What a year 2013 was for queer movies! We had no-holds-barred lesbian sex scenes in Irish cinemas, Judi Dench giving her best Irish mammy of a gay son, and Michael Douglas gettin’ jiggy with Matt Damon behind some very shiny candelabra. But what was the number one queer film last year? Here to count down his top ten titles, is The Outmost’s resident movie hack, Simon Mernagh.
10. Geography Club
Critics over at Rotten Tomatoes have rather unfairly deemed Geography Club a ‘rotten’ film. Harsh much? It’s far from awful, and underneath the clichés and clunky performances there’s commendable intent – Geography Club strives to redress the chronic dearth of movies that focus squarely on queer adolescents in movies and their issues. Sure, it’s a lesser Heathers, but Geography Club’s mere existence scores it an A for effort.
9. In the Name Of…
Débuting at this year’s Kinopolis Polish Film Festival, In the Name Of… examines attitudes towards homosexuality in the borderline zealous context of Catholic Poland. The casual, insidious homophobia on display is a bleak but ultimately necessary indictment of a troubled country in the thrall of draconian conservative thought. Occasionally unfocused and sporting a divisive ending, In the Name Of… remains a sobering, harrowing accomplishment for queer movies this year.
8. Blue is the Warmest Colour
At a colossal three hours long, Blue is the Warmest Colour should come with a deep vein thrombosis warning. But behind the dispiriting runtime there is a beautiful tale – the coming-of-age sexual revolutions of two women, and their eventual relationship breakdown years later. A half-hour haircut from director Abdellatif Kenchiche would have helped tremendously, but Blue is the Warmest Colour undoubtedly deserves its Palme d’Or.
7. I’m So Excited!
Pedro Almodóvar’s name was made with 1988’s masterful Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, but he’s produced enormously frightening and weird (albeit fascinating) movies since. I’m So Excited! is a return to his hilarious roots; outrageously camp while simultaneously offering bundles of biting satire about class differences, it’s much more than its Pointer Sisters-inspired title may suggest. In short, it’s queer Airplane!
6. Kill Your Darlings
Daniel Radcliffe is an outspoken gay ally, so his first queer movie role was only a matter of movies away. Capturing the interior lives of of writers is never easy, but Radcliffe’s depiction of influential beat poet Allen Ginsberg demonstrates a level of tenderness previously unseen. With a fantastic supporting cast and lusciously nuanced ’70s detail, Kill Your Darlings underscores the literary ructions erupting from Columbia University with a palpable sense of humanity.
5. Cloud Atlas
Six non-linear and distinct stories spread across thousands of years, Cloud Atlas boasts a revolving cavalcade of stars each playing a range of genders, races and even species. Although individual narratives culminate in an explosion of heady sci-fi spirituality, the 1936 Cambridge account of lost gay love packs the knockout emotional punch. Co-director Lana Wachowski is also noteworthy as perhaps the most influential transgender person in Hollywood.
4. Any Day Now
Okay, so this might be cheating – Any Day Now is technically a 2012 release, but its headline slot at Dublin’s GAZE International LGBT Film Festival, combined with its extended stay at the city’s Screen Cinema, earns its spot on the list. Writer-director Travis Fine’s idea of a drag queen and closeted lawyer-couple adopting a disabled kid could easily have spiralled into cloying sappiness, but instead it’s a gut-wrenching story of unfaltering love in a backwards society.
Based on Martin Sixsmith’s book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee (itself an affecting read), Philomena’s strength lies in its subtlety. Much like Judi Dench’s eponymous Irish mammy in search of her long lost gay son, the film is a tragic if humble affair, highlighting international and domestic injustices committed by the Catholic Church without lampooning or pointing an accusatory finger. Ignore the right-wing clowns feigning offence and experience the emotional onslaught that is Philomena.
2. Behind the Candelabra
A film so bombastically flamboyant it was confined to televisions in the States (and select indie cinemas here in Ireland), Behind the Candelabra juggles the baroque razzamatazz of entertainer Liberace’s public image with his fractured personal life with triumphant, glamorous success. In a perfect (read: less prejudiced) world, Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Rob Lowe and director Steven Soderbergh would all bag Oscars for this.
1. Frances Ha
Queen of the queer crop for 2013 is the flawless Frances Ha. A snappy, 86-minute exercise in cinematic pleasure, it’s the staggering honesty coupled with a career-defining performance from Greta Gerwig that make this black-and-white movie 2013’s LGBT must see. The unfulfilled dreams of youth may be a well-trodden theme, but Frances Ha travels the path with aplomb.
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