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Best LGBT Movie Characters of 2013

  Behindthe-leads
If BEHIND THE CANDELABRA can't even find a distributor...

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 

Have you properly reflected on the year that was as we switch numbers? I tend to make a whole month of it and haven't quite done the difficult work of trimming down my favorite 17 or so movies into that small "top ten list" box yet, so let's concentrate on movie characters for our annual tradition:

TEN BEST LGBT MOVIE CHARACTERS OF THE YEAR
*this list contains some spoilers*

Previous Years: 20122011, 2010

Queer cinema is having a rough where-to-now period. After Brokeback Mountain, an inarguable hit with nearly $200 million in worldwide box office eight long years ago, we had reason to hope that we were entering a new golden age of LGBT awareness, a true place at the table. And we were, of course -- gay marriage in Utah? Wow! -- just not onscreen. When Oscar famously denied Brokeback its rightful win who knew that it would prove such an ill omen for queer movies? Almost immediately afterwards, gay mainstream filmmaking fell into swift decline. The contributing factors are complicated and well-theorized about but it's led to a dearth of gay films in movie theaters -- you know you're in trouble when no one wants to distribute Steven Soderbergh's Liberace biopic BEHIND THE CANDELABRA (reviewed) which came with easy marketing hooks and major stars.

Screen shot 2013-12-31 at 6.01.16 PMWhile complex gay characters get good play on TV, mainstream movies are a weirder place for gays. Consider Catherine Zeta Jones's evil lesbian psychiatrist in Steven Soderbergh's Side Effects, who would have provided a juicy clip for The Celluloid Closet (1995) had she appeared in an older movie, or disposable characters like the butler The Wolf of Wall Street whose purpose in the movie seems to be... what exactly? The (comic) gaybashing adds nothing to the film.

Special Mention: I'm dedicating this list to two movies I missed that friends have sworn by. The acclaimed Cuban feature UNA NOCHE, currently available for instant streaming on Netflix, has a gay subplot I've only heard good things about and my friend Glenn swears by Xavier Dolan's LAURENCE ANYWAYS, a three hour epic about a transgendered woman born "Laurence" (delicious Frenchman Melvil Poupaud) and her girlfriend "Fred" (Suzanne Clement). My apologies also to sadfaced YOSSI (Ohad Knoller) but the Yossi & Jagger (2002) magic just wasn't there in his titular sequel.

 THE LIST IS AFTER THE JUMP...

Imsoexcitedtrio

10 Flight Attendants (Carlos Areces, Raul Arevelo, and Javier Camara) I'M SO EXCITED
I seem to be alone in this but I found Pedro Almodóvar's latest, while totally disposable and seemingly filmed in a day, to be good camp fun. The highlight is when the drugged up, blowjob wielding flight attendants distract the passengers with a fully choreographed number to the titular Pointer Sisters classic. [REVIEWED]

Tomatfarm-worried

09 Benda (Jirí Cerny) in HONEYMOON
08 Tom (Xavier Dolan) in TOM AT THE FARM
If you've never heard of these films, that's okay. Such is the state of specialty distribution that even quality movies with saleable elements aren't pounced on. Both of these dramatic thrillers deal with homophobia and are cleverly contextualized within universal communal experiences: weddings and funerals. Benda and Tom are initially friendly and accomodating guys but eventually they get angry and psychologically slippery as they become entangled with their lost loved one's family and friends. Honeymoon isn't likely to find distribution (it's from the Czech Republic) but maybe it'll turn up on DVD? Dolan's movies eventually find their way to movie theaters but why does it take so damn long when they're so good? [REVIEWED]

Screen shot 2013-12-31 at 6.37.14 PM

07 Everyone (kind of) in KILL YOUR DARLINGS
Speaking of homophobia... it's internalized in this beat-poet era directorial feature debut from John Krokidas. Unfortunately the internalized self-loathing is externalized manifest in the films opening act with the true life "honor slaying" of a gay man David Kammerer (Michael C Hall) who is hopelessly in love with his killer Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) who is also hopelessly loved by future iconic poet Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe). DeHaan and Radcliffe, two of Hollywood's favorite young actors, are obviously game for the gay content (finger sucking for the win!) but the most moving moment is an unexpectedly subtle one when author William Burroughs (Ben Foster, terrific as usual) attempts to talk his defiant friend Kammerer out of his embarassing public declarations of love for callow Lucien.

"Traitor!"

Pitstoplovers

06 Gabe (Bill Heck) in PIT STOP
05 Franck (Pierre delachomps) in STRANGER BY THE LAKE

What's that country song? "Looking for love in all the wrong places ♫" These two films aren't remotely comparable - apologies! One is a quiet observational ensemble drama about singles (most of them gay) in rural Texas and the other a dark allegorical thriller about a young man who falls hard (on his back) for a serial killer, but both of the lead characters are beautifully played by their beautiful leading men. Gabe is ready for true love. Franck is just ready. [PIT STOP INTERVIEW

Dbc-jaredleto

04 Rayon (Jared Leto) in DALLAS BUYERS CLUB
This movie has come under attack for handing what's been, cinematically, a "gay narrative" to a straight man, as well as casting a non-trans actor as a trans character. These are touchy complicated topics and its easy to see why people get pressed. But I can't with demanding a world in which actors can only play what they actually are. There goes at least 75% of the most brilliant performances ever committed to film, you know? The best actors are chameleons. What matters is the result and Jared Leto does beautiful work here, capturing this character's wit, physicality, addictions, and scars.  [READ THE FULL INTERVIEW]

 

03 Elsa (Idina Menzel) in FROZEN
If you deliver a huge bombastic instant classic Coming-Out anthem, you deserve a place on the list.

The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn't keep it in; Heaven knows I tried

Don't let them in, don't let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don't feel, don't let them know
Well now they know

Let it go, let it go
Can't hold it back any more
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door

That (closet) door isn't just slammed, it's obliterated, crushed under the weight of the fabulous ice castle that rises up, proud and glittery, to replace it.

Blingringselfie

02 Marc (Israel Broussard) in THE BLING RING
Several 2013 movies satirized or dramatized perverse capitalistic abandon. This is one of them, but The Bling Ring, for all of its purposefully brain dead label-hoarding / celebrity-dropping, is the one that lingers. That's thanks to Sofia Coppola's visual gifts and an amazing young cast. Best in show is Broussard as Marc, the only lost boy in this girly club o' thieves. His gayness is not directly discussed but he is. Everyone knows it. No one cares. Progress! Bonus points: that webcam scene.

01 Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulus) and Emma (Léa Seydoux) in BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR
On January 16th, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will undoubtedly kill many movie-loving dreams of seeing both of these terrific actresses nominated for Oscars for their gorgeously rendered depiction of first love and intense lust (just know that most of the future nominees don't dig half this deep). But, no matter, this love story between a blue haired artist (Emma) and her high school girl (Adele) will live on as a seminal moment in gay cinema. [REVIEWED]

HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

Blue-is-the-Warmest-Color

 

Nathaniel Rogers would live in a movie theater but for the poor internet reception. Follow him on Twitter @nathanielr.

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Comments

  1. Gay actors can only play really effeminate gays...Straight actors have to play the masculine ones....

    Posted by: Ankerich | Dec 31, 2013 11:22:31 PM


  2. Congratulations, Ankerich, on being the last troll on Towleroad for 2013.

    Posted by: yuninv | Jan 1, 2014 12:52:52 AM


  3. ummm...Liberace?

    Posted by: Harris | Jan 1, 2014 12:56:09 AM


  4. Strongly disagree with you about Dallas Buyers Club. You shouldn't dismiss the issues brought up as just "pressed" if there is a legitimate arguments to be made that Trans Actors should be played by trans individuals. It's not typecasting or some ridiculous argument that implies trans people have only one storyline ever and ONe personality and backstory, you also failed to mention that until 2 years ago notable trans roles were EXCLUSIVELY played by cisgender people. In fact I can only think of 1 notable main role in a movie(Gunnar Hill Road), 1 in tv(OITNB) with trans actresses. The reverse is also 0% of trans actors playing non trans roles another thing you omitted

    Posted by: Cory | Jan 1, 2014 1:18:49 AM


  5. Surely there is something better than the Liberace film in 2013! Stereotypical to the enth degree! For me, it makes my anti-homo detractors have traction.

    Posted by: L Goethe | Jan 1, 2014 2:22:30 AM


  6. I have not seen the Liberace movie and have no desire to do so. To me, Liberace represented the worst of the worst of the stereotypical gay queen: sick-minded, evil, selfish, vain, cowardly, and self-loathing. I grew up wanting to cringe or hide under the chair whenever his name or likeness came up in conversation. There is nothing about Liberace that I want to know. Instead, let's make movies about people we can all look up to. Real heroes of everyday life who don't so easily slide into the mold that society would like to put us in. There are good gay people out there who I would like to know about. I’d much rather hear about gay people who sacrificed and put their lives on hold to make the gay world better for all of us. I remember Rock Hudson, who after a lifetime of hiding in the closet, stood up to be counted. I worked in radio and television for many years and the late Paul Harvey used to rant and rave on his national radio program about the evils of "homo-sex", as he called it, until his longtime Hollywood friend Rock Hudson surprised the world by coming out of the closet. When Rock Hudson came out a lot of wagging tongues went back into their mouths.

    Posted by: Bill Michael | Jan 1, 2014 6:51:18 AM


  7. I added many to my Netflix queue. Thanks.

    Posted by: Rob | Jan 1, 2014 8:08:52 AM


  8. ummm... both Jarod Leto and his character were men. The only difference is lots of hormones and elaborate plastic surgery

    Posted by: Homo Genius | Jan 1, 2014 10:24:40 AM


  9. I was hesitant to see Behind the Candelabra. Got the dvd from the library. Having seen it Michael Douglas was robbed not having this performance nominated for an Oscar due to not being able to get a distributor. He's never been better.

    Posted by: Jeffg166 | Jan 1, 2014 11:15:25 AM


  10. The Liberace movie was a basic example of gay self loathing....no wonder there are so few big gay movies...

    Posted by: Ankerich | Jan 1, 2014 12:12:49 PM


  11. Some people still don't understand what acting is. Men played women's roles for centuries. Straight men can play gay roles. Lesbians can play straight. Non-transsexuals can play transsexuals. And the reverse.

    Acting isn't reality. It's pretend. It takes something untrue and makes it seem true. The genitalia, sexual orientation, or medical history of the actor is utterly irrelevant to this.

    Posted by: Knock | Jan 1, 2014 12:15:56 PM


  12. You guys are a little ridiculous. Anyone hating on Behind The Candelabra needs to see the movie before writing it off. The movie was great, the acting was great, nearly everything great. If you demand seeing only heroic gay men in films, then watch MILK on repeat for the rest of your life. Not all gay men are perfect.

    You'd honestly prefer a Rock Hudson bio? I don't think he was any more or less heroic than Liberace, but I can make the educated guess that his life would be a far less entertaining movie.

    Lastly, if a trans person is the only actor that can play a trans role, should only gay men play gay roles? Can only drag queens play drag roles? Watch Transamerica and let me know what you think of Felicity Huffman's portrayal of a pre-op male-to-female character. She was nominated for an Oscar, and she doesn't meet your criteria.

    Posted by: Mike | Jan 1, 2014 3:13:08 PM


  13. It was a bad year for homosexuality in Hollywood. None of the movies from the main studios had a substantive male homosexual role. Liberace doesn't count because it was made for TV. Liberal Hollywood continues to impose the celluloid closet onto us.

    'Queer' cinema is simply an expression to describe marginal movies which nobody watches and which are full of disturbed characters.

    Posted by: sam | Jan 1, 2014 7:48:49 PM


  14. F&ck straight actors. There's a time to say enough. I draw the line at Liberace. Maybe straight people are tired of paying to see a gay minstrel show like they paid to see with the real Liberace and with the birdcage.

    As for me, I don't have much interest in Liberace (the original guy or the straight-played "gay" movie) to be honest. I expect I'll only ever see it by accident.

    Posted by: Just_a_guy | Jan 1, 2014 8:35:37 PM


  15. F&ck straight actors. There's a time to say enough. I draw the line at Liberace. Maybe straight people are tired of paying to see a gay minstrel show like they paid to see with the real Liberace and with the birdcage.

    As for me, I don't have much interest in Liberace (the original guy or the straight-played "gay" movie) to be honest. I expect I'll only ever see it by accident.

    Posted by: Just_a_guy | Jan 1, 2014 8:35:39 PM


  16. F&ck straight actors. There's a time to say enough. I draw the line at Liberace. Maybe straight people are tired of paying to see a gay minstrel show like they paid to see with the real Liberace and with the birdcage.

    As for me, I don't have much interest in Liberace (the original guy or the straight-played "gay" movie) to be honest. I expect I'll only ever see it by accident.

    Posted by: Just_a_guy | Jan 1, 2014 8:35:42 PM


  17. F&ck straight actors. There's a time to say enough. I draw the line at Liberace. Maybe straight people are tired of paying to see a gay minstrel show like they paid to see with the real Liberace and with the birdcage.

    As for me, I don't have much interest in Liberace (the original guy or the straight-played "gay" movie) to be honest. I expect I'll only ever see it by accident.

    Posted by: Just_a_guy | Jan 1, 2014 8:35:43 PM


  18. F&ck straight actors. There's a time to say enough. I draw the line at Liberace. Maybe straight people are tired of paying to see a gay minstrel show like they paid to see with the real Liberace and with the birdcage.

    As for me, I don't have much interest in Liberace (the original guy or the straight-played "gay" movie) to be honest. I expect I'll only ever see it by accident.

    Posted by: Just_a_guy | Jan 1, 2014 8:37:27 PM


  19. F&ck straight actors. There's a time to say enough. I draw the line at Liberace. Maybe straight people are tired of paying to see a gay minstrel show like they paid to see with the real Liberace and with the birdcage.

    As for me, I don't have much interest in Liberace (the original guy or the straight-played "gay" movie) to be honest. I expect I'll only ever see it by accident.

    Posted by: Just_a_guy | Jan 1, 2014 8:37:39 PM


  20. F&ck straight actors. There's a time to say enough. I draw the line at Liberace. Maybe straight people are tired of paying to see a gay minstrel show like they paid to see with the real Liberace and with the birdcage.

    As for me, I don't have much interest in Liberace (the original guy or the straight-played "gay" movie) to be honest. I expect I'll only ever see it by accident.

    Posted by: Just_a_guy | Jan 1, 2014 8:37:43 PM


  21. F&ck straight actors. There's a time to say enough. I draw the line at Liberace. Maybe straight people are tired of paying to see a gay minstrel show like they paid to see with the real Liberace and with the birdcage.

    As for me, I don't have much interest in Liberace (the original guy or the straight-played "gay" movie) to be honest. I expect I'll only ever see it by accident.

    Posted by: Just_a_guy | Jan 1, 2014 8:37:44 PM


  22. F&ck straight actors. There's a time to say enough. I draw the line at Liberace. Maybe straight people are tired of paying to see a gay minstrel show like they paid to see with the real Liberace and with the birdcage.

    As for me, I don't have much interest in Liberace (the original guy or the straight-played "gay" movie) to be honest. I expect I'll only ever see it by accident.

    Posted by: Just_a_guy | Jan 1, 2014 8:37:55 PM


  23. F&ck straight actors. There's a time to say enough. I draw the line at Liberace. Maybe straight people are tired of paying to see a gay minstrel show like they paid to see with the real Liberace and with the birdcage.

    As for me, I don't have much interest in Liberace (the original guy or the straight-played "gay" movie) to be honest. I expect I'll only ever see it by accident.

    Posted by: Just_a_guy | Jan 1, 2014 8:38:06 PM


  24. Fu/\k straight actors. There's a time to say enough. I draw the line at Liberace. Maybe straight people are tired of paying to see a gay minstrel show like they paid to see with the real Liberace and with the birdcage.

    As for me, I don't have much interest in Liberace (the original guy or the straight-played "gay" movie) to be honest. I expect I'll only ever see it by accident.

    Posted by: Just_a_guy | Jan 1, 2014 8:40:02 PM


  25. Sam, if I weren't so sure you were Rick I'd legitimately respond to what you have to say.

    Posted by: Tyler | Jan 1, 2014 11:03:35 PM


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