On Thursday, Miss Coco Peru will be hosting her Christmas special, “Very Merry Casa Coco.” I’m not sure I will tune into it, even though I love Coco Peru, and she’s been around for nearly 30 years. I was telling a straight female friend of mine who loves drag queens about the Christmas special, and I was also telling her that I first saw Peru her role in the 1999 independent film Trick, a movie I particularly enjoy. It is one of my top five gay independent films of all time. Trickstarred Christian Campbell, John Paul Pitoc, Steve Hayes, and Tori Spelling. Tori Spelling is probably the most familiar name, but even her bad acting couldn’t ruin this movie for me.
Back when I was coming to terms with my sexuality, I would go to the Blockbuster in Montgomery and rent any gay film I could get my hands on. Most of them were foreign films, such as Beautiful Thing (1996—British), Come Undone,aka Presque Rien,(2000—French-Belgian), and Wild Reeds, aka Les Roseaux Sauvages, (French —1995). I enjoyed all of these movies, but I wanted to see more. In 2000, I moved to Mississippi, and while I continued to rent from Blockbuster’s lackluster selection of gay movies, I discovered Netflix. With them sending a DVD each time you sent one back (and they had a much more extensive selection), I watched many more gay movies. I was finally able to get my hands on some American films, mostly independent films.
Independent gay movies have always been hit or miss. If they’d been a genuinely great movie, they might have been picked up by a major studio and had the money for production and casting, but as independent movies, filmmakers made do with what they had. Some were bad; some made it to the list of my favorite movies. One of those movies was, of course, Trick. The acting is not always great in these movies, but sometimes the stories made them worth the mediocre acting. Occasionally, the acting was pretty good. But if you watched many independent gay films in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, you watched a lot of terrible movies. But like I said, there were some gems.
I remember seeing Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss and wondering how Sean Hayes continued to refuse to say publicly that he was gay when it was so incredibly obvious. Also, I fell in love with Brad Rowe. Besides Trick, the movie that I have watched numerous times because I love it is the 1997 movie Defying Gravity. This movie’s love story was so sweet, even if the film did not include the best acting. However, there was a hospital scene when Griff says, “Oh, man,” to Pete that I just can’t describe the feeling of what it’s like for me hearing this line. It’s not a great line; it’s almost corny, but it gets me every time. My heart breaks, and it soars at the same time. I can still hear that line in my head as I am writing this. I also enjoyed the 2000 film The Broken Hearts Club. Since he played Superman, I have had a thing for Dean Cain, too bad his politics are so fucked up.
In 2003, Latter Days was released, and it became one of my all-time favorite gay movies. As some of my friends can attest to, I have made them watch this movie with me. I love the two main characters, and while there are parts of the story that could have been done better, the airport scene is magical. Speaking of magical, I also loved the gay take on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In 2008, Were the World Mine was released, and I just loved it. There have been other movies, and I am sure I am forgetting some of the foreign gay films that I loved and some independent films, but these are just some of them.
I also have a few honorable mentions that were more mainstream films. I think the first gay film I ever saw was either The Birdcage (1996) or In & Out (1997). More recently, I enjoyed the movie Love, Simon. I have refused to watch Call Me by Your Name because I know how it ends. Then there were a few movies that were less apparent as gay films, such as Fried Green Tomatoes and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Fried Green Tomatoes ranks up there with Casablanca and Auntie Mame as movies in my top three favorites. I can’t tell you how many times I have watched those three movies.
By the way, I did not include Brokeback Mountain in this list of favorite movies. Although, in my opinion, it is responsible for allowing more gay mainstream movies to be made, it is just not one of my favorites. To be honest, I don’t like movies without a happy ending. The same is true of the books I read. I have enough in my life to make me sad; I don’t need someone else making me sadder with a movie or a novel. I read and watch movies to escape not to fall deeper into depression.
So, these are a few of my favorite gay movies. What are your favorites? What have I missed? Is there a movie you think I should watch (I may have seen it, but tell me anyway)?
December 16th, 2020 at 7:08 am
The two “gay” movies I make everyone watch are Sordid Lives and Big Eden. Sordid Lives because it’s just too funny. And Big Eden because it’s a great love story set (and filmed) in my back yard–well 100 miles away, but that’s still awfully close when we’re talking Montana.
Victor/Victoria was one of two movies I have sat through twice (the first being North by Northwest when I was ten years old). Victor/Victoria opened on the first night of Out In Montana’s spring weekend, and the first showing audience was almost completely gay. For the second showing, most of the gay guys had left to go dance and the theater filled with teen-aged girls. It was a completely different experience watching the film with a straight audience.
One of the funniest/saddest moments of my movie going life was the scene where Tom Selleck kisses Kevin Kline in In and Out. A man three rows ahead of us grabbed his wife and drug her down the aisle You could feel his anger as he stormed out of the theatre. Bet that’s the last time he lets her choose the movie.
A similar, but also funny, thing happened while watching Deathtrap. At the point where Christopher Reeve kisses Michael Caine a teenaged female voice up ahead of us cried out “Say it ain’t so, Superman!”
December 16th, 2020 at 7:27 am
I’m not sure how I could have forgotten Sordid Lives. I do like that movie, but I don’t think I saw it until years after it came out. I also saw the TV show and the sequel, but they were never quite as good as the original. As for Big Eden, I have it somewhere on DVD. I am a big fan of Louise Fletcher (Kai Winn on Deep Space Nine), which is probably why I bought the movie instead of fo renting it. Victor/Victoria is also a classic that I love. I knew I was forgetting several movies.
I can’t remember if I saw In & Out in the theaters or not. My guess is not, because at the time I’d have been too afraid someone would see me watching a gay movie. The same is true of the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I had checked it out of the library, back when you could still look at the card and see everyone who’d checked out the book. A lot of people had checked it out, and I’d heard how good it was. I was still in high school and getting teased daily about being gay, even though I was far from being out. When I realized that Jim Williams was gay and was a major part of the story, I rushed it back to the library. I don’t know why, my name was already signed to the card in the back, but I was so scared someone would see me reading it. I have felt so silly/stupid about that in the years since.
December 16th, 2020 at 11:41 am
My favorite gay film is Shelter, another film with Brad Rowe. I have watched it several times. It does not feel to me like some stereotyped film about coming out. And it had a happy ending.
December 16th, 2020 at 12:11 pm
I agree with you about Shelter. I did enjoy watching it, not just because I got to look at Brad Rowe, but also because it is a good movie.
December 17th, 2020 at 11:12 am
“Cuatros Lunas,” “Four Moons” is a Mexican gay film with English subtitles that always has me smiling and tearing up. It is one of those unusual films that tell four different stories at the same time and it all works. My favorite gay film.
December 17th, 2020 at 4:45 pm
A couple of titles to add to your list:
“Parting Glances” (1986) directed by Bill Sherwood, who died of AIDS in 1990, is a memorable portrait of life among Guppies (and Yuppies) in mid-1980s NYC. Most notable in the cast is Steve Buscemi as a successful rock musician infected with the disease – Buscemi evidently was working as an NYC firefighter when Sherwood hired him for the role — and over the years the actor has more than once expressed his gratitude to Sherwood for giving him his first nationwide exposure in this film. One of the two leads was played by Richard Ganoung, later seen as Perry in “Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss,” who left the film biz for theatre production in Wisconsin. Personally, I wish Ganoung had done more film roles.
Secondly, I think Andrew Craig’s “Weekend” (2011) is one of the most significant treatments of love and sex between two men ever attempted in film. The issues raised here feel real and touch me deeply as a gay man. It doesn’t have a conventionally happy ending but it’s not desolately unhappy, either. Somewhere in-between, just like life.
December 17th, 2020 at 5:26 pm
Addendum: “Love! Valour! Compassion!” (1997), film treatment of Terrence McNally’s glorious play about a gay male circle of friends (minus the obligatory gag hag) that utilized almost all of the cast members of the original NYC production directed by Joe Mantello.
Gotta add this one, which continues to have staying power for me despite MANY screenings. Funny and deeply poignant. The work, play and movie, holds a lot of resonance for my life….when I lived in New York, I was a part of a similar circle of friends. (Incidentally, McNally died last March of Covid-19.) The second time I saw the play, from the row behind where I was sitting, burst forth an exasperated older male voice with “Goddamit, I can’t stand anymore of this!” followed by a middle-aged man and woman pushing their way toward the aisle and back toward the exit.
The professor will enjoy the film’s ample nudity, rear and frontal, as did the theater audiences.
December 17th, 2020 at 5:42 pm
Sorry, one more comment: I cannot watch “Shelter” without tearing up each time, again and again, and I would be reluctant to admit the number of times I have watched this movie. Brad Rowe is praiseworthy as Shaun; equally good is Trevor Wright as Zach. Everyone in this cast is terrific, I think. The commentary of actors and director is revelatory on how productions like these come to fruition. I wish there were more movies like this one.
December 17th, 2020 at 5:46 pm
I wish there were too. We need some good movies with gay characters just being people, not always struggling with something.