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Best LGBT Movie Characters of 2012

Cloudatlas-gays
Ben Whishaw and James D'Arcy as the gay lovers at the tangled heart of 'Cloud Atlas'

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 

Have you finished movie-cramming to prepare yourself for the Oscar nominations (January 10th) and your own top ten lists. I've been screening as many titles as possible though I've somehow managed to find time to cry my eyes out through three separate screenings of Les Misérables. But we're already off topic. There are no gay characters of note in that epic musical though who knows what's going on with Marius's (Eddie Redmayne) super handsome band of brothers.

KEEPlightsonHollywood is generally behind the curve when it comes to social movements but things are changing and that's even true on the big screen. When gayness is central to a joke now in the movies it's usually not at the expense of the gays which is a marked difference than in the past. The unexpectedly hilarious high school comedy 21 Jump Street (reviewed) is a perfect example. If I'm remembering it correctly the younger students leap all over the undercover cops for their 'that's gay' linguistic insensitivity -- the subtext being that casual homophobia is totally passé.

Not that more controversial gayness isn't still getting plenty of play. The cinema would be a much less vivid playground if you erased all Evil Queers from the celluloid. You'd ruin so many classics! Nobody wants a hopelessly bland entertainment landscape where all gays are noble beings or best friends. So the wildly acclaimed romantic drama Keep The Lights On (starring Thure Lindhardt and Zachary Booth) which is nominated for multiple Spirit Awards, the Southern gothic noir The Paperboy (which might end up with Razzie nominations) and Cloud Atlas have the self-destructive, sexually compulsive and maybe suicidal stereotypes covered for you this year.
 

TOP TEN LGBT MOVIE CHARACTERS OF 2012...  AFTER THE JUMP

[Disclaimer: I have not yet seen the documentary How to Survive a Plague which centers on the ACT UP players in the early days of the AIDS crisis. It's clearly a Must See given the sensational reviews.]

Brontez10. The Cast of I WANT YOUR LOVE
I struggled with who to single out before throwing up my arms orgiastically around the entire diverse daisy chain of Travis Mathews art-porn / traditional feature hybrid. The story follows the farewells of Jesse as he packs up to leave the big city after a painful breakup. My favorite coupling was Jesse's dreamy ex Ben (no wonder Jesse's torn up!) & Brontez (pictured left, who recently made the Out 100 Hot List) who steals the picture with delicious comic timing. The best part of the explicit sex scenes is that the characters actually enjoy them!

Rudy-anydaynow09. "Rudy" in ANY DAY NOW
Alan Cumming plays this part time drag queen and aspiring singer with just the right combination of open heart and bullheaded tenacity. Rudy's eyebrow raising impulsiveness (a sudden committed relationship and adoption proceedings for a disabled child in the same week?) wouldn't make any sense without both. Rudy is the type of character that might completely aggravate you in real life but he's scaled to win your heart for the big screen with his righteous fury. [Towleroad interview with Alan Cumming]

Merida08. The 'ARE THEY OR AREN'T THEY???' Box Set
With the ever increasing number of gay-identified characters it's less of a parlor game to imagine the characters who might well be queer than it used to be but it's still fun: Tomboy does not always equal lesbian but regardless of her orientation  "Princess Merida" in Brave really shakes up the heteronormative Disney fairytale world merely by being utterly uninterested and even opposed to that Someday When Her Prince Might Come; The chorus of townsfolk who continually sound off on "Bernie" in Bernie argue about whether he's cruising for men on the sly or sleeping with rich widow Shirley Maclaine but both sound pretty gay to me (Jack Black is up for a Golden Globe as Best Actor in a Comedy for this role); "Calvin Candie" in Django Unchained and "Silva" in Skyfall both have implied female lovers but Leonardo DiCaprio and Javier Bardem, respectively, are obviously suggesting more fluid sexualities for their fussy villains both of whom don't even attempt to hide their unruly fascination with scarred muscled men who are very hard to kill.

Balladof07. Genesis & Lady Jaye in THE BALLAD OF GENESIS AND LADY JAYE
A year ago I sought out an experimental picture called "Open" by Jake Yuzna because it had won a Teddy Award, the juried gay prize, at Berlinale. It was inspired by the story of Genesis and Lady Jaye, who underwent multiple surgeries to look like one another for their "Pandrogyne" art project. The very next year this documentary sprung from the same transgendered transcendant romance and also won a Teddy. I preferred the earlier pic which was fictionalized but far more focused but Genesis and Lady Jaye are fascinating creatures under any name or movie title.

Grahamdash06. Graham Dashwood in THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL
SPOILER ALERT. Yes Graham is gay. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (reviewed) is one of those pictures that likes to hide the intimate truths and troubles of its ensemble cast so that they can all bloom at roughly the same time towards the climax. Graham's climax comes a bit earlier as he searches for his first love in India, a country that has stayed in his heart through this one love lost. Tom Wilkinson is a lovely actor but it's the women in the film who've won awards buzz. Best friends Dame Judi and Dame Maggie won Globe and SAG nods respectively.

Marie-krug05. "Marie Antoinette" in FAREWELL MY QUEEN
This romantic triangle French drama was, for me, the biggest surprise of 2012. Yes, people wear ornate royalty-porn gowns. No, it doesn't play at all like "A Costume Drama". It's modern in psychology and sexually riveting without being anachronistically acted or explicit. Big props to Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds) who finds a new way to spin this oft-dramatized royal. Her queen is impossibly bored and so perpetually indulged that she imagines her taste for the finer things... especially one fine forbidden woman... won't be her undoing. She's wrong.

Gay-onroad04. "Dean & Carlo" in ON THE ROAD
This film has had a long rough journey to the big screen but it's finally in select theaters. The adaptation of the not-entirely filmable Beat classic tells the story of Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) and his intense wanderlust friendships with womanizing Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) and gay writer Carlo Marx (Tom Sturridge) and their various lovers. Riley is too vague to fully embrace the eroticism of the not-so platonic friendships at the film's core but Hedlund is positively on fire, bedding men and women alike and welcoming all admirers equally in one of the best performances of the year.  [More on On the Road's stars here]

Gayby-bed03. "Matt" (and friends) in GAYBY
Sometimes, when thinking back on Gayby, I imagine writer/director/co-star Jonathan Lisecki as an evil gay scientist creating Frankenstein Monsters of Adorableness. "Matt" must have been created in a gay laboratory he's such crush-worthy boyfriend material: funny, sexy, perfectly bodied, artistic, sensitive. Everyone else in this gem of an ensemble comedy is adorable too, and in different ways, proving that perhaps Lisecki is not an evil scientist at all but a benevolent god among new comic voices [Towleroad interview with Lisecki]

Paranormandriving02. "Mitch" in PARANORMAN
Yes the dumb jock older brother of the title character's best friend is gay. That might make him sound like a very minor character but he's not. Mitch's homosexuality isn't much of a spoiler anymore since his completely casual reference to his boyfriend is one of the most discussed moments in the popular horror comedy. Is he the first openly gay character in an animated feature intended for all ages? I haven't done the research but it seems like he'd have to be. The best part of ParaNorman as a movie is that it really absorbs its anti-bullying theme instead of just paying it lip service and always works from a point of open-hearted inclusiveness. This town, just like any other, has gay people living in it. ParaNorman is so true to its concept that even the villain isn't demonized in the spooky proceedings.

Perks-patrick01. "Patrick" in THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER
The actor Ezra Miller, who previously creeped out audiences with barely concealed or fully revealed homicidal tendencies in Afterschool and We Need To Talk About Kevin, won hearts instead of shivers this year. In a total about face he nailed the role of openly gay sweetly funny Patrick with a healthy sense of pride, wit, self-awareness and impatience for that "it gets better" moment. He's not the Wallflower of the film's title (that'd be Logan Lerman) but he emerges as the film's true sideways hero, keeping this misfit group of teenagers tied together in deeply supportive friendships. Bonus points: Miller came out himself this year.


 

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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Comments

  1. I can't share Towleroad's optimism on gay representation in movies, unfortunately. If you look at it closely, it's rare.

    Occasionally you will get an art-house movie with a substantial gay male character but these are rare and often segregated into the "gay" category. We are being packaged and put away by the mainstream, basically.

    In terms of big Hollywood movies, gay and bisexual men are almost nowhere to be seen. We might be the character that utters a line here and there but we are such minor players, we're not significant. I can think only of one or two wide-release movies that showed a male-male kiss this year, one being Ted.

    The biggest disappointment are the directors and scriptwriters who are considered liberal. They are often the worst in terms of censoring us. Even gay scriptwriters are known to censor male-male sexuality in order to avoid offending the mainstream.

    Overall, I would say that it's worse now than it was 20 years ago. Hollywood has gone backward, not forward. The enemy is in the tent, and includes our fellow gays who work in Hollywood to censor us.

    Posted by: steven lucas | Dec 30, 2012 7:48:20 PM


  2. We've seen a great many of these films (husband and self). Thumbs Up to "THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL", "ON THE ROAD" and "THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER ". Thumbs down BIG to "GAYBY" - this was a God-awful unbelievable film. Gay men simply don't jump into bed with their best female friend again and again and again and enjoy such sex as it is depicted in this movie - and worse yet, the female friend is so ugly you'd never want to have sex with her much less a child. The plot was ridiculous, the acting atrocious and it is not worth the time of day.

    Posted by: OS2Guy | Dec 30, 2012 8:11:27 PM


  3. I enjoyed 'Keep the Lights On' a lot. The story jumped a bit, but engaging nonetheless.

    @OS2GUY - I didn't think Gayby was that horrible. I thought it was a mediocre film, but mostly because of the thin plot. As far as what's 'plausible' for gay men to do on film; it's not like there's a manual we all have to follow. I mean, straight guys aren't supposed to have sex with each other, but then again, we have decades of awkward gay porn to prove otherwise.
    I'm not going to respond to the ugly best friend; that was just some bitchy, body-snarking there. Frankly, I enjoyed her side story more than the main plot.

    Also sad to to see, not a lot of lesbian exposure; at least serious ones. I think at this point, it's more novel to see a lesbian character that doesn't hook up with man at some point in the story.

    Posted by: Hugh | Dec 30, 2012 8:54:46 PM


  4. There are MILLIONS of gay people around....we're not represented nearly enough in mainstream film making--- Our stories are rich, engaging and needed...yet they aren't being told. Film making was never won to appease just to fit in...it always sought to be a leader and trend setter and tell the REAL LIFE stories in our world--- which again, include millions of LGBT.

    Why they aren't being told? pandering to the far right. There's no such thing as "normal" anymore when gays and lesbians are raising a stunning number of children.

    Share our stories. Showcase our lives. Cast our characters.

    Posted by: 2 Dads | Dec 30, 2012 9:14:35 PM


  5. Why would you show Cloud Atlas at the top, and before the jump, but not have it be one of the ten?

    Posted by: Andrew | Dec 30, 2012 10:02:05 PM


  6. Yes, has anybody seen "Cloud Atlas"? Is the "gay love story at its center" a good one? And why isn't it on the list, like somebody else said? The list given looks anemic. If those are truly the best gay characters in film, this is a terrible year.

    Posted by: will | Dec 30, 2012 10:26:38 PM


  7. For those of you bitching about the list here... Post your own.
    Here.
    These things are objective.
    (Because it's far easier to whine and complain that come up with your own. Some things will NEVER change.)

    Posted by: JimmyD | Dec 30, 2012 10:56:13 PM


  8. What about "The Weekend"? Or was that last year. Loved it.

    Posted by: kodiak | Dec 30, 2012 11:38:48 PM


  9. The problem is: there are no good films this year to post "your own" list. Let's say gay men are 5% of the population. Since this blog is about gay representation, there is no way anything like 5% of gay characters is what we got close to getting this year. If we got anything close in film to our representation in life, we'd have an embarrassment of riches instead of this paltry shallow list. It's not like there were tons of good gay characters and the list posted missed them. THIS YEAR IN FILM SUCKS. Television was better. We can be thankful for that.

    Posted by: will | Dec 30, 2012 11:51:01 PM


  10. How can you not mention the 2012 'ship that launched a thousand fics; 007 and the new Q in Skyfall?

    Posted by: Ted B. (Charging Rhino) | Dec 31, 2012 2:01:32 AM


  11. It would be nice if some of these mentions about the gay storyline in Best Exotic Marigold Hotel paid some credit to the two Indian actors involved in it. Rajendra Gupta, a fine theatre actor, played Manoj, Graham's lover from his youth in India, who he meets again as an adult - and who, in a very moving scene, performs the last rites for Graham after he passes away. And Neena Kulkarni, a really wonderful actress, also mainly from theatre, plays Manoj's wife, who is aware of the past relationship (before they got married) and manages to convey, in the just 2-3 scenes she appears in, all the ambiguous feelings that a woman in her position would feel.

    Posted by: Vikraminmumbai | Dec 31, 2012 3:54:09 AM


  12. The gay character is Paranorman is Mitch not Randy.

    And i'm reading Cloud atlas and i didn't find any gay love story. There's a gay character, and a bisexual one. The gay is in two stories, but in the story narrated by the bisexual character he is the one who recieved the letters, so it's implied a past relationship but not an actual one.
    Maybe that change, because i don't end to read the book, so i didn't read the end of that story

    Posted by: jjose712 | Dec 31, 2012 6:05:07 AM


  13. "Ben Whishaw and James D'Arcy as the gay lovers at the tangled heart of 'Cloud Atlas' "

    While I suppose the phrase 'gay lovers' is correct in context, it should be noted that Whishaw's character is bisexual, not gay.

    "Everyone else in this gem of an ensemble comedy is adorable too, and in different ways, proving that perhaps Lisecki is not an evil scientist at all but a benevolent god among new "

    While I am not normally one to trash films, almost every aspect about Gayby was either offensive or horribly outdated. There may have been an excuse for tripe such as this in 2000, but in 2012, it's nothing short of ludicrous.

    Posted by: Nat | Dec 31, 2012 8:45:51 AM


  14. " Hollywood is generally behind the curve when it comes to social movements "

    Is a total lie. Who wrote this crap. If you think that, go watch some lgbt movies ! there out there an pretty good ones too ~ T

    Posted by: OOP | Dec 31, 2012 9:05:26 AM


  15. Sorry, can't take anyone seriously who would admit to crying your eyes out thru 3 screenings of Les Mis... unless it was because all the money you wasted on tickets?

    That movie was dreadful. And the superficial love story (THEY BARELY EXCHANGE 2 WORDS TO ONE ANOTHER!) was beyond shallow.

    Posted by: ripper | Dec 31, 2012 9:11:24 AM


  16. One of the zillions of reasons I wish Vito Russo were still with us would be to see Ezra Miller in "The Perks of Being A Wallflower." He plays PRECISELY the gay man of Vito's movie dreams.

    You kidds today grouse about LGBT representation in films. In the past there was NOTHING.

    SQUARED!

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Dec 31, 2012 9:18:35 AM


  17. the male-male love story in Cloud Atlas is achingly beautiful :-)

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 31, 2012 1:58:29 PM


  18. I agree somewhat with OS2GUY. "Gayby" wasn't all bad, the male lead was good, but the female lead was so horribly miscast that it ruined it for me. She's not ugly, but she wasn't so attractive to have all these men chasing after her. Nor did she visibly demonstrate anything maternal throughout the course of her film, except to say she 'wanted a baby.' Just watch the scene at the end when she comes over to the lead and his new boyfriend's place; it was impossible to tell that it was her child as she doesn't come near it until the absolute very end. I found her relating to the child very odd.

    Posted by: Dr.Theopolis | Dec 31, 2012 2:19:56 PM


  19. I think they're just willfully ignoring all the examples, D.E.

    i remember someone saying "i don't want people to think i'm like the guys on queer as folk!!"
    and i was like "....which ones? you dont' want people to think you're a successful ad exec? or a really-beloved sweetheart with big arms who makes people happy? or do you just not want people to think you have a sex life?"

    Ezra is a gem.

    there's actually rather wonderful representations in the media. to see 'em all you have to do is, you know, stop not wanting to see 'em.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 31, 2012 2:29:42 PM


  20. We don't even need to be the center stoyrline, but I do think the lives and stories of gay individuals, gay parents, gay couples and especially gay youth is a fascinating and intriguing one that isn't being told, and could do a great deal to promote more understanding. That said, as another commentator mentioned, there isn't much of ANYTHING quality coming out of the movie industry lately for anyone.

    Posted by: Derek | Dec 31, 2012 9:58:28 PM


  21. I believe has to look at independent films to really find gay characters with depth and complexity. Hollywood is just not that interested. The characters in Mosquita y Mari and Elliot Loves come to mind.

    Posted by: Randy | Jan 1, 2013 5:47:02 AM


  22. Watching "THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL" left me sad and furious. The gay storyline ends tragically one-third the way through the picture while the film ends with Judi Dench's character riding off into the Indian sunset on the back of a motorcycle being driven by her new lover. I just wish that in 2012 someone had the balls to rewrite the ending, allow Tom Wilkinson's character to live and have the final shots of the film be of Wilkinson on the back of that bike while holding on to his long-lost lover. Please give the gays more happy endings! We've had more than our share of tragic ones.

    Posted by: JDM Dallas | Jan 2, 2013 11:27:33 AM


  23. These are some interesting choices, but at the top of my list would be Stephen Cone's film, The Wise Kids.

    Posted by: Screenguy61 | Jan 3, 2013 2:47:21 AM


  24. These are some interesting choices, but at the top of my list would be Stephen Cone's film, The Wise Kids.

    Posted by: Screenguy61 | Jan 3, 2013 2:47:22 AM


  25. Great list and bits and pieces of what to expect from the movies. Now, I am excited to watch most of the films listed here. I want to see it myself and give my own rating to the films. There might be some crucial points that they are missing on being out in the open and being happy on being who I am.

    Posted by: Sylvain | Jun 14, 2013 4:23:17 AM


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