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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 26, 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 52
The Year in Queer Film 2014
Arts & Entertainment
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The Year in Queer Film 2014

by Gary M. Kramer - SGN Contributing Writer

The year in queer film 2014 got off to a great start in January with the release of arguably the best queer film of the year, Alain Guiraudie's explicit, erotic, and irresistible thriller, Stranger by the Lake. The film placed considerable emphasis on full frontal nudity, a motif that was also visible in several films this year. Lars von Trier's fascinating Nymphomaniac featured a parade of penises in 'Part I' as Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), the film's title character, recounts her multiple lovers, all of whom are seen naked from the waist down. Other memorable episodes in 'Part II' include Joe being framed by two African brothers (Kookie and Papou) and their elephantine erections, or her efforts to - ahem - arouse a Debtor Gentleman (Jean-Marc Barr). Even the campus comedy Neighbors promoted the penis. Zac Efron and his fraternity brothers making casts of their cocks to raise money - as well as raise hell and eyebrows.

Teenagers grappling with their sexual identity were the basis for several enjoyable Gay films in 2014. The best of the bunch was Darren Stein's G.B.F., a highly amusing high school comedy, where the Gay teen wasn't a pariah, but a desirable accessory. Dear White People, by out writer/director Justin Simien was a clever campus satire that featured a Gay student, Lionel Higgins (Tyler James Williams), who may be the most complex of the four central characters. Lionel is possibly exploited, and both mentally and physically abused, but develops a resilience that has viewers rooting for him. Likewise, Leo (Ghilherme Lobo), the blind Gay teen in the fantastic Brazilian film, The Way He Looks struggles with other people's perception of him, even though he is quite confident about his same-sex desires for a fellow student.

Also of note was out filmmaker Matt Wolf's Teenage, a terrific documentary narrated in part by Gay actor Ben Whishaw, about how teenagers came of age and developed between 1904 and the post-WWII era.

From the UK came several excellent films about queer characters. The Imitation Game is a crowd-pleasing, if tragic drama about Gay mathematician Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch in an Oscar-worthy performance) before, during, and after the war. Lilting was a thoughtful, gentle life-affirming film about Richard (Ben Whishaw) and Junn (Pei Pei Cheng), both mourning the loss of Kai (Andrew Leung), Junn's son and - unbeknownst to his mother - Richard's lover. Pride, about LGBT activists supporting striking miners during Thatcher's iron rule, was the feel-good queer film this year.

Other inspirational films out this year include Violette about the bisexual French writer Violette Leduc (Emmanuelle Devos in a committed performance), who is encouraged to write by her friend Simone de Beauvier (Sandrine Kiberlain).

In Gay filmmaker Scott Coffey's underseen comic gem Adult World Amy (Emma Roberts) was a would-be poet who harasses her favorite writer, Rat Billings (a wonderfully acerbic John Cusack) to get him to mentor her. His guidance comes at a terrific - and terrifically funny - price. Amy comes of age with the help of Rubia (Armando Riesco), a Transgender friend she makes working at the film title's adult bookstore.

Another sour comedy, Gay writer/director Craig Johnson's The Skeleton Twins, featured the queer Milo (Bill Hader) and his sister Maggie (Kristen Wiig) both of whom are suicidal. Milo, it seems, has not quite recovered from his illicit relationship with his English teacher (Ty Burrell) from when he was 15. While the twins have some fun lip-synching to Starship, much of The Skeleton Twins is a drag, and Hader plays a decidedly stereotypical Gay character.

Better comic material was on display in Obvious Child, a sweet and snarky comedy about Donna (Jenny Slate) a stand-up comic who finds herself with child. Out comedian and writer Gabe Liedman had an impressive supporting turn as her Gay best friend.

One of the odder, and maddening trends in LGBT cinema in 2014 was a filmmaker's use of a final queer twist. This device may have been meant to change the viewer's understanding of the characters, but more often than not, it left a very bad taste in one's mouth. So - SPOILER ALERT! - when Pastor Jay Reinke comes out in the last moments of the over-praised, underwhelming, and unfocused documentary, The Overnighters, it feels like a cheat. This portrait of a flawed man is really a flawed film. Likewise, queer writer/director Gregg Araki's White Bird in a Blizzard is supposed to shock viewers with its finale and the discovery that two male characters were having an affair, but the twist feels cheap and unearned. Even the 'surprise' at the end of the fun dysfunctional family comedy This Is Where I Leave You reveals a characters' same-sex relationship, but it scans more as a 'gotcha' than a real moment.

What felt very real on screen this year was the relationship between Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) in Ira Sachs' touching drama, Love Is Strange. Here, an older Gay couple gets married but is soon forced to live separately after George loses his job. This lovely, observational drama showcases a pair of moving performances by Lithgow and Molina as well as some very nakedly emotional moments.

© 2014 Gary M. Kramer

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Watch for SGN's Sara Michelle Fetter's BEST OF FILM 2014 in next Friday's edition.]

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BEST THEATER OF 2014
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BEST OF TRAVEL 2014: Our picks for the top hotels, restaurants, bars and visitor attractions
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The Year in Queer Film 2014
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2014 HOLIDAY CALENDAR
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