Looking Back 2016

Check out these 10 excellent films that celebrated gayness in 2016

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As the days get shorter, and Trump gets nearer, movie fans will need more than a few good titles to curl up with beside the fire. With awards season just around the corner, here’s a special look at ten excellent films that came out this year that fans of great cinema and all things LGBTQ will not want to miss.

1. Moonlight

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Moonlight might just be the best LGBT-themed film since Brokeback Mountain. Writer-director Barry Jenkins crafts a film of both immense emotional power and technical prowess. The story of a young, gay, African-American boy named Chiron, Moonlight follows its protagonist at three distinctive stages in life with remarkable subtlety. The film confronts views of gay men within the African-American community, and in a larger sense, the ongoing struggle gay men face reconciling their masculinity with their sexual orientation. The film also features stunning turns by Trevante Rhodes as Chiron and Naomie Harris as his drug-addicted mother. Moonlight is a tremendous achievement, and just as it carries on the pedigree of Brokeback Mountain, watch for it to carry on the awards tradition as well.

2. X-Men: Apocalypse

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Independence Day: Resurgence featured a happy gay couple amid an alien invasion. Star Trek Beyond featured a hug between an implied gay couple.

2016 featured a new visibility for gay people in summer blockbuster fare, even if the movies weren’t exactly entertaining to watch. One film did, however, continue on a franchise tradition of detailing the plight of the LGBTQ community, at least metaphorically. X-Men: Apocalypse may not be the best outing for the super powered mutants/metaphor for gays, but it sure is a fun one. It also takes said symbolism in some interesting directions. Much as the mutants have gained greater freedom and visibility, so have we. With all this new mutant-gay visibility, where does that put us? And how will we one day look back on the mistakes of our lives? Perhaps most tellingly, Apocalypse introduces a band of young mutants training under the veterans of the X-Men—a subtle reminder that just as our community had a responsibility to fight for each other, so do we have an obligation to pass on the wisdom of the fight to a new generation.

3. Loving

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Loving might not feature gay characters, but the film nevertheless cinephiles might one day regard it as the first narrative film about the fight for marriage equality. The struggle has much deeper roots than the 2004 Gavin Newsom San Francisco marriages or Vermont Civil Unions.

The real fight for marriage equality began with miscegenation, and Loving recounts the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple and a court battle that led them all the way to the Supreme Court. Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton deliver profound performances in this dramatization directed by Jeff Nichols. The plight of the Lovings mirrors that of so many contemporary same-sex couples, reminding audiences that marriage equality isn’t just a triumph for the LGBT community—it’s a triumph for all of America.

4. Lazy Eye

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Two middle-aged gay men rekindle a decades-old love in perhaps one of the most surprising romantic comedies of the year, Lazy Eye. Written and directed by Tim Kirkman. The film finds its protagonist, Dean, struggling to adapt to a new pair of glasses when an email from old flame Alex makes him nostalgic for his youth. The two spend a weekend together rekindling passions in a Joshua Tree cabin, and must face the choices that led them to this point in life.

Lazy Eye spurns the clichés of so many other romantic comedies, precisely by having Alex and Dean strip away at their own idealized notions of one another. Facing a past love doesn’t just mean confronting him at a different point in life—it means confronting yourself. The film also treats the sexuality of its main characters as incidental; Lazy Eye isn’t a movie about being gay; it’s about growing up.

5. Tab Hunter Confidential

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First things first: Tab Hunter Confidential first played film festivals in 2015. It did not, however, get wide release until this year, when Netflix added it to their growing library of excellent first-run distribution.

The documentary spotlights former matinee idol Tab Hunter, a squeaky-clean hunk that charmed America with his good looks, crooning voice and appearances in over 40 movies. Hunter, however, had to hide his sexuality during most of his Hollywood days before changing tastes coupled with age thrust him into obscurity.

Tab Hunter Confidential suffers from loving its subject a bit too much. The film totally ignores Hunter’s vocal opposition to marriage equality in the 2000s and bashes Hunter’s ex-boyfriend and fellow closet case Anthony Perkins. That said, it does shed light on the era of closeted Hollywood, the fickleness of showbiz, and just how far LGBTQ has advanced.

6. Kiki

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Paris is Burning remains one of the seminal films of early Queer Cinema, and a powerful artifact of late 80s New York. Amid the ravages of AIDS, gay culture began to seep into the mainstream, courtesy of a number of underground drag balls predominantly hosted by drag queens of color. Kiki picks up the subculture 25 years later, in a semi-sequel to the original film.

The new documentary finds the drag ball scene in full fabulousness, and highlights the evolution of LGBTQ equality, as well as where the culture has fallen short. Within poor communities of color, being gay still has its perils. Likewise, the trans community has only now begun to make the  same kind of forward strides as their cis-gendered brothers and sisters. Just as Paris is Burning did so many years ago, Kiki takes on its subjects with unyielding starkness and startling intimacy. The film has its share of big laughs, and despite the frightening obstacles that people of color and the trans community face, Kiki still manages to find a sense of fun and hope—the same quality that has made Paris is Burning such an enduring classic.

7. The Intervention

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Actress Clea DuVall makes a splendid debut as a writer-director with her comedy The Intervention. She also gives a fine performance in the film alongside Cobie Smulders, Melanie Lynskey, Jason Ritter and Natasha Lyonne. What starts as a weekend getaway for four couples turns into an all-out marriage referendum, for pairings both gay and straight. What follows is a very funny—and at times, moving—story with fine performances to boot.

The Intervention covers ground similar to that of The Big Chill or any number of other relationship comedies which find groups of friends frustrated by age and life. DuVall, however, imbues it with refreshingly modern characters (including a lesbian couple), witty dialogue and sincerity that always engages the audience. DuVall has given fine performances in films like Girl, Interrupted and The Slaughter Rule, though The Intervention suggests her greatest role might lay in front of her, and behind the camera.

8. King Cobra

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In a post-Boogie Nights world, adult film actors have gained a new level of mystique as the embodiment of sex and glamour. The same goes for movies about performers, including King Cobra, a film smart enough to know that working in porn isn’t all sex and parties. Based on a real life murder case that entangled gay porn star Brett Corrigan, King Cobra removes many of the common illusions of the porn mystique, revealing it as an exploitive business that puts money before all else, including sanity. Newcomer Garett Clayton makes an unsurprisingly sexy (and appropriately gross) debut, though the real star turn goes to Christian Slater, a former heartthrob himself who emerges as a thoughtful and compelling character actor.

9. Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures

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Cinematic hellraisers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato strike again. The duo behind Inside Deep Throat, Party Monster and The Eyes of Tammy Faye bring their polished and irreverent style to Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures. The documentary recounts the life and career of controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, whose erotic images shocked the world.

The film plays Mapplethorpe as a total publicity hound, if a talented one. The photog spent his days either chasing after celebrities or composing purposefully lurid and homoerotic content. His opportunism, ambition and sexual obsessions made Mapplethorpe into a difficult man, though not an uninteresting one. Bailey and Barbato, also known for salacious content and celebrity worship, no doubt find Mapplethorpe an inspiration. Fortunately, unlike their subject, the directors know how to craft a film for value beyond the provocative.

10. Other People

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Molly Shannon makes a remarkable dramatic turn in Other People, the first feature from writer-director Chris Kelly. Shannon’s performance might get the accolades, and even awards consideration, though the movie belongs to Jesse Plemons. Plemons plays David, a struggling writer who returns to his Sacramento family home as his mother battles the final stages of cancer. Making matters all the more uncomfortable, his conservative, religious family disapproves of his being gay.

Though the premise might sound like the plot of an emotionally draining Lifetime movie—and in some ways it is—Other People has enough genuine heart and uproarious laughs to keep the tears well punctuated. An outstanding cast adds to the entertainment factor, and much like several of the other films mentioned here, David’s sexuality is more a passing thought than a focal point. Still, the movie doesn’t rob him of his sex drive or romantic prospects. Even if Other People is uneven at times, it more than makes up for it with some big laughs, and two exceptional performances from Pelmons and Shannon.

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22 Comments

  • Southstguy

    Any list that puts the HORRIBLE King Cobra over Other People in invalid.

  • zaneymcbanes

    Nice list. The author really brought in some outside ones I wouldn’t have thought of. And I love the King Cobra love. I thought it had a complex view of its subject matter, and had some really fine acting.

    Being 17 by Andre Techine was also really good and I haven’t heard a lot of people talking about it.

  • crowebobby

    “Brooklyn Bizarre” was very flawed, but Charlie Himmelstein (and his to-die-for cock) are worth the viewing.

  • mujerado

    @Southstguy: The list doesn’t seem to be in order of quality, just a straightforward list of titles the author found compelling. No need to bash one in favor of another.

  • rcktetr

    You guys got me w the pic of James Franco and another hot guy w their shirts off and arms sound each other. Woah baby. Sexi af. Lol

  • PRINCE OF SNARKNESS aka DIVKID

    But the days are getting LONGER tho

    And have porn actors as a group ever been thought of embodying “glamour” and “mystique”? I’d aver that all “mystique” has gone upon a audience being on intimate terms with ones internal organs

  • icntblvit

    “Two middle-aged gay men in Lazy Eye” DAVID REDDISH are you 15 years old?

  • Southstguy

    @mujerado: It’s a terrible film, regardless of any comparisons

  • icntblvit

    “Other People” horrible,horrible,horrible

  • Herman75

    Closet Monster
    Looking the Movie
    Spa Night
    Being 17
    The Falls Testament of Love

  • Herman75

    ^
    Also, Tab Hunter Confidential includes Debbie Reynolds segments as well as other notable celebs from that era.
    Moonlight is clearly in a class by itself. Saw it twice.

  • Josh447

    Haven’t seen King Cobra but thoroughly enjoyed the Tab Hunter flick. He was really candid and I loved his happy go lucky attitude though he didn’t have an easy time of it.

  • Steven

    I watched Other People last night after reading this article. Thanks for that recommendation. We loved it. It would be nice if you could include a link or reference to where it can be watched. I found Other People on Netflix but not sure where to see some of the others. I’d like to find King Cobra and Moonlight.

  • Herman75

    @Josh447: I didn’t hear about their kickstarter until it was too late. Made sure to order the DVD which arrived last week. The two leads are awesome. For such a tiny budget, The Falls trilogy was so good!

  • cancorv

    Yes, thanks Queerty for the list. Always welcome. I’ve just watched a gay film online that was made in January 2016, so I’d certainly include it in the best 10 gay films I’ve seen in the last 12 months, regardless of when they were made.

    It’s here: http://gymnop.blogspot.cz/2017/01/baisers-caches-2016-gay-film.html

    And it is in French with English subtitles that have been machine translated. They are good enough and the film is outstanding enough to warrant the effort that is sometimes needed to right the translations.

  • Bob LaBlah

    I’m pulling for Moonlight. It was the little movie that could, just like the little engine going round the mountain. The only thing you could do was sit back and enjoy it. Your missing a treat in case you haven’t seen it yet. As for Franco and King Cobra the last I heard it went strait to video stream which says a lot about its quality to me.

  • ErikO

    Loving is not about LGBT people at all so why is it on this list?

  • ErikO

    Robert Mapplethorpe was bisexual, not gay, and it’s well known he was a fame wh0re, and he was extremely r @ c i s t towards black men.

  • John

    What? No “Hurricane Bianca”? Hmm, maybe it was made in 2015. (sarcasm guys)

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