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2006 Verve Awards

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Best Arts and Culture Blog Nominee

Monday, November 19, 2007


Queer Film Blog-A-Thon: A NetFlix Primer For Straight People

This post is part of the Queer Film Blog-A-Thon. Check it out.

So let's pretend, for the moment, that you're straight. You've seen Brokeback Mountain, and you liked it. What's more, your boyfriend wasn't completely freaked out during the spit-and-go scene. Now you've got the big problem: you want to see more queer cinema, but you don't have the vaguest idea what to add to your NetFlix queue.

Fear no more, gentle hetero! ModFab is here to point you in the right direction. There's a lot of really crappy LGBT movies out there, and we understand just how painful bad gay films can be. (Trust me. VERY painful.) Below you'll find a primer for what to rent, what to skip, and how to get your boyfriend to make out with his swim team coach. (Hot!!!)


If you're looking for QUEER CINEMA CLASSICS
Skip: Making Love
Grab Instead:
Dog Day Afternoon
It's not that Love doesn't have its place in history...it was the first non-judgemental gay romance made by a Hollywood studio. But the surprising sexual identity politics of Lumet's heist drama -- and the iconic performances of Al Pacino and Chris Sarandon -- make Dog Day a near-perfect movie experience.

If you're looking for ADORABLE TEEN ROMANCE (Awwww....)
Skip: Another Gay Movie
Grab Instead: Beautiful Thing
Director Todd Stephens tried to make AGM into a gay-themed American Pie...and failed on almost every level. Whereas almost everything works in Beautiful Thing, a simple, studied tale of the specific trials of gay adolescence.

Skip: Maurice
Grab Instead: Far From Heaven
Tediously slow and about as sexy as a well-used lint brush, Maurice is heavy on the English Lit course and light on the actually interesting. But Todd Haynes' Far From Heaven exudes style from every delicately-grained frame, and its repressed emotions speak far louded than those of E.M. Forster.

If you're looking for LONELY LESBIAN LONGING
Skip: Desert Hearts
Grab Instead: The Hunger
Sure, Hearts is the preeminent modern classic of lesbian love. But damn, it is sloooooooooooow. You'll have a far better time hanging out with Catherine Deneuve (as a gorgeous 2,000 year old vampire) and Susan Sarandon (as her lover) and David Bowie (who's just hanging out). Marvelous...and hot!

If you're looking for TRANSGENDER OSCARBAIT
Skip: Transamerica
Grab Instead: Boys Don't Cry
Despite my love for Felicity Huffman, I'd rather stab needles in my eyes than watch her movie, an over-sentimentalized road movie without a scrap of authenticity. It lacks, in fact, exactly what Boys Don't Cry has in spades: honesty and a Shakespearean tale made all the more horrific by the fact that it actually happened.

Skip: 300
Grab Instead: Fight Club
I liked 300 more than most people -- so colorful, and look at all those hairy men in thongs! -- but it pales next to the full on gay sex fantasy of Fight Club, where Brad Pitt repeatedly bangs Helena Bonham Carter, then rolls around on the floor half-naked with over two dozen men. The first rule of Fight Club is: it's soft-core for cinephiles.

If you're looking for STRAIGHT BOYS KISSING
Skip: Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss
Grab Instead: Y Tu Mama Tambien
Billy's is notable for bringing Sean Hayes to the attention of Will and Grace producers, giving Hayes his eternal reputation as the Amos & Andy of homosexuality. But its dull, obvious attempts at titillation with a gay man's attraction to a straight cocktease eventually becomes mind-numbing. Better to stick with Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, whose homoerotic friendship boils over in the film's final frames. Yum!

If you're looking for DEVIOUS BISEXUALS
Skip: Basic Instinct
Grab Instead: The Dying Gaul
Sharon Stone, Sharon Stone, Sharon Stone...the icepick is iconic, but that trampy, coked-up psycho routine is soooo 1992. I much prefer the stylish Campbell Scott as a Hollywood mogul fucking a screenwriter (now there's an unlikely relationship! And with our favorite movie bisexual, Peter Sarsgaard!) and his anesthetized wife (Patti Clarkson). It's got a few pacing problems, but the joy of watching Clarkson overcomes all small obstacles.

If you're looking for COUNTRY RURAL HOMO FOLK
Skip: Happy, Texas
Grab Instead: Big Eden
Never has a gay movie felt straighter than it did in Happy, Texas, an inexplicable Sundance hit that tanked at the box office. (Perhaps it was the mix of Steve Zahn's mugging, a Pre-K beauty pageant, and a sweet but misplaced performance by William H. Macy.) A much better look at gay life outside the big city is Big Eden, which also features a rare appearance of a Native American actor in the central romance. As tender and touching as you could ever ask for.

If you're looking for GENDER-BENDING MUSICALS
Skip: Victor/Victoria
Grab Instead: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
I'll probably get creamed by gay readers for dissing Victor/Victoria, but truthfully, I've never understood the addiction. It's a mess plot-wise, and lacks the verve and whimsy of something like Priscilla, which balances sentiment and on-a-shoestring imagination in perfect amounts. And it's got Terence Stamp. Bonus!

Skip: Trick
Grab Instead: Boy Culture
Trick impersonates a romantic comedy very well. Too bad it wastes two hours of your viewing time, with nothing to show for it besides a mountain of romantic cliches and the wit and wisdom, such as it is, of Tori Spelling. She's a bigger star than anyone in Boy Culture, but Lord, it's a night-and-day experience. The best gay movie of the year (so far), Culture finds the intersection of intimacy between strangers and the long-term emotional damage it can cause. Powerful stuff.

If you're looking for ASIAN ROMANCE
Skip: Tropical Malady
Grab Instead: Happy Together
Malady is a critical darling; fans will tell you there's deep meaning in its metaphoric jungle meanderings and its undefined gay couple. But whatever layers exist underneath this pretentious, overblown glimpse into the subconscious aren't worth excavating. A much fuller artistic experience lives in Wong Kar-Wai's Happy Together, which is

If you're looking for OBSESSED HOMO STALKERS
Skip: The 24th Day
Grab Instead: Enduring Love
Few movie experience are more painful than The 24th Day, where heterosexual Scott Speedman (Underworld) and completely not-gay-in-the-slightest James Marsden (X-Men) overact their way through a melodramatic hostage drama (based on a play so bad no one's ever heard of it). A similar storyline, however, finds eloquence and shape in the hands of a master director like Roger Michell (The Mother) and actors Daniel Craig, Samantha Morton and Rhys Ifans; based on Ian McEwan's novel, Enduring Love will haunt you weeks after you see it.

Skip: Harry and Max
Grab Instead: L.I.E. or Mysterious Skin
Harry and Max starts with an unappetizing premise -- two brothers discover a sexual attraction -- and then goes absolutely nowhere with it. One thing incest should never be is dramatically boring...it's too important a topic, for one thing. The rage, sadness and paradoxes of youth are much better explored in L.I.E. (with Brian Cox in a phenomenal performance) and Gregg Araki's magnificent memoir, Mysterious Skin.

If you're looking for RACE RIOTS
Skip: Love! Valour! Compassion!
Grab Instead: Brother To Brother
In L!V!C!, a bunch of wildly bland, upper-class, rich white gay men go to a country house and act like spoiled teenage girls at summer camp. This is probably interesting if you're an aging "A" Gay, but for the rest of us, we're all tired of seeing these people go through problems that aren't really problems. Brother To Brother explores a similar group of queers, but all of them extraordinary -- the writers of the Harlem Renaissance, seen through the eyes of a disaffected young man (Anthony Mackie) and his older gay father figure. It may not sound like much, but trust me, it's astonishing.

And here's twelve more:

If you're looking for SHTICK IN A DRESS
Skip: The Birdcage
Grab Instead: Hedwig and the Angry Inch

If you're looking for BIG MOVIE STARS
Skip: Monster
Grab Instead: Bad Education

If you're looking for CHEESY ROMANTIC COMEDY
Skip: The Broken Hearts Club
Grab Instead: Relax, It's Just Sex

If you're looking for OSCAR NOMINEES WITH AIDS
Skip: Philadelphia
Grab Instead: Before Night Falls

Skip: Stage Beauty
Grab Instead: All About My Mother

If you're looking for MAGIC REALISM
Skip: Adored: Diary of a Porn Star
Grab Instead: Lilies

Skip: Kinky Boots
Grab Instead: Paris Is Burning

If you're looking for STRAIGHT GIRLS, GAY GUYS
Skip: The Object of My Affection
Grab Instead: The Opposite of Sex

If you're looking for COUNTERCULTURE HIV
Skip: Parting Glances
Grab Instead: The Living End

If you're looking for A LITTLE FREAKY-DEAKY
Skip: Dahmer
Grab Instead: Shortbus

If you're looking for
Skip: Connie and Carla
Grab Instead: Too Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar

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Blogger Vance said...

Oh shoot. I totally forgot about Relax It's Just Sex which actually was in at the top spot of one of my Top 10 lists for that year. Oh well, I love the hokey BHClub anyways...

11/19/07, 9:58 AM  
Anonymous Billy DeGre... said...

If you're looking for: Actually funny romantic comedy:

-All over the guy

If you're looking for: British schoolboy love:

-Get Real

If you're looking for: horribly acted but surprisingly touching indy films about frat boys:

-Defying Gravity

That is my contribution! I'm sure you can find clips of all of them on YouTube.

11/19/07, 10:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey i liked kinky boots and connie and carla did have mr xfiles himself- otherwise brava on the list

11/19/07, 10:17 AM  
Blogger JB said...

Nice tutorial, but I must disagree about skipping Connie & Carla! Seriously! I mean I just wish I was Toni Collette in this movie!

11/19/07, 10:23 AM  
Blogger Jill said...

If you're looking for long, lupine teeth gleesfully gnawing the scenery while they prey on Confused Young Men, grab: The Deep End, in which Josh Lucas establishes himself as a Baddie For All Seasons.

11/20/07, 9:38 AM  
Blogger T$ said...

I agree with your takes her - especially about the criminally underseen "The Dying Gaul".

11/20/07, 11:47 AM  
Blogger Marius said...

Love this post. This little primer is great for gays, too. :)

11/20/07, 8:43 PM  
Blogger The Slabber said...

this is a great posting -- much appreciated. for both the ones I know and the ones I don't.

11/20/07, 11:39 PM  
Anonymous will g said...

Don't worry, you're right about Victor/Victoria (except for that one number). But sorry, I think any list that tells people to STAY AWAY from Transamerica, Monster, Maurice, the mesmerizing and heartbreaking Tropical Malady, and the two landmarks Parting Glances (which actually holds up) and Philadelphia is seriously overstating its case.

11/21/07, 12:20 AM  
Anonymous toonsNtunes said...

dig the list... would only minor-ly disagree in a few spots.

11/21/07, 10:39 AM  

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