by Kevin M. Thomas @ReelKev
Award season is upon us. Between all of the Hollywood caliber movies, an independent movie would be lucky to make the cut. Movies with LGBT themes are a tad tougher to get that recognition.
With that in mind, I wanted to remind of some of the best movies of the year that deserve as much consideration for your attention as a “La La Land” or “Moonlight” but may not have had the resources or reach to get it on the final award ballot.
Here’s a handful of movies discovered at film festivals and now making their way to limited screenings, VOD and/or DVD. There’s other wonderful LGBT movies still not yet available at home – will keep you posted on them at a latter date.
“Retake” has already won several awards at LGBT film festivals and it will have a limited theatrical screening in Los Angeles starting Jan. 6 before it finds its way to home viewing. This is a terrific character study that contains a bravura performance from an unlikely actor: the sexy Tuc Watkins.
Watkins work is stunning – not only with the depth of character and sinister undertones, but he comes from a comedic background in soap opera and light hearted gay movies. He’s also been one who was the sexy heartthrob in numerous soaps so to see him with his clothes on, you can finally focus on his body of work and not just his body. Director and co-writer Nick Corporon has peeled back the onion and has gotten a raw, wonderful performance out of Watkins.
He is matched by newcomer Devon Graye who seems to be the character he embodies. His steel gray eyes draw you in, and offer glimpses into his soul. He is so vulnerable on screen that it’s easy to want to protect him from the possible plans that Watkins has.
Graye is also featured in another great film from 2016 entitled “Search Engines,” which is now available OnDemand. I’ve already given it a more comprehensive review, but still definitely worth mentioning. This Robert Altmanesque film has a series of interconnecting characters that lose all cyber connections on Thanksgiving. I’ve added this film to my annual holiday viewing and loved seeing real life mother/daughter Connie Stevens and Joely Fisher on screen for the first time.
A kind of offbeat love story that doesn’t follow the traditional path one might think is “Lazy Eye,” just released and can be found on all popular platforms.
The well written story is as clever as it is in its use of the title, taking on many meanings in the story of an advertising man who hears from a past love and decides to meet up with him as he often wondered what kind of future they might have had should they have continued.
Writer/director Tim Kirkman brings to life this intimate tale, riddled with secrets that don’t necessarily unfold in the movie’s 90 minutes.
The lead stars Lucas Near-Verbrugghe and Aaron Costa Ganis are seasoned actors who make the relationship real, honest and sexy.
“Holding the Man” is one of the best movies of 2016 – gay or not! It won numerous awards in the Australian equivalent to the Academy Awards – and for great reason. A movie based upon the life of Timothy Conigrave, which shows that anyone’s story, if told well, can make an interesting book, play and/or movie.
Conigrave was a moderately successful actor and writer but his biography of his long time relationship that started in high school and goes through adulthood to one of the first cases of AIDS. The love story is absolutely beautiful and screenwriter Tommy Murphy and director Neil Armfield have taken a comprehensive novel and made an equally fulfilling film.
The leads of Ryan Corr and Craig Stott bring this beautiful love story to life and the film manages to mix in many historical references from the early stages of AIDS without detracting from the love the two shared. Obviously, since it’s during the beginning of the AIDS virus, the movie has many tear jerking scenes. The story and their true love is so strong that there was even a documentary made about Conigrave and his partner John entitled “Remembering the Man.”
While “Remembering” still has to run its festival course, “Holding” can be found on most pay-per-view and streaming platforms including Netflix and also available on DVD.
Another movie that will blow you away with its depth and well crafted story telling is “Closet Monster,” available on DVD Jan. 10.
This Canadian movie is quite frankly a masterpiece. A multi-layered drama that melds together stories of coming out, deep seated scars and a tempestuous relationship among relatives, “Closet Monster” offers a star making performance by Connor Jessup as a young man who witnesses a hate crime as a child and he carries the weight of that with him for years, always fearing a similar fate lies ahead for him.
Jessup carries the film with a juxtaposition of confidence and timidness. Since this film, he was discovered by American audiences in the TV series “American Crime,” making him already very accomplished for such a young man.
Writer/director Stephen Dunn also should be at the top of our lists of new talents of 2016. While a good background in short film, this is his feature debut and has won awards from Miami to Melbourne.
Another movie with a tough topic but still one of the shining moments of 2016 is “Other People,” which contains an Oscar caliber performance from Molly Shannon, already available streaming including via Netflix.
Shannon plays a kooky, fun mom in the Sacramento area who is offering love and support to her recently out son. She keeps an upbeat spirit even though she’s dying of cancer. It’s truly a hard movie to take but definitely worth seeking out for Shannon’s wonderful performance. She’s certainly shown, this past year, her support of the LGBT community because she plays a supportive mom in another 2016 title, “Miles,” which is still playing in the festival circuit.
Looking ahead, February will bring the DVD/VOD release of “Akron,” which seems on the surface just a beautiful love story about two young men in Ohio who find each other as soul mates out of all of the people in the world. The movie ultimately shows how small the world really is as something happened in the past that disconnects the two families in a way that the boys are unaware of.
Not exactly “Romeo & Juliet,” but the families behind our lovers are against them falling in love. The movie shows the difficulties of coming out and ultimately has them facing a moral quandary.
“Akron” will be available at www.wolfevideo.com and WolfeOnDemand.
Love is also the theme for “Me, Myself and Her,” a well told Italian love story that peaks into the lives of two successful women who have been together for five years.
In such a period, some couples start perhaps spending too much time at work or neglecting their partners. This movie focuses on such moments and shows how the women work through – or not – these situations.
There’s been a bit of controversy about how one of the women deals with her life becoming complacent. But in really understanding their story and history, this indiscretion isn’t so surprising. Yes, I am vague here, but unlike other commentary on the film, I don’t want to expose plot points simply with a spoiler alert.
In short, this is a true slice of real life – and the outcome is aligned to what could really happen to any couple perhaps getting a little too comfortable in their relationship.
Leads Margherita Buy and Sabrina Ferilli have great chemistry. The movie is available at www.wolfevideo.com and Wolfe OnDemand.
2016 also brought two sides of Casper Andreas – as writer/director of “Flatbush Luck” and director of “Kiss Me, Kill Me.”
“Flatbush” is still at festivals, but “Kiss Me” is available now on many platforms and DVD.
“Kiss Me” has an interesting distinction among Andreas’ films: it’s the only one he directed and didn’t write.
It seems your typical gay Hollywood movie dealing with the rich and famous. But this one has a body count and a lapse in memory. The movie’s most interesting moments are the retelling of a murder with the possible scenarios of the crime being retold from different points of view.
Gale Harold from “Queer is Folk” is the movie’s star power but is just one of the many memorable characters in the ensemble. One of the best ways to get the film (so you can also see a lot of Andreas’ other wonderful films is www.embrem.com/films
On a documentary side, nothing is more fun than “Women He’s Undressed,” the story of three time Oscar winning costume designer Orry-Kelly.
I had never heard of him before but thanks to director Gillian Armstrong and her experience with narrative features, this movie screens more like a narrative rather than a documentary.
Orry was the man who designed gowns for so many of the big stars in Hollywood’s golden age and besides having amazing taste, his life story has as much melodrama as the periods he designed for. From having to design gowns for Marilyn Monroe for “Some Like It Hot” to hide her pregnancy or learning of his love affair with Cary Grant – this movie uncovers a lot of secrets and does so without sensationalizing.
“Seed Money,” is the opposite end of the spectrum of stories of behind the scenes in Hollywood. This is a showcase of Chuck Holmes, who took his prominent position in society in order to fund gay porn films.
It’s interesting to see how Holmes would use his position to get funding from the same people who would shun his films. Additionally, this all occurs at the onset of AIDS and the movie incorporates the effects of unprotected sex. The movie is currently available on demand and various DVD providers.
There are also other movies that found their way to movie theatres and home viewing this year but have already received a lot of coverage from us. But also seek out “Beautiful Something,” “Those People” and “Front Cover.”