWAN
The Women's Film Critics Circle just gave Black Swan the dubious honor of "Worst Female Images in a Movie" in their year end awardage. It's true that Nina (Natalie Portman), the high-strung ballerina, is no role model. She won't be recording an "It Gets Better" video anytime soon; for Nina things only get worse. But she's still a fascinating character and her confusing unformed sexuality even moreso. Does she want to sleep with Thomas (Vincent Cassel) or does the very thought repulse her? Probably both. Is she a virgin or just sexually anorexic? Are her feverish lesbian impulses actual sexual urges or psychotic narcissism? The film has plenty of the latter since it loves to play with the doppelganger effect and even when there are no literal mirrors in any given scene to show Nina to Nina, we always seem to be seeing her figurative reflections.

05 "Steven & Phillip" in I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS
We just discussed this oddity (review) but whether or not its sometimes tasteless humor works for you and whether or not you cringe at the impossible to ignore 'Gay Life is Expensive!' plot force, it's tough not to admire the crazy sweetness and genuine affection Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor are conveying for each other in this love story between two convicts. They're on different paths, one is reformed,  the other not so much, but their hearts are entwined.

04 (tie) "Betta" in I AM LOVE and "Jesse" in LA MISSION
One could arge that Betta (Alba Rohrwacher) in I Am Love, who finds love with another woman while at college, or Jesse (Jeremey Ray Valdez) in La Mission (review), a high schooler who carries on with a rich college boy, are not fully fleshed out characters. The leads of their movies are actually their parents,  Emma (Tilda Swinton) and Che (Benjamin Bratt) respectively. But in both cases the brave teenager's coming out proves a positive emotional catalyst for the parent, though their initial reactions are quite opposite. We used to get a lot of movies about the coming out process and it's a mark of progress that we're now getting stories about new awakenings in the parents of gay children. It's mirroring what happens in real life. First you come out of the closet, then your family has to start the coming out process all over again, albeit in a different way.

03 "Nic & Jules" in THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT
Annette Bening and Julianne Moore made such an awesome (married) team in Lisa Cholodenko's dramedy, that the movie has been richly discussed all year. The particulars were so very particular (sperm donor, gay porn, impulsive affairs, gay marriage that's only missing the paperwork, that emotional summer before college) that people are still arguing about it. Expect the conversation to continue once Oscar nominations hit next year. It's looking strong for Best Actress and Screenplay nominations. Will it be nominated for Best Picture? [Towleroad interview with Lisa Cholodenko.]


02 "Wallace Welles" in SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD
When the movie was first announced, it seemed obvious that the character they'd screw up in a film version of the geek-beloved comic was Wally, the hero's best friend and roommate. Only they didn't. Wallace (played by Keiran Culkin) still sleeps in the same bed with Scott Pilgrim (not a big deal, but a funny visual), still is always one step ahead of Scott, and still flirts shamelessly with boys. He came to the screen with so much wit and confidence that while you could describe him reductively as just "the gay roommate" as I did in my review right here -oops - and leave it at that, but that'd be doing him a great disservice. He's the coolest character in the film. At least call him the "cool gay roommate" as they do in the source material.

Kimberlyreed 01 "Kimberly Reed" in PRODIGAL SONS
Prodigal Sons first began the festival circuit in the summer of 2008 but it won theatrical release and even an Oprah episode in February of 2010 and is now on DVD. It's one of the very best films of the year, whichever year it belongs to. The film begins as a personal diary/essay about a homecoming. Paul, a high school football hero, left Montana years ago and is returning as Kimberly.  Unlike most documentaries which have very clear agendas, Reed allows her own story to grow organically as it plays and she loses much of the star focus to her adopted brother and the tensions and relationships within her family. The movie, to its great credit, becomes less and less of a vanity project and more and more a spectacular study of identity politics and family. The director and star is a gorgeous articulate transgendered woman with a very specific story to tell but this is a movie that everyone should see, no matter how they self-identify.

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  1. Excellent list! I look forward to being able to see films such as "La Mission", "Black Swan" and "Undertown", but all the rest are great. Agreed about pretty much all of them, especially Wallace (in a film I didn't care for).

    And you're right about the extravagant wealthy men vs women debate. But, you see, woman are allowed to see those sort of movies and if they enjoy them they are not questioned. Meanwhile even if you're a woman and enjoy Sex & the City men look at you like a crazy person. It's misogyny through and through.

    Posted by: Glenn | Dec 23, 2010 9:03:41 PM

  2. Your Sex in the city 2 comment is so misguided. Inception, Iron Man 2, Wall Street Money Never Sleeps, The Social Network have plots and real characters. Yes they involve men with money, but that is never the focal point of the film, whereas SITC2 was 2hrs30 about what these women could buy, own, rent, show off, extract or get out of a from a man. THAT's where the plot began and ended... To quote someone: “A CONSUMERIS­T-MASTURBA­TION FANTASY WHERE THE 90’S NEVER ENDED.”

    Posted by: Ron O | Dec 23, 2010 9:28:06 PM

  3. Your Sex in the city 2 comment is so misguided. Inception, Iron Man 2, Wall Street Money Never Sleeps, The Social Network have plots and real characters.

    Posted by: New Era Hat | Dec 23, 2010 10:00:39 PM

  4. What's the prob with SATC2? That's the story! That's what people like, to immerse themselves in a fantasy world where things are light and easy and we're all fabulous. God. It's f**ing full of hope if you will. And just discard it cause you people think it's not worthy? come on! It's f*ng perfect! I love satc. It makes me leave my miserable for 30 an hour. It's done its job as a series. That's it. Just as inception blew my mind in so many other ways.

    Posted by: topher | Dec 23, 2010 11:09:12 PM

  5. But the most best gay character of 2010 in any medium was the handsome and bitter conniving gay footman in (UK) ITV's Downton Abbey.

    Posted by: Jimbo | Dec 23, 2010 11:52:03 PM

  6. I just saw Black Swan and I have to agree with the female critics. There's only one real male character (who is also an awful cliche), and all the women are horrible caricatures. Granted, some of that may be because of Nina's distorted perspective, but the film didn't paint any of the women in a positive light. They were all psycho, manipulative, narcissistic monsters!

    Posted by: Paul R | Dec 24, 2010 2:22:24 AM

  7. There is so much more to hate about SATC2 than the vacuous, shallow characters. There is also the fact that its so bad on a technical level. Poor script, terrible pacing, poor acting and poor editing.

    Posted by: Rovex | Dec 24, 2010 2:37:46 AM

  8. SEX AND THE CITY 2 was Out of Touch and Tasteless because the film as a whole was facile and shallow (unlike the others you mention) and also in that it made light of both of the plight of women and Gays in Taliban-dominated countries (Samantha yelling "I have SEX!" would probably have gotten her arrested, flogged and/or stoned to death in real life) plus the idea of War Economy= Bargain Shopping! was just morally repugnant.

    There were also brilliant Gay characters in the superb British thriller THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED, the hilarious EASY A, and Robert Pattinson playing a Gay Salvador Dali in LITTLE ASHES...

    Posted by: wirrrn | Dec 24, 2010 2:41:00 AM

  9. Thanks for the picture from "The Social Network", I knew Chris Hughes was in the movie but had no idea which one was him.

    Posted by: LostBoy68 | Dec 24, 2010 2:54:16 AM

  10. "Please note that movies about wealthy men displaying, boasting of, indulging in, talking about or fighting over their personal billions -- Inception, Iron Man 2, Wall Street Money Never Sleeps, The Social Network and more still -- never have critics screaming "Out of touch! Tasteless! Insensitive in this economy!" but show us four women who refuse to fly coach..."

    Maybe because they all display considerable ambiguity towards wealth and thus aren't completely divorced from reality? Iron Man 2 was about the costs and limitations of being the successful superhero - Tony Stark comes to believe that his wealth and genius can solve all the world's problems and he's repeatedly taken to task for it. Wall Street 2 picks apart the culture of excess that Sex and the City revels in. The Social Network depicts how lonely and disconnected someone can be, even as they climb to the top. And Inception ends with a man deciding to dismantle his father's empire and become his own person.

    No, Sex and the City is a bad movie with a terrible message. And the worst thing about it is how consistently sexist it is.

    Posted by: Zach | Dec 24, 2010 3:04:00 AM

  11. No mention of HEARTBEATS? I loved the "Francis" character and he was one of the main ones, not a minor one like in some of these other movies.

    Posted by: Jason (the commenter) | Dec 24, 2010 6:23:33 AM

  12. Sex and the City is a BAD movie because it stars a horse face woman named SJP

    Posted by: True Words | Dec 24, 2010 6:27:02 AM

  13. While I love the series Sex and The City, 2 was a completely unnecessary and stupid sequel that did a triple backflip jump over the shark.

    I think the film made gay men look ridiculous. The gay wedding made me cringe. We are fighting for the equal right to marry and this farce is what mainstream cinema offers up to the world as an example? Granted, it is a comedy, but so was The Amos and Andy Show--and I'm sure there were a lot of people who thought that was what all black folks were like. Watching two bitchy queens marrying each other because no one else hotter, richer or fabulous enough wanted them--all while talking about how they were going to keep having sex with other people--didn't say much for the legitimacy of gay marriage.

    When the only gay characters are merely stereotypical comic gags you start to wonder if it's really funny--and what's really being made fun of.

    Posted by: Jason | Dec 24, 2010 6:27:49 AM

  14. I liked Jmaes Franco on Howl.

    Think Portmans character bisexuality was a little put on....

    Posted by: Rowan | Dec 24, 2010 7:10:00 AM

  15. That would James!

    And kids all alright. Groan. How overrated. Would be much more interesting if it was two men but that would never happen and if it did, you'd get that couple of Modern Family because all gay men are soooooo camp and over sensitive!

    Posted by: Rowan | Dec 24, 2010 7:12:10 AM

  16. I agree that the gays in SATC are horrible stereotypes and frankly i now consider such portrayals as homophobic, not liberated and accepting. The whole attitude of TV and film of this type is that all gay men are camp, whiny and sensitive queens. How has this changed since the 70s when (certainly on British TV) gay men were amusing oddities because of their femininity?

    SATC is insulting to EVERYONE. Women are shallow whores, men are commodities to desire and loath simultaneously and gays are accessories there for amusement.

    Posted by: rovex | Dec 24, 2010 8:09:51 AM

  17. You forgot Franco in "Howl"!

    Love the scene where he takes pictures of the babe-a-licious Aaron Tvit sleeping, then awakens him with a smooch.

    Still you did recognize my favorite gay character in EONS! -- Kieran Culkin's Wallace in "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World."

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Dec 24, 2010 9:43:21 AM

  18. The forced comparison between Sex and the City 2 and Inception, et. al. is so thoughtless, illogical and idiotic that it really makes me wonder how this person got a gig reviewing anything at all. Did I miss a punchline somewhere?

    Posted by: red_phone | Dec 24, 2010 10:11:22 AM

  19. Agreed Red_Phone. I was genuinely surprised.

    Posted by: Ron O | Dec 24, 2010 10:50:43 AM

  20. Scott Pilgrim was one of the bezt movies of the year that was over looked. Wallace's character was the funnest and coolest character in the movie.

    Posted by: RIO | Dec 24, 2010 1:05:32 PM

  21. Awesome write up, Nathaniel! i'm gonna have to catch "Undertow" when it comes out on DVD for sure.

    I'd also add "Jimmy" & "Lars" from the 'neo-nazis meets Brokeback' Denmark drama "BROTHERHOOD". a fairly strong film with genuine carnality and fine acting.

    Posted by: Ryan | Dec 24, 2010 1:20:43 PM

  22. I, too, have loved the SATC franchise, but the second film was terrible, I agree. I remember not liking the first one much, either, but after watching it a few times, I actually think it was pretty good. The message of the series has, yes, been consumerism up to a point, but the message of love, friendship and acceptance have always been the things I take away from it. The characters started off as stereotypes, but ended up having long arcs that showed them as fully-flushed people with lots of strengths and flaws.

    I agree that even though the head writer is a gay man, he never really developed Stanford beyond the gay BFF, but calling it "homophobia" is a ridiculous statement. Sound to me there's a bit of internalized homophobia just because Stanford a big flamer... so what... there are lots of flamers in our community and why can't they be represented on a hit show? He had a hunky boyfriend for a while with Marcus (what the hell happened to him?) but then ending up with Anthony of all people was insane. And the Liza Minelli performance? Sad... really sad. I suppose it was supposed to be Stanford's idea of the perfect wedding, so maybe that makes sense, but yah, it was pretty nausiating.

    Posted by: GraphicJack | Dec 24, 2010 3:01:22 PM

  23. You're right,Graphicjack, there's nothing wrong with Stanford being a flamer. What's wrong to me is that Stanford and his equally flamey boyfriend are the only gay characters significantly developed in all the years of the SITC series and films. It's impossible to believe that those particular four women didn't have dozens of gay friends and associates, who, if developed as characters, could have shown a cross-section of gay men (and women) in New York, including flamers. I thought it was weird then and I still think it's weird now.

    Posted by: Lev-Aryeh | Dec 24, 2010 3:18:45 PM

  24. I highly doubt ANY gay fan bought Stanford and Anthony as a couple. I know men like this and the closest they would get to each other would be to look each other up and down and scratch each other's eyes out. It felt forced--like on a whim they decided to inject the gay marriage issue into the film--even though it made no sense to anyone who had watched the series.

    I'm going to do with 2 what I do the last Indiana Jones film--pretend it was never made.

    Posted by: Jason | Dec 24, 2010 8:04:58 PM

  25. Flamers are the only type of gay men represented on TV shows and film for the most part. Either that or we are messed up or evil. Average guys that happen to be gay do not exist in the entertainment world, there is no story to be had from them. Sorry i dont buy the 'flamers deserve representation to' line, they get ample already.
    By the way, why is it 'internalised homophobia' to be sick of flamers as an image? Im not camp in the least, and camp has NOTHING to do with being homosexual.

    Posted by: rovex | Dec 25, 2010 5:18:39 AM

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