Saturday, March 26, 2011

Gay cinema: My favorite movies...

As a closeted gay man, I had little opportunity to relate to the gay world in any meaningful way. In fact, much of my emotional energy was spent ensuring that my public connection with homosexuality remained seemingly nonexistent. The entire experience, as I've blogged before, was emotionally and spiritually devastating.

The one source of relief during the last ten years of my "heterosexual" life was gay cinema--not pornography, mind you, but films that were made to actually tell a story and move the viewer.

Interestingly, I saw my first gay-themed movie when I was young. I was in Amsterdam on business and had some time to kill. I walked past a theater and saw a billboard of two young and beautiful men holding each other tenderly. The movie was Maurice, an Ivory/Merchant film based on the EM Forster novel by the same name. I was immediately captivated, entered the theater and watched the movie three times.

Through the last years of my marriage I collected nearly every gay-themed movie I could find. Some of them are beautiful visually and emotionally like Brokeback Mountain and Maurice, and some are so inane that even typing their names on this blog is a waste of effort.

All in all, however, these movies served as a window into the world in which I wanted more than anything else to escape. They gave me hope that it might just be possible to one day find myself free from the bonds with which I was bound. They taught me that being gay is good and noble and that I had nothing to fear about swinging wide the closet door.

Because many readers of this blog appreciate and find value in gay cinema, I thought it helpful to provide you a summary of those movies that I have most appreciated. While I'm sure you have probably all seen my favorites, one or two might be new to you and worth your time.

Today, I will share with you the five gay-themed films that I found particularly enjoyable.

Brokeback Mountain. This movie was the story of the direction my life might have taken had I remained in Wyoming as a boy. Although BBM was actually filmed in Alberta, the mountains and prairies, the towns and people, evoked a vivid reminder of the place where I spent some of my happiest moments of my childhood and youth. To me this is no mere movie, but an actual glimpse into a world that might have been. Ennis and Jack aren't mere characters in a movie, their the guys I grew up with. As a result, I still can't watch BBM without being moved at the deepest level.

Maurice. This Ivory/Merchant adaptation of EM Forster's book is a moving story of two young men who meet, fall in love, and then struggle with their relationship within the moral constraints of post-Victorian England. While Clive Durham (my alias for this blog, BTW) chooses to follow the traditional path, his lover Maurice continues to struggle with his sexuality, eventually finding happiness in living an honest life. As with many Merchant/Ivory productions (Room with a View, Howard's End, The Bostonians, etc.) the film's rich texture and amazing cinematography make movie watching a true delight.

Latter-days. I love this movie simply because it is about a gay Mormon missionary. My "best two years" was one of the most difficult times of my life. I identified with Aaron at every turn. The truth is that had I had a neighbor like Christian, I probably would have made the same decisions Aaron made. Speaking of Aaron, Steve Sandvoss may not be the best actor in the world, but in this movie he is appealing. Between his humble, shy, devoted demeanor and his amazing backside, he's worth watching regardless of his acting ability (or lack thereof).

Get Real. There is something about watching a high school hotty falling for a school newspaper nerd that I find very appealing. This British made for TV film is surprisingly well acted with an interesting, though at times contrived, story line. While the hotty is definitely a hotty and the nerd more than a little nerdy, they actually create chemistry that makes you feel good about them and their relationship. Admittedly, the whole issue of coming out was not handled in the most realistic manner; it gave me tremendous pause about my own life of duplicity.

Bent. This is a deeply moving film about two gay men who find love amidst the horror of Dachau. With a stellar cast including Clive Owen, Ian McKellen, Mick Jagger, Jude Law, and Lothaire Bluteau, this beautifully crafted movie is a lesson in contrasts--love and lust, decadence and decency, devotion and indifference. If the closing scenes do not leave you emotionally drained, you honestly don't deserve your gay card.


  1. I haven't seen Bent and Get Real. I'll add them to my Netflix queue. I want to buy Latter Days, same as you not because I think it is the best movie ever, rather because it is about an LDS missionary.

  2. My nomination for best gay movie... can't decide between Bent and A Single Man. Brokeback Mountain had its moments but is essentially a straight person's view of a gay dilemma and is therefore flawed. Bent and SM tell it like it was (and still is for some). Haven't seen Maurice--I'll look for it.

  3. You did a wonderful thing for me today! I had never seen Latter Days before. I've watched it on Netflix twice today, once by myself and once with my wife. I've cried so much that I'm not sure I'll ever be able to breath through my nose again. Love and hugs, Brad

  4. Mohoguy: Glad to provide the referral. Be sure to pass along any good flicks that you come across.