Let’s put the lube away for a second and pick up a bucket of popcorn and talk about movies. And not the ones taking place in the red-light district, where you would want to keep the lube handy…
Pardon me a moment.
Okay, back now. Movies. I’m giving you five movies I feel you need to watch, being a representative of the gay community. Disclaimer: I’m not picking gay-only movies here. To be frank, there aren’t a lot of great queer flicks out there. I feel that whenever the writer of your project is also the director and has an on-screen role of any sort, you’re just asking for trouble. For that reason there aren’t many gay characters in this list – I haven’t found many movies where there aren’t some blatant stereotypes in play.
I’m picking movies that got me through some rough times and helped shape me into the person I am today. That means both movies with cultural significance and just plain funny movies that cheer you up when you’re down. Starting with…
Serial Mom dir. John Waters
I’m kicking off this list with a John Waters movie, because he is the most prolific queer director of our time – not listing one of his movies would be an affront to the artform. But I’m not suggesting the John Waters movie you might be thinking of. Dog doo’s just never been a box office draw for me.
Serial Mom is a dark comedy about a mom (Kathleen Turner) who goes apeshit crazy whenever her family is mildly inconvenienced. But you root for her and have relatively no sympathy for the victims. You’ll cheer when she gouges the liver out of the dude who stood her daughter up.
She crank calls a neighbor who cut her off in the parking lot. Wouldn’t you? It makes you think back to the people who bullied you growing up and what you’d love to do to them if it weren’t, you know, illegal.
Bonus cute points for Matthew Lillard in that super 90s-boy-band hairdo.
Best Line: “Is this the Cocksucker residence?… Isn’t this 4215 Pussy Way? … Now let me check the ZIP code — Two-One-Two-FUCK-YOU!”
“Is this the Cocksucker residence?… Isn’t this 4215 Pussy Way? … Now let me check the ZIP code — Two-One-Two-FUCK-YOU!”
Beautiful Thing dir. Hettie Macdonald
I have a hard time putting actual “queer cinema” in this list. I’ve seen so many that are just full of tropes – the straight best friend, the gay-bashing scene, the relationship on the brink of collapse.
Beautiful Thing touches some of these tropes, but in a non in-your-face way. The straight best friend is understandable because Ste, the main character, is so totally alone, of course his best friend will be straight.
He feels there’s no one else. The abuse comes from Ste’s father, but not because of the boy’s sexuality (he’s just a pathetic asshole). When we finally get to the love story, you’re going to be hard-pressed not to see a little of yourself by the time the credits roll.
“I’m happy when I’m with you…”
Death Becomes Her dir. Robert Zemeckis
Another dark comedy, this one much more bitchy. Meryl Streep as Madeline, a has-been actress (playing against type) and Goldie Hawn as her homicidal “friend” Helen. Madeline stole Helen’s fiancee years ago and Helen’s held a bit of a grudge.
They’ve both taken a potion that gives them immortality and reverses the decades of aging and depression – then they both “die” in unfortunate incidents shortly thereafter, only to remain very active in their afterlife. Hilarity ensues.
I can’t understand why this movie flopped when it came out in 1992, but maybe that’s because I’m the target audience – a gay dude with a bitchy streak. The sassy quips and snapbacks are wonderful moments even before the shotgun comes out.
That was kind of spoiler-y, but you need the context for the Best Line – Goldie’s character was just shot in the gut by Meryl, only to get back up to argue some more. Madeline points out the gaping midsection of her enemy:
“You’re a fraud, Helen. You’re a walking lie, and I can see right through you!”
When We Rise dir. Gus Van Sant, Dee Rees, Thomas Schlamme, Dustin Lance Black
I love watching historical drama. As documentarian Ken Burns once said, “You can’t begin to know where you’re headed until you know where you’re from.”
When We Rise is an four-part miniseries documenting LGBT rights advocacy from the Stonewall Riots, through the AIDS crisis, to the present day. To watch it is to get a better understanding of how we as a community have progressed, even in these days where it seems we may be going backwards.
With there being four different directors, one for each segment, there are pacing problems and sometimes the star-studded casting feels unnecessary – I felt I would have connected better with unknowns rather than saying “Oh, hi Whoopi, hi Rosie” – it’s the history, the knowledge that these events were real, these people fought for us… that makes it must-watch.
“It’s lonely, and it’s tough, and nobody believes in you until after you’ve succeeded. You need to learn that.”
Fried Green Tomatoes dir. Jon Avnet
For some critics, Fannie Flagg’s original novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe had a more overt lesbian intonation that was thinned out for the 1991 feature film. If anything, there was more about the plight of black people in that area that was left on the cutting room floor.
But, to the movie. The main plot is set in 1920s-30s Alabama and tells the story of two women and their friendship in the face of the rampant sexism, racism and violence of the Deep South. Their story is told by Ninny (Jessica Tandy) in the present-day, the old-folks-home buddy of downtrodden housewife Evelyn (Kathy Bates).
If you’re heavy into subtext, you might see the food fight scene between Ruth (Mary-Louise Parker) and Idgie (Mary Stuart Masterson) as deeply intimate. But, to be honest, I’ve read the book and watched the movie a dozen or more times – I just don’t see a creative need for the women to be openly gay, and there was little subtext for me to correlate.
LGBT “whitewashing” aside, this is a charming movie that proves love and friendship are intertwined and cross generations. Love is love, no matter who expresses it or how they express it.
“A heart can be broken, but it keeps on beating just the same.”
Okay, all art is subjective – I know many of you won’t agree with my choices or think I missed many other titles that may be more deserving for a “must-watch” list.
But the purpose of lists is discovery, so here’s your chance to tell me – in the comments – which five would you pick?