By Hans Pedersen, January 2017 Issue.
In 2016, fewer A-list stars shone on the silver screen in Oscar-worthy LGBTQ roles – along the lines of say, Carol or The Dallas Buyers Club – than in recent years.
Perhaps you were wowed by the inspired performances in Moonlight. But you might have been left cold by King Cobra, a film about gay porn that was frequently compared to Boogie Nights, but wasn’t half as endearing.
Movies that were well-reviewed in Echo’s pages, such as Spa Night and First Girl I Loved, are now streaming online, as well as the heart-wrenching Viva, the Molly Shannon comedy Other People and the ensemble tale The Intervention.
Still, we’ve rounded up a few additional films (available now on various streaming platforms) that we think you’ll enjoy before this year officially comes to close. In no particular order, here are five great films featuring LGBTQ themes that you may have missed in 2016.
No Men Beyond This Point
This clever mockumentary elaborates on the radical feminist idea that men are expendable. The award-winning film’s conceit is to chronicle a modern world where there really are almost no men left. It explains that in 1954 asexual reproduction became possible, and males soon became unnecessary to perpetuate the human species. In this matriarchy, women eventually stopped giving birth to men, and most couples are lesbian moms. Very few members of the male species remain.
Most of the subjects in the “documentary” are women, except for a guy in his mid-30s – a novelty – who works as a nanny. While one mom is concerned about their giggling daughters’ exposure to a rare example of a strapping male, her more progressive partner seems more comfortable with the abnormal arrangement. He’s treated in exactly the condescending way that upper-middle class families still treat their female nannies now.
Heterosexuality is a subversion to this society’s norms: it’s a fantastic one-note gimmick that works, at least for a while. Written and directed by Mark Sawers, this mock doc offers a glimpse into a world where males are an aberration.
Tab Hunter Confidential
Many recall Tab Hunter, the heartthrob who was alienated by Hollywood amid a gay scandal. Only now, for this rose-colored portrait in a documentary produced by his partner Allan Glaser, is Hunter willing to talk openly about his sexuality. That’s not to say he’s comfortable with the idea, which makes him a bit of a squirmy subject.
Hunter, who remained closeted for decades, defends anyone who wants to stay private about sexual orientation. And he never apologizes for being closeted, the way, say, “Star Trek” actor George Takei did in To Be Takei.
It’s important to remember, as the documentary explains, Hunter was raked over the coals by such folks as powerful Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper. It also outlines how AIDS cast a shadow over LGBTQ media representation in the early 1980s.
Hunter co-starred with a drag queen in John Waters’ Polyester, a career move that gave cross-dresser Divine mainstream visibility and crossover appeal, while boosting Waters’ credibility too. (The two actors appeared in a second film together, and Hunter went on to appear in the underrated Grease 2, while Divine starred in Waters’ Hairspray.)
The story unfolds as Hunter’s fascinating meteoric rise, thanks to the Hollywood machine, happens nearly as quickly as his fall: he was the victim of a bad career move, as well as severe homophobia.
This behind-the-scenes Hollywood documentary is brimming with tons of archival footage, interviews, riveting stories and a detailed discussion of Hunter’s romantic relationship with the late Anthony Perkins (Psycho), who was apparently bisexual.
Directed by Tim Kirkman, this oddly compelling character study, set against postcard-perfect landscapes, follows the story of two men who haven’t seen each other for 15 years. Dean (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe) is a Los Angeles-based graphic designer who reconnects with his ex-lover Alex (Aaron Costa Ganis) in Joshua Tree, Calif.
Once the two men reunite, the sparks immediately start to fly. Dean and Alex get to know each other over drinks and a dip in the hot tub overlooking the desert. But the truth each of their lives is cryptic: Alex is so far off the grid that he’s unsearchable on the Internet, meanwhile Dean is the one with a real secret.
Curiously, the title has little bearing on any of this, except for an eye exam in an opening scene. In a biting remark meant with zero acrimony, the ophthalmologist tells Dean, “It’s perfectly normal for people to experience a dramatic change in vision around middle age.” The crestfallen look on Dean’s face is priceless. Ultimately, the talents of the lead duo carry this wistful and surprisingly memorable film, and they deliver their lines with such naturalism that it’s easy to forget they’re acting.
Me, Myself and Her
Golden Globe-winner Maria Sole Tognazzi directed this Italian comedy about two very different women in their 50s who, in their five years together, have built quite a nice life together. Federica is an architect who is reserved and not out at work. Marina, a once-famous actress, now runs a health food restaurant.
They live together and make love in the bed they share, but what’s unclear – even to them – is whether or not they’re a couple. As Marina considers a return to acting, Federica’s eye wanders when she meets up with an old boyfriend – and the fact that she is attracted to both men and women comes into play.
Set along a gorgeous Mediterranean backdrop, this comedy about how bisexuals have too many options was released in December, and stars Sabrina Ferilli (The Great Beauty) and seven-time Donatello Award-winner Margherita Buy. The director of this endearing romp is the daughter of Ugo Tognazzi, one of the stars of the original La Cage Aux Folles.
Directed by Maya Newell, this Australian documentary about four different kids and their same-sex parents offers up an entirely different perspective on LGBTQ lives.
For example, Graham has trouble reading, despite help from his two dads. The boy encounters even more challenges when his entire family moves to Fiji, where they must decide whether to hide his adoptive parents’ same-sex relationship.
Then there’s Ebony, who yearns to be accepted at a prestigious performing arts school, but her brother’s medical issues are eclipsing her preparations for the big, important admissions audition.
In the meantime, Gus is a wrestling fan whose roughhousing is getting out of control, and he’s also testing societal boundaries for prescribed gender roles.
And finally, Matt is a boy whose two moms are very visible in the fight for marriage equality. But he is struggling to reconcile the fact one mom has faith in the Catholic Church, despite its doctrine toward the LGBTQ community, and he must decide for himself what he believes.
Ultimately one big unifying event brings all four subjects together in a big affirmation of their lives. The movie is ideal viewing for families with same-sex parents, and there are issues viewers of all ages will find relatable.