Film | Nathaniel Rogers

Movies: Where are the New Gay Classics?

GAYBY (2012) is one of too few new gay releases


HAPPY GAY PRIDE EVERYONE! Hollywood isn't really celebrating, but we should.

This weekend's new cinema choices aren't so gay. Not to get all labelly but you can choose between an apocalyptic hetero romance (SEEKING A FRIEND AT THE END OF THE WORLD) or a new Woody Allen hetero romantic comedy (TO ROME WITH LOVE). Regarding the latter, it's worth noting that the Mayans were wrong and we'll live to see 2013. The only sure sign of the apocalypse would be a year without a new Woody Allen movie. A truth: He hasn't missed a single film year since 1981! Your other big multiplex choice this weekend is between an axe wielding US president (ABRAHAM LINCOLN, VAMPIRE HUNTER) and a new Disney/Pixar Princess with a bow and arrow (BRAVE).

The latter two films sound gay at least. Secret Abraham Lincoln diaries unearthed? Yes! Finally the truth about his relationship with "personal friend" Joshua Fry Sp-- oh. It's about vampire hunting? Really? (Sigh). And it's not even funny but deadly earnest about it? Damn. Brave's heroine is Princess Merida, a tomboy who doesn't want to marry. That's closer. In more closeted olden times that would have qualified her as a latent lesbian icon (think Peppermint Patty's Marcie or Calamity "Secret Love" Jane) but given our rapid strides in the past two decades with actual lesbian icons, it's a stretch. Merida just isn't "ready" for marriage yet - give her a few years. Or a sequel.

 When will we see the next Great Gay Film? MORE AFTER THE JUMP...


It might sound old school in a "post gay" world to ask for films which so neatly fit the LGBT labels but given the newish cultural flexibility, shouldn't the movies be reflecting it? TV is trying harder but we need more gay or gayish films. On the Kinsey Scale Hollywood's movie studios are still pretending to be a "0". 

Gayby-posterAre there new gay films on the horizon? It seems like every time you hear of one it's indefinitely delayed. Remember when Ellen Page was going to star in the feature version of that Oscar winning lesbian documentary Freeheld? It still hasn't gone before cameras. Remember when actresses as high profile as Gwyneth Paltrow, Charlize Theron, and Nicole Kidman were attached (at one point or another) to the transgendered period piece The Danish Girl

There's is at least one brand new gay ticket. Jonathan Lisecki's buzzy and reportedly very funny GAYBY (2012), which I haven't yet had time to see, is hitting screens this weekend in New York for Pride and will hopefully emerge in more venues as the summer progresses. But otherwise if you want gay cinema right now, your best bet is to reach back into the classic vaults over at Focus Features. 

Brokeback Mountain (2005), the crown jewel of modern gay cinema, is obviously the headliner in Focus Feature's current "10 YEARS OF CELEBRATING PRIDE" feature. Among Hollywood's mini-major studios, Focus has a great deserved reputation for supporting high quality LGBT movies and the careers of gay directors (Todd Haynes, Lisa Cholodenko) or gay-friendly directors like Brokeback Mountain's Ang Lee. Lee's US breakthrough, a full decade before Brokeback, was the gay-themed Oscar nominee The Wedding Banquet. There's only one week left in Gay Pride month but you can screen several Focus films on On Demand for another week and the Focus Features gay classics are also available at iTunes.

The film they're pushing most heavily is the newish Loose Cannons (2010) from the prolific Turkish/Italian director Ferzan Ozpetek who has made a number of gay themed features recently. This one is about the closeted gay son and heir to a conservative Pasta empire. He really just wants to be a writer. I won't spoil the flim's early twist that prevents him from coming out as he's planned but it took me by surprise. Elsewhere the film is far more predictable though still enjoyable. It's indisputably "light" but it has a good heart which is too rare in movies -- even the homophobic characters are viewed with compassion despite the laughs the movie has at their ignorant histrionics. It also has good fun with the clichéd tropes it clings to like a Birdcage like setpiece where the lead's visiting gay BFFs try to pass as straight. 


Among Focus' more familiar titles are Best Picture Oscar nominees like Brokeback Mountain (2005), Milk (2008) and The Kids Are All Right (2010), magnificent art pieces like Far From Heaven (2002) and smaller lesser seen lesbian titles like My Summer of Love (2004) - one of Emily Blunt's first and best screen roles - and last year's excellent indie Pariah (2011) which I've raved about right here on Towleroad

Here's a peek at Focus Features' decade-long gift-giving to LGBT moviegoers. 

If you've seen all of Focus Features gay treasures, Netflix has a number of terrific still underseen or underdiscussed gay films on their Instant Watch service: The touching Swedish romance Show Me Love (2000) about two high school girls; the erotic and thrilling Argentine crime film Burnt Money (2001); The intimate peek at drag ball culture in Paris is Burning (1991) which is only one of the best gay documentaries of all time; Yossi & Jagger (2002) a wonderfully brief but impactful Israeli feature about two soldiers in love (that's just spawned a sequel, in fact); the religious ethical angst of Priest (1995) starring a great Linus Roache is still powerful; (André Téchiné's The Witnesses (2007) about the first days of the AIDS crisis in France; and even Ang Lee's aforementioned breakthrough The Wedding Banquet (1993) about a closeted gay man's struggle with his visiting family's marital expectations for him. That's but a small sampling.

Just think how far we've come. If a gay movie were released in 2012 called The Wedding Banquet everyone would assume it was a comedy about gay marriage. Now if only Hollywood would propose to us on bended knee with a slew of great new big-ticket LGBT films.

Nathaniel Rogers would live in the movie theater but for the poor internet reception. He blogs daily at the Film Experience. Follow him on Twitter @nathanielr.

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  1. You should see Weekend.

    Posted by: mk | Jun 23, 2012 4:50:11 PM

  2. We are a small minority. Expecting mainstream Hollywood to spend tens of millions to produce and market a gay movie that has a limited market will only lead to disappointment. Some will cry homophobia. While homophobia certainly is in play, the truth is that Hollywood is a business. It's hard to fault a for-profit company for choosing to make a hetero romantic comedy because the potential return on investment is much higher than for a gay version.

    Every minority group wants to see themselves represented in mainstream movies. Instead of complaining that Hollywood doesn't enough gay movies, I'd argue that we are better off than other groups. How many movies prominently feature Native Americans? Methodists? First generation immigrants?

    Posted by: alex | Jun 23, 2012 5:04:19 PM

  3. @ ALEX

    Excellent point.

    Posted by: Eric26 | Jun 23, 2012 5:34:54 PM

  4. Nathaniel....Glad to see the mention of Gayby, which I just recently saw at the Provincetown Film Festival, and it is a riot. Very fast-paced, witty dialogue (I hear a Preston Sturges influence in Lisecki's writing), excellent actors having a wonderful time together, and up-to-the-minute themes handled with a light touch. Please see this movie, and please continue to talk it definitely deserves to be seen by a wider audience than just the film fest bubble.


    CDMatthew in Boston

    Posted by: CDMatthew | Jun 23, 2012 5:36:09 PM

  5. Stop the asinine references to Mayans and the apocalypse...there was never any mention about the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar, just the end of an age. The apocalypse is a western fiction.

    Oh, and what about reaching way back to My Beautiful Launderette; still far better than most of the crap about gay life done today, and doesn't fall back on the use of cliches or stereotypes.

    Posted by: benjamin | Jun 23, 2012 5:51:59 PM

  6. The female lead in "Gaybe" is Jenn Harris, who is absolutely wonderful playing Clarice Starling in "Silence! The Musical", which will be running in NYC through summer. "Silence" and "Xanadu" are the 2 funniest shows I've seen this year.

    Posted by: bcarter3 | Jun 23, 2012 5:58:10 PM

  7. What about "Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train"?

    (Glad you mentioned Techine's "The Witnesses")

    "Brokeback Mountain" is the Crown Zicron of LGBT cinema.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jun 23, 2012 7:23:00 PM

  8. Alex,

    You are what breeds the bigotry. Your apologist excuse making mentality is what gets us under represented. You're nothing short of an apologist...own it!

    Posted by: Kurtcor | Jun 23, 2012 7:41:45 PM

  9. @ ALex


    There's MILLIONS of gays raising children, MILLIONS more in relationships, and MILLIONS more who are openly, proudly gay. This idea that because there's not "as many of us" as others so we need to sit on the back of the bus is pure unadultered bigotry. There's plenty of us. There's not as many black/latino folks as there are white, yet they certainly are represented in vast spectrums. We're not asking for films devoted to just being gay, but our story NEEDS to be told. It's a rich story full of triumph, struggle, and education.

    Posted by: IonMusic | Jun 23, 2012 7:44:37 PM

  10. Alex,

    By your logic, why should we even want to attain ANY amount of progress? There's a homeless, albino, transexual, in a wheel chair who has it worse than us. Instead of seeking to find our place in the table (after we've continually get rejected) we should just let everyone in line before us and consider how hard others have it. That's not how progress works. One group attaining equality and visibility is not at the expense of another group, nor does our advancement in film/television damper the ability for said other groups to advance themselves. That you would even go there showcases you're own bias against LGBT. Hope you work on that.

    Posted by: USC Trojan Fan | Jun 23, 2012 7:47:04 PM

  11. Alex- I disagree with you on so many levels that there really isn't enough chalk to express it all. We'll never be as prominent as straight individuals, but we're still here, we're still a reality of life, and reality coupled with entertainment is what Hollywood aims to expose. We're just as much part of daily life as any other pairing, and to overlook that is a complete pretense to portraying human lives and human emotions. Hollywood has always been ahead in leading the social acceptance and displaying the social minority. We should be no exception. Our relationships deserve the same lvel of respect and exposure as any other, and we certainly will fight tooth & nail to bring our presence in the limelight. You can make excuses for it while the rest of us actively work to see ourselves as more of the same

    Posted by: Steve Jonasen | Jun 23, 2012 7:53:32 PM

  12. @ ALEX

    Because first generation immigrants can't get married? because they have people protesting they'll burn in hell at their funerals? because Native Americans today are fired from their jobs if their employer so much suspects them of being Native American (and it's legal for the employer to do that)? LGBT endure a form of discrimination *NO* other minority group today can claim in terms of social HATE, legislative injustice and lack of representation. We will fight those areas with great passion; including our lack of representation, and unapologetically so. We have no reason to hide or be hidden because the majority can't sympathize with our tale. The argument that "there is someone who has it worse than!" is a very calculating, disturbing and homophobic tactic to make a group of opressed folks complacent. I'm glad it's being called out and exposed for what it is on here. No more...get on the back of the bus. GLBT today have far more self respect than that.

    Posted by: MJ | Jun 23, 2012 7:58:34 PM

  13. Very, very beautifully said MJ!

    Posted by: Red Velvet | Jun 23, 2012 7:59:35 PM



    Posted by: CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON | Jun 23, 2012 8:16:46 PM

  15. Christopher Allen Horton,
    Go back to selling crack.

    Posted by: Jax | Jun 23, 2012 8:19:42 PM

  16. CORRECTION - I JUST THOUGHT ABOUT Prospect Theatre's PRODUCTION (1970) OF, Edward II (WITH, Sir Ian McKellen).


    Posted by: CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON | Jun 23, 2012 8:20:18 PM

  17. I absolutely agree with the sentiment that we need our stories heard, our message told, and our faces seen in mass media and movies. Movies are what shape the mental construction and mediate that exposure for a great part of the population. In an age where our gay youth feel their futures are not inspiring and feel unmotivated to go on, we have a duty as adult LGBTs to lay the ground work for them to be able to identify with a gay character in a movie. And relate to a gay storyline in a film, and be inspired and motivated. They deserve that much and certainly are worth it. The gay dollar and gay tenacity travels far enough to ensure that will happen. And should.

    Posted by: Heut | Jun 23, 2012 8:22:45 PM

  18. Sharing a gay story, with gay character developement is just as amazing and should be considered by Hollywood. Unfortunately, we don't have that many gay story lines being shared. We're a riveting people with riveting struggles and lives that people would be both entertained by and inspired by.

    Posted by: Kevin Mendoza | Jun 23, 2012 8:29:08 PM

  19. We're not asking for mass films just about gays, Alex. Having gay roles, gay characters and gay plots within straight films will do just fine. We're not the ones asking to be the central character, but we should have characters where the 30 MILLION + LGBTQ individuals in this country can relate to.

    Posted by: NYNiceDude | Jun 23, 2012 8:31:08 PM

  20. Yeah what happened to all the gay mainstream films that were going to follow "Brokeback Mountain"? I think there will always be gay indie films-major studio movies have become so expensive that I doubt they would risk it on a big budget gay story- meanwhile we have the two gay supporting clowns in "Rock of Ages" which is not as horrendous as I feared- well the big strip club production number was terrible-Cruise is fine but the two juvenile leads can't carry the picture- the story is really about them.

    Posted by: jaragon | Jun 23, 2012 9:04:20 PM

  21. There's plenty of characters and roles where demographics who "Aren't the majority" are still represented. Weak argument. I agree with the many commentators that state that gaysneed to be better represented by Hollywood.

    Posted by: RilesRay | Jun 23, 2012 9:14:14 PM

  22. It's interesting because if you google The Golden Girls and gay, there were so manyyyy shows in the golden girls devoted to gay characters, gay stories, and even marriage equality! Entire shows devoted to gay men being able to marry. That was in the late 80s. Watching films from the 80s and 90s, there were many, many movies and shows that touched on being gay. Today, because of the Christian taliban, I feel in many ways we've regressed. That Ellen Degeneres getting a job with JCPennys would create such outrage, or Chaz Bono being on a DANCING SHOW would make Christian Taliban parents protest means we've got a lot to do, and fight back, and be visibile. They can't win this fight, and making us go hide in a closet is them winning the fight.

    Posted by: Doug Collins | Jun 23, 2012 9:17:11 PM

  23. Actually, I think Alex was encouraging us to think about other people once in a while, not to give up on the advancement of gay rights.

    Posted by: Eric26 | Jun 23, 2012 9:20:11 PM

  24. @Eric26

    Gay people do enough "thinking about other people" gay people are afterall, the one group of people who infact think SO much about other people that they are willing to lead a lie, be closeted, be shamed in who they are, and reject being gay...ALLLL because they think about "other people"

    Posted by: J. James | Jun 23, 2012 9:40:58 PM

  25. @
    J. James= standing up and clapping for you! well said.

    Posted by: IndieMusicBird | Jun 23, 2012 9:41:31 PM

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