In normal scenarios, June boasts of Pride Month full of parades and parties. The “gay neighborhood” reverberates with groovy house music. Every conceivable business from your bank, sandwich shop, Cable Company, etc proudly displays their solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community. And if you pay enough attention, the Pride festival displays a dank-beer buzz, a display of the symbolic rainbow-flag on everyone’s credit cards, and even Chelsea Handler’s face on a paper fan!
In 2020, however, things are different. All public events associated with Pride Month—much like school, sports, and life in general—now stand canceled. All of us are stuck inside our homes unless there is something important needed to be done. The few eateries that have opened at all are for those who are foolish and reckless. And let us be honest here: there is a limit to dancing or singing for your friends on Zoom.
But look on the bright side: if you are not involved in anything too grave at the moment, these times are just perfect for you to finish up your queer cinema bucket list.
All of us have come a long way in from the self-pitying middle-aged gay men from “The Boys In The Band” to the sweet teen queer romance from “Love, Simon”. The wide variety of queer cinema involves the brilliance of “The Watermelon Woman” made on a shoestring budget to the glitter-bomb that “Rocketman” was. While 1982’s “Making Love” ruined the careers of two promising actors; Call Me By Your Name in 2017 catapulted its actors to star status.
Only very recently gay movie characters were portrayed to be extremely one-dimensional, doomed, and white. But in 2018 all of that changed when Barry Jenkins was awarded the Oscar for the Best Picture for “Moonlight”. It is a soulful, layered, and hopeful story of a gay Black man.
Gay cinema has a very rich history to explore, and now is the best time to do it. So sit back, relax and dive deep into the rich fray of gay cinema.
Moonlight is the only movie on this list that has earned a well-deserved Oscar for the Best Picture. In this movie, Barry Jenkins has tried to explore the themes of repression and masculinity via the character of Chiron. He is a young man growing up in Miami (played by three actors portraying his different life stages). Chiron struggles with his sexual identity in the context of a strained relationship with his heroin-addicted mother. Chiron strives to break apart from his destiny, setting into motion a journey when he encounters one of his male peers.
Todd Haynes adapted Patricia Highsmith’s novel for the big screen in this seductive and lush movie depicting a young store-worker called Therese (played by actress Rooney Mara). She finds herself attracted to an enigmatic older woman called Carol (played by actress Cate Blanchett). The duo decides to go on a road trip together on which they manifest an underlying love for each other. This ultimately leads to the ruin of Carol’s marriage while awakening suppressed desires in Therese.
BPM (Beats Per Minute) (2017)
With its setting in the early 1990s, this emotional and energetic drama involves some activists in Paris protesting the government’s slow response to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Being a screen adaptation of the powerful and dramatic work “ACT UP”, the film depicts the individual stories of those struggling to save their lives, reminding us of the urgent need for removing the affliction that affects many around the world.
Tom Hanks got his first Oscar for his portrayal of Andrew Beckett, a successful lawyer who got fired from his law firm when his AIDS was revealed to senior lawyers. Jonathan Demme’s evocative drama was one of the first mainstream movies to dissect the AIDS crisis, giving it a face and voice of familiarity to an otherwise marginalized community. The movie depicts how AIDS patients are often ignored by their neighbors at best or left to suffer and die alone at worst.
The Boys in the Band (1970)
Mart Crawley’s famous play of the same name, released nearly a year later to the Stonewall riots, “The Boys in the Band” presents a searing depiction of the complex gay experience of those times. The movie portrays the full spectrum of being gay-joy, confusion, pain, and constant self-loathing. However, the comedy manages to strike a fine balance between the toughness and tenderness for its characters’ ensemble. With its young gay men living in New York City constantly frolicking in platonic and romantic relationships, they unknowingly spark a cultural revolution.