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Copied from my own journal; here are some notes on queer movies I've watched over the past year and a half or so. I generally get them from Netflix. After watching this many queer movies, I take away points for: Gay bashings, unhappy endings, self-harm, misogyny, and films that have all white people in them.



Beautiful Boxer 2004

My roommate and I declared this "one of the better queer movies". It's based on a true story of a boxer in Thailand who is transgender. It was a bit slow in the beginning but soon I was emotionally invested in the story of Toom's life from childhood onward. With the support of a mentor, Toom wears make up in the ring and has a successful kick boxing career. Eventually she becomes famous, earns money and transitions to being to a woman. Her parents are mostly supportive, apparently due to their religious beliefs. English subtitles.

Release 2010.

Anti-rec due to graphic violence, over-the-top angst, and unbelievability. This is the story of a priest who goes to prison for a crime he's committed, and while there falls in love with a guard. The love story part is pretty sweet and moving-- a very forbidden love and they are in constant fear of getting caught (Aside: I am informed that such a relationship is a 1st degree sexual assault in Wisconsin under the prevention of prison rape act). The tense, moody atmosphere is also effective, and I thought the performances were good. The other inmates think that the priest is a pedophile and are out to get him. The other guards and the warden are corrupt-- I couldn't figure out why-- and let the other inmates run wild. The plot hangs on threads that are just too thin; the violence is gross; and the ending sucks. It was also strangely hard to hear, but there are subtitles.

The Celluloid Closet - 1995. Documentary.

I loved this movie! It is a very engaging history of queer characters in film. Many wonderful interviews, many movie clips from silent films onward. Certain people watch films searching for coded messages, in the same way that slash fans have slash goggles. Certain facts are revealed that I almost don't want to spoil you for if you haven't seen this movie! Some of the films are obscure and some are very famous. At times funny and poignant. Highly recommended.

XXY - Spanish language with English subtitles. 2007, not rated. Streaming on Netflix.

There aren't many stories about intersex people, and this one is great. Alex is a kid in Uruguay, being raised as a girl but who knows that she is intersex. Some friends of her mother's come to visit, including a teenage boy that she pursues sexually. This film uses silence and quiet well, and is an understated movie about a difficult subject. It is well-acted and the emotions really carry through. I also found it progressive: it subtly argues against a gender binary, and explicitly argues against surgery for intersex people.
There is one very upsetting scene at about 1:01 that includes an assault and (presumed) attempted rape of Alex by some local boys.

The Kids are All Right 2010. R.

I hated this movie! Anti-rec! I have spoken to at least one person who liked it, though, so YMMV.

Julianne Moore and Annette Bening play married lesbians with two teenage kids. The kids look up and contact their sperm donor, played by Mark Ruffalo. Drama ensues and he becomes intertwined in their lives in various ways.

The particular reason I hated this movie is because every character was unlikeable. It was a type of movie where there are problems, the people fight (and don't really make up), then there are more problems, and more, and eventually everything comes to a head. We're supposed to believe the members of this family love each other, but we're never really shown that-- they just seem annoyed to be around each other. Mark Ruffalo's character was likeable some of the time if only because he smiled and seemed to be having fun with his life, unlike everyone else. This movie has also been criticized by some queer people for other reasons, which I think are legitimate, but I hated it because it was simply not fun or enjoyable to watch. It's listed as both "comedy" and "drama" but I didn't think it was funny at all!

Desert Hearts 1985. R. Streaming on Netflix.

This was a breath of fresh air, an antidote to The Kids are All Right, and one of the more realistic movies about lesbians that I've seen. Vivian Bell, a professor, travels to Reno for a quickie divorce in 1959. She stays at a ranch to establish residency and while there, meets Cay, a young woman who makes no secret about her sexuality. The romance develops slowly, the sex scene is good, and the major fight is about outness/visibility. The minor/supporting characters (Kay's friends and family) are all very interesting characters. Recommended.


The Times of Harvey Milk Documentary film. 1984.

I liked this better than the biopic Milk (which I did like)! This documentary focuses on Harvey Milk's political life, interviewing people he worked with and using a lot of original footage. It is GREAT. Unlike the biopic, it focuses on Milk's talent of coalition building and media savvy, and does not focus on his personal life. There are great interviews with three lesbians and a straight ally (a union man), as well as gay men he worked with. It also covers the riots that happened after Dan White's sentencing. Really excellent film; it moves along quickly and is full of wonderful content.

I Love You Phillip Morris 2009. R.

I think this is mis-titled; it has nothing to do with tobacco or cigarettes. It's based on a true story and Phillip Morris is the actual guy's name. Jim Carrey plays Steven Russel, a gay con man who winds up in prison after running many ridiculous cons to support his expensive lifestyle. While in prison he courts Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor) in a delightfully romantic and funny way-- by sending notes and gifts through other prisoners, etc. When he gets out of prison the cons continue. I don't want to spoil this movie too much because it is wild. It is an indie-type comedy a la Juno, but with a whole lot of gayness, and I LOVED it. There is some self-harm in this movie, mostly as part of escape attempts or cons.

D.E.B.S. 2004, PG-13

This movie is cheesy fun goodness! It is about a spy group made up of young women who are recruited from a secret test embedded in the SAT. They go to a special college-type spy school where they try to earn their stripes and wear pleated skirts. Amy breaks up with her boyfriend for reasons she doesn't entirely understand, and is facing some other existential crises, when she runs into the highly dangerous supervillain Lucy Diamond on a mission. Lucy Diamond sees something in Amy and the two fall in love. Family friendly. Recommended if you like The Middleman and queer comedies and awesome things.

Kinky Boots 2005 PG-13 starring Chiweitel Ejiofor!

Charlie Price takes over his father's shoe factory only to learn that it is failing. To save it, he decides to make boots for drag queens, after a chance encounter with Lola, a drag queen in London whom he befriends. Lola comes to Northampton and helps design boots to be shown in Milan. This is a very cute, feel-good movie, and of course I LOVE Ejiofor and will see anything that he is in. A few parts felt contrived but overall I really enjoyed this. Recommended.

Saving Face 2004, Rated R.

I watched this on a rec and I loved it! There is everything to like about this movie. It is about a young Chinese-American woman, Wil, who is part of a tightly-knit community, is a successful surgeon, and is a lesbian, but not out to her family. She begins a relationship with another Chinese-American woman in her community, Vivian. Meanwhile Wil's mother gets kicked out of the family house for being pregnant and unmarried, and moves in with Wil. So, there is family drama and comedy as Wil's mom tries to find a man to please her own parents, Wil tries to come out to her mom to please her girlfriend, etc. There are almost no white people in this movie. Parts of the movie are in Chinese with English subtitles-- it is particularly cool with Wil and her mom have a conversation that is half in English, half in Chinese. This is an upbeat, romantic movie.

Outing Riley 2004. Bonus point for Nathan Fillion as one of the brothers.

Mostly I liked this movie, it's a funny story about an Irish Catholic man in Chicago who is trying to come out to his brothers. The actors were good, and similar to Saving Face, it was light-hearted and had themes of being closeted vs. out in terms of family and a romantic relationship (where one partner in the relationship is more out than the other). This movie was white and male, though, and I would have liked it better if one extended scene had been cut or rewritten: a scene where two brothers, as a prank, go spy on a neighbor woman (who is naked) through her skylight. This was played for laughs, as harmless/boyish fun, but it skeeved me out completely. The rest of the movie was very funny, and had some realistic moments, so that scene was just a huge disappointment; maybe if you watch this film you can fast forward through that part.

Show Me Love 1998. Swedish with English subtitles.

A story about lesbians in high school. Agnes is unpopular, Elin is popluar; they spin in orbit around each other through the movie. It's sweet and romantic. There is high school drama, parties, fights, etc. Warning for a brief scene of self-harm. Not a great film but I enjoyed it for what it was.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert starring Hugo Weaving.

Two drag queens and a trans woman go across the Outback in a bus to perform at a far-off hotel. I know this is an iconic movie but I thought it was boring; at least half an hour could have been cut out of the movie without affecting the plot at all. My roommate calls this type of film "an indie movie where nothing happens," which is a type of film I sometimes enjoy, but not this time. Also it has some problems with depictions of race, and there is a gay bashing in one of the small towns.

Aimee and Jaguar - German with English subtitles.

A true story about a Nazi officer's wife and a Jewish journalist who fall in love in Berlin in 1943. As you can imagine, it does not have a happy ending. It's not the lesbianism that's a problem: it's that one of the lovers is Jewish. There are some very funny, sweet, and dramatic moments in this movie, and I liked that it's a war movie about queer women (perhaps the only one?), but it's depressing as hell. The actors are wonderful, charismatic women; there were hardly any men in this movie at all.

Big Eden PG-13.

A New York artist returns to his rural hometown to take care of his grandfather. There he encounters his high school best friend/crush, nosy but good-hearted townsfolk, and a shy storekeeper. I didn't much like the lead actor/character in this film (Ayre Goss/Henry Hart), otherwise I would have liked it more. He just wasn't interesting to me; the character never really took shape. The whole movie had a very "Hallmark Hall of Fame" feel--overly sentimental, washed in gold light, everyone tries to be nice to each other all the time. There is no overt homophobia and I don't think the word "gay" is ever actually said by anyone. I did like that one of the gay characters is Native American, but I wondered why he is apparently the *only* Native person in the town. His character doesn't much take shape either, partly because he's so shy that he doesn't speak hardly at all. A love story about two shy people can work in a film (see Amelie) but it didn't quite work here. It's a very family-friendly movie, a nice movie, but nothing special.

Jeffrey 1995. Steven Webber, Patrick Stewart, Michael T. Weiss.

Jeffrey gives up sex partly out of anxiety about AIDS. Of course it is right then that he meets somebody he's very interested in. This is a comedy with a lot of famous actors, based on a play. It's sometimes bizzare and over-the-top. It is chiefly about white gay men in New York in the 90s. This film led me to start using the term "token gay bashing" because after watching all these movies, the bashing depicted in this film seemed totally unnecessary! There for token purposes. Anyways, I liked it, it was funny and had a happy ending (with some sadness), and Patrick Stewart was just awesome.

Breakfast with Scot starring that guy from the show Ed (Tom Cavanagh). 2007. PG-13.

I loved this movie! Eric is an ex-hockey player, now a sportscaster for TV. He lives with his boyfriend Sam but is not out at work. Eric and Sam take custody of Scot, a boy who likes wearing makeup, pink t-shirts, etc. The kid in this movie is really great! Both men are uncomfortable suddenly being parents, and Eric is especially uncomfortable with Scot's unabashed gender non-conformity. But, it's a funny and upbeat movie, everything works out fine as you expect it to, etc.

Dorian's Blues

Ugh, Dorian's ManPain and Daddy Issues. Skip this one. I did like Dorian's brother, a good-natured jock who treats Dorian well, and the prostitute who wanted to be a singer. Everyone else was horrible.

Small Town Gay Bar - Documentary.

I got part way into this one and had to stop. It's about a gay bar in Mississippi and was fine at first, but then it started talking about extreme acts of violence toward queer people, and gave Fred Phelps screen time. I turned it off.

The Bubble

I liked this one a lot up until the last 10 or 20 minutes. The film takes place in Tel Aviv and is about Noam and his roommates. Noam falls in love with a Palestinian man named Ashraf. It is beautifully shot and acted, has interesting characters, and I liked seeing the love affairs, jobs, political groups, and daily lives of these people. And then the last 20 minutes are like HOPE IS GONE let's all go eat worms. English subtitles.

La Mission starring Benjamin Bratt.

This is mostly about the dad of a gay kid, Hispanic culture, masculinity, and the Mission district in San Fransisco. The actors are great. There are very few white people in it, I think only one white character with a name. There is domestic and other kinds of violence in this film, and angst, but I liked it; it was beautifully shot and well acted. Bechdel fail, but I loved the one woman in the film with a major part, Erika Alexander.

The Naked Civil Servant starring John Hurt. TV movie.

A biopic about an effeminate British socialite, Quentin Crisp, in the 1930s and 40s. This movie was made in the 70s and was way ahead of its time and clearly Quentin Crisp was way ahead of his time. Witty. Bechdel fail, full of white people. Great performance.

Latter Days

About a gay guy in LA who tries to seduce a Mormon missionary who moves in next door. Mostly this movie was heartwarming and made me go AWWWWW. There were some sad and even tense moments but I loved it. There were people of color and HIV positive characters in this movie, and interesting women (but no lesbians), bonus points for Amber Benson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Itty Bitty Titty Committee

Cute story about a young lesbian who falls in with some radical feminists and has adventures with spray paint, has love affairs, etc. I liked it. Bechdel mega pass obviously. Also has a trans character, a bisexual character, several characters of color.

Beautiful Daughters

A 46-minute documentary about trans women who are putting on a production of the Vagina Monologues. Quite good.

Different for Girls

A love story about a trans woman, Kim, and Prentice, her old friend from school who she meets again by chance. This romance was surprisingly affecting. Cute movie. Bechdel pass.
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