I was going to do a list of my favorite movies of the decade, but the two I feel most strongly about are Mysterious Skin and Bad Education, so here instead is a list of the 25+ best gay movies of the decade.
1. Mysterious Skin
The coexistence of pedophiles and homosexuals in the same movie is always discomfiting, but this movie is uncommonly wise about the many modes of existence it circumscribes. It draws no obvious connections between its childhood traumas and adult miseries, but shows a collection of people whose only healthy relationships are friendships, and tries to understand why they’ve become the way they are. And what meaningful, sustaining friendships this movie contains.
2. Bad Education
There are pedophiles and homosexuals in this one too, but because this is an Almodovar film, they are swirled into an audio-visual movie-reverie about the ability of the characters to manage their demons while collaborating to make audio-visual movie-reveries. Almodovar is not often interested in the world of men, but when he is, he finds them as cinematic as his women.
I love Gus Van Sant’s insistence on making his characters gay when nothing requires them to be straight (like in Elephant). This one’s not like that though. Milk enacts in its story what the other films on this list enact in the method of their telling. Milk does the latter too.
4. Brokeback Mountain
In a way, Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock strikes me as a better gay movie, but probably just because it wasn’t marketed as one, and because it’s not one. People wrote about Brokeback Mountain as if it was the first time they’d ever seen two men in love, and indeed it is so good that it can feel like the first time you’ve ever seen two people in love.
5. The Hours
The correspondence between the scarcity of female directors and the scarcity of serious lesbian-themed movies can’t be an accident. Here’s an eminently serious one, directed by a man from a book by a man, that still manages to make men seem completely irrelevant: its male characters are losers and queers, while its female characters make the tough choice to kiss other women, for complicated reasons. Let me also mention the other Michael Cunningham adaptation of the decade, A Home at the End of the World, which along with The Fortress of Solitude taught me everything I need to know about mutual masturbation (like how 75% of those who engage in it are straight). Plus, Daldry’s Billy Elliot, which tells us nothing of its protagonist’s sexuality and becomes a triumph of the spirit for children of all persuasions.
In hindsight, Hedwig & The Angry Inch marks the rapid shedding of whatever inhibitions John Cameron Mitchell had to begin with. Shortbus is human sexuality unleashed, which means it is also, because of its honesty, exceedingly polite, proper, and cute.
7. Show Me Love
When released as Fucking Amal in Sweden in 1998, it outgrossed Titanic to become that country’s all-time biggest seller (as if we didn’t already know Sweden is a liberal paradise). When released in America under the name of the Robyn song that plays during the credits, the timing was unfortunate: 2000 was the nadir of teen-oriented cinema in the US, and nobody wanted a good teen movie.
8. Far From Heaven
Unsubtle as Douglas Sirk’s films are, there’s much in them that can be reclaimed, and Todd Haynes does a great job of that here. I’ve called him a primarily academic director whose movies are also dramatically interesting and plausible. This one favors the drama, and it’s sensational.
9. Tropical Malady
The object of desire: his charms are indefinable. He has no movie star attractiveness or charisma, but he’s captivating, and that makes him a rare sort of character. He’s sort of like one of Flannery O’Connor’s awkward seduced farm girls. But in the second half he’s revealed to be the seducer.
10. Chuck & Buck
I’m getting tired of writing these comments. Just imagine me shouting “Gay!” after each new title.
12. Angels In America
14. Breakfast On Pluto
Questionnaire as barometer of the self.
17. Of Time & The City
18. Best In Show
The love story that develops in this one nearly makes it a plausible human drama (like Bruno, Lutz and OJ in #16).
19. The Deep End
Tilda Swinton’s in it, but because it’s not directed by Derek Jarman or Sally Potter, that’s not the reason gay men will love it. Instead, her son has a secret!
20. Mulholland Dr.
Weird as David Lynch’s movies are, his sexual politics have never progressed much beyond antiquated-yet-ironic. Here’s the ultimate “lesbianism for the sake of the male viewer” movie.
21. The Eyes of Tammy Faye / Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film / Michael Jackson’s This Is It
Three documentaries about three gay icons, two of them artists with vastly confused sexualities, and one of them a televangelist, of course.
22. I Love You, Man / Old Joy / Humpday
A bromance continuum. The characters don’t have much in common, but what really sets these movies apart is how far the directors (2/3 female) are willing to push them in the pursuit of love: hangin’ out, erotic massage, attempted sex, respectively.
23. 3:10 To Yuma / The Road To El Dorado
Ben Foster plays Charlie Prince as one of the great homicidal repressed homosexuals, but there’s nothing in Yuma remotely as gay as the fan fiction it has inspired. The Road To El Dorado plays like fan fiction, and it’s amazing Disney got away with such an obvious unrequited love story.
Merely a placeholder for A Single Man, which I haven’t seen. If you’re having trouble reconciling that film’s promise of grief and despair with De-Lovely, it’s because the latter was advertised as a good times Cole Porter revue, when in fact it’s one of the most sour and dispiriting tales of a lonely and unfulfilled man I’ve ever seen.
25. Whatever Works
You can’t have a list of gay movies without an appearance by Woody Allen. Oh wait, you can, but here’s a surprise: the only remotely gay movie Allen has ever made.
Plus three I didn’t much care for that are sort of redeemed by their gayness:
-Y Tu Mama Tambien : It’s amazing that an audience of straight male film critics was able to understand the terminal protagonist’s decision to go driving around with two boys who are repulsive and annoying in all but the physical sense.
-Alexander : The best eye-shadow movie of the decade.
-The Descent : No hot cave sex? The restraint is admirable.
True Grit remains my favorite gay movie of all time. I hope the Coens don’t turn it into a straight movie.
And, because I can’t resist, my other favorite movies (gay, straight, lesbian, overweight, whatever) of the decade: George Washington, Ghost World, Waking Life, Panic Room, Lilya 4-ever, Lost In Translation, The Triplets Of Belleville, Sky Captain & The World Of Tomorrow, Me & You & Everyone We Know, Children Of Men, Marie Antoinette, I’m Not There, Wendy & Lucy. Those 13, plus #1 and 2 on the list.
And: Roger Ebert still has great taste, even if it's recently been obscured under a shroud of four stars.