The highs and lows of 2012's LGBT cinema
by Gary M. Kramer
Dec 27, 2012 | 692 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
This year in queer film was certainly peculiar, with stunning dramas about addiction and adoption to a dazzling nonfiction film about the mobilization efforts of ACT UP. Oddly, there were fewer “coming-out” films and many edgier teen films than in recent years. While filmmakers often took chances — some of which did not pay off — there were quite a few gems when you look back on 50-plus films with LGBT content that received theatrical release. Here’s a rundown:

Queer Film of the Year

Both “Any Day Now,” about a gay couple adopting a teen with Down syndrome, and “Keep the Lights On,” about two codependent lovers, one of whom spirals into addiction, told gritty gay stories with tremendous grace. Gay youth was represented by the sexually active high-school teens in “Perks of Being a Wallflower,” starring out actor Ezra Miller, while the post-college crew in Patrik-Ian Polk’s “The Skinny” educated audiences about African-American history and how to properly prepare for anal sex. But perhaps the Queer Film of the Year is the ambitious “Cloud Atlas.” The film featured some gay characters, various cross-dressing and gender-bending, and one of the three directors of this big-budget spectacle is transgender Lana Wachowski.

Doc of the Year

“United in Anger” chronicled the work of ACT UP, but it was not nearly as strong or powerful as one of the year’s best films, the remarkable “How to Survive a Plague,” which deftly illustrated how ACT UP mobilized itself and made critical changes in the care of HIV-positive individuals. And a dishonorable mention to “Bully,” a nonfiction film that missed an important opportunity to address this nationwide problem, focusing only briefly on one lesbian student who was abused by her peers.

Gay-for-Pay Performance

Many straight actors played gay and this year was a bumper crop of great performances. Javier Bardem was sexy and sinister as the villain in “Skyfall” and Haley Joel Osment displayed his comic talents in hot pants in “Sassy Pants.” Even Matthew McConaughey had a memorable gay supporting role — and not just because he appeared naked and hogtied — in “The Paperboy.” Danish actor Thure Lindhardt was superb in Ira Sachs’ elegiac “Keep the Lights On.” But the best performance by a straight actor in a gay role this year was Jack Black’s Oscar-worthy turn as the title character in the killer film “Bernie.”

Queer Twists

There were all kinds of queer encounters on cinema screens this year. “The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye” vividly documented the gender-bending musicians. “Farewell, My Queen” re-imagined Marie Antoinette in Sapphic splendor and “Unforgivable” followed four lovers/friends who tested their sexual permutations. But perhaps the oddest film of 2012 was the one first made in 1971. Ted Kotcheff’s “Wake in Fright,” featuring out actor Gary Bond getting into trouble in the outback, was the wildest, weirdest and most wonderful queer thriller of 2012.

Gay Director of the Year

Gay filmmakers produced a handful of good films that did not necessarily feature queer characters. Terence Davies’ “The Deep Blue Sea” was a beautifully made drama about heartbreak, while Todd Graff’s “Joyful Noise” was a tuneful celebration featuring queer icons Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton. There was also some fun to be had in the smutty comedy “For a Good Time, Call ... ” which had Justin Long playing the gay BFF who hooks up the two female phone-sex workers. But the naughty “Hysteria,” directed by out filmmaker Tanya Wexler and starring openly gay Rupert Everett, was a stimulating sex comedy about vibrators — from a story by the Daily News’ Howard Gensler — set in the Victorian era.

Worst Queer Film of the Year

There were a handful of truly offensive films in 2012. The gay character in “Beloved” leads a woman on, and even has sex with her, after confessing he is HIV-positive. In “Little White Lies,” a man confesses his attraction to his longtime friend, only to face repeated episodes of homophobia from him. Lesbians were cast in a bad light in “Your Sister’s Sister,” where a woman fresh out of a seven-year same-sex relationship poked holes in a condom to get pregnant by her sister’s best friend, whom she sleeps with one night. But the truly worst queer film this year was “Jack and Diane,” an unwatchable romantic drama that featured strange monsters, stranger characters and other horrors too numerous to mention. Avoid at all costs.

Philly Missed

Several films about characters exploring their sexual identities missed Philadelphia, but viewers should seek out these titles on DVD or VOD. Two of the best are the subtle coming-of-age dramas “Mosquita y Mari,” about two Latina-high schoolers, and the smart adaptation of Peter Cameron’s novel “Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You.” “Sexual Chronicles of a French Family” chronicles, well, the erotic experiences of members of a French family, including a son’s threesomes. And while James Franco’s Hart Crane film, “Broken Tower,” failed under the weight of its pretensions, arguably the best queer film that missed Philly was “Klown,” a Danish comedy about two men and a preteen boy on a sex vacation. The film’s scandalous penis jokes alone are unspeakably funny. So, too, is the film.

The (Rear) End

Ending the year in queer on perhaps a prurient note, the beaucoup nudity, particularly by the hot hunky cop (Guillaume Gioux), in “Nobody Else But You” certainly added some extra thrills to this amazing French thriller, arguably the best and most fun mystery this year. There were also some noticeable scenes fetishizing skivvies-clad Zac Efron dancing in the rain in “The Paperboy.” But perhaps the most delicious, most decadent moments on screens had the buff cast of “Magic Mike” dancing in the buff. Actor Matt Bomer came out this year, and, boy, did he ever fill out his g-string. Give Bomer this year’s best butt award.

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