Happy Pride Month! As June comes to a close, we take this time to celebrate being ourselves and the journey our forefathers took in order to express ourselves the way we please. If you’re anything like me, you will be avoiding the parties with the loud music and high risk of falling into a pool and staying indoors with your pint of ice cream watching movies. But, why not make it a party? Invite your queer friends over to watch some of the most stellar LGBT films on Netflix. Here, you’ll find that I was not allowed to list Weekend for all of the entries nor write “What do you mean you haven’t watched Heartbeats yet?” fifteen times. Enjoy, be safe, and Happy Pride, everyone!
Weekend (2011) | Directed by Andrew Haigh
The thing you want to do at your Pride party is bum everyone the Hell out. Just kidding. Andrew Haigh’s lucid Weekend is far from a bummer, instead a gorgeous, textural, and intimate examination of the moments of vulnerability that truly transcend sexuality. The ideal queer film, it remains specific in its portrayal of the queer experience and universal in its depiction of love. Truly one of the most moving films to ever grace the screen and to ever appear on Netflix.
Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013) | Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche
You should make pasta for your party, and make it divine and desirous. (Yes food can be desirous, have you not seen Julie and Julia?) Though it caused a ruckus at Cannes for its explicit sex scenes, it took home the Palme d’Or for stirring the jury’s hearts and minds. Yes, it has several problems, not least its sex scenes. But Abdellatif Kechiche’s film is far more complex than it gets credit for, not only for its layered relationship, but also its look at pedagogy, desire, and class.
Paris is Burning (1990) | Directed by Jennie Livingston
There will be music at your party and people will be Vogueing. Perhaps one of the most important documentaries ever made, Paris is Burning explores the New York ball culture, centering on queer people of color, often in drag, as its focus. It’s an astonishing, funny, and heartbreaking work that’s crucial to the queer narrative, particularly for its uncompromising look at a unique subset of the queer community.
Brokeback Mountain (2005) | Directed by Ang Lee
There will probably be someone cosplaying as a gay cowboy at your party, so I’ve been told. Ang Lee’s not-Best Picture winning film is most interesting when it follows the diverging paths of ranch hands Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) after their first encounters and after they fall for one another. The impact the secrecy has on their interior selves and their families is fascinating to watch, especially when that façade crumbles at certain points in the film. Lee, who has (perhaps inadvertently) contributed to New Queer Cinema, very delicately and very honestly paints this passionate romance that, once you see it, transcends the snarky moniker of “that gay cowboy movie”.
The Hours (2002) | Directed by Stephen Daldry
There will probably be discussions about Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and Julianne Moore. One thing that director Stephen Daldry is not is subtle. But, while it doesn’t work for The Reader or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, his heavy handedness, maybe ironically, works for The Hours. With its swelling Phillip Glass score and evocative imagery, the melodramatic carpe diem story needs someone as ambitious as Daldry to bring a strange heavy handedness to a film that tells its story across three somewhat interconnecting lines, strung together by Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. As separate stories, such melodrama isn’t needed, but together Daldry’s enthusiastic and emotional direction brings a peculiar weight and heft to the film.
The Kids Are All Right (2010) | Directed by Lisa Cholodenko
Oh, hey, Julianne Moore again. With Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right, the continuing steps to making our society less heteronormative were made in as large a way as Modern Family and Glee existing. Yes, we have a ways to go, but without being so pushy, the message of the film comes across as “gay families are just as dysfunctional as us”. And isn’t that what we have always wanted? Its inherently screwbally plot involving the kids (Josh Hutcherson and Mia Wasikowska) of lesbian mothers (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) finding their biological father (schlubby Mark Ruffalo) is good for some laughs, but Bening brings her a-game not merely playing a character but playing a person.
Laurence Anyways (2013) | Directed by Xavier Dolan
Because Xavier Dolan is a genius, and, no, I will not stop fawning over his work. It’s intensely surprising how low the visibility is for trans* characters on screen, lest they be rather unflattering portrayals, but, though he is reticent about being labeled a queer director, Laurence Anyways is nonetheless an important achievement both artistically and socially. His ability to depict a relationship with such maturity is astounding, especially coming off of the hipster immaturity of Heartbeats (something I think was intentional). It’s brash and indulgent and beautiful.
Heavenly Creatures (1994) | Directed by Peter Jackson
Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey are goddesses. Before he was the director of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Peter Jackson made this creepy queer fairy tale, kind of vaguely about amour fou, but more important about the dangers of escaping into a world where one cannot control their minds. The seeds of Jackson’s imaginative direction had already been planted in his bloody horror movies, but Heavenly Creatures represents a curious reservedness in the director’s work that allows the film to become all the more mysterious. Winslet and Lynskey’s dynamic in the film is as intoxicating as Jackson’s fantastical imagery.
Velvet Goldmine (1998) | Directed by Todd Haynes
It’s not a Pride party unless there’s some David Bowie, in some iteration or another. Todd Haynes’ fabulous glam rock musical is like if Citizen Kane and “Bohemian Rhapsody” had a baby. Loosely based on the rise and fall of Iggy Stardust, Bowie’s alien alter-ego, Velvet Goldmine is a film that bursts with passion, enthusiasm, and glitter. Its Kane-like narrative structure allows for its protagonist, Christian Bale as an investigative reporter searching for Jonathan Rhys Meyers forgotten glam-rock star, to go on a journey of self-exploration. It’s a bombastic ride with one of the best soundtracks ever put to film.
Stranger By the Lake (2013) | Directed by Alain Guiraudie
Say no to cruising. I know, I know, it’s Pride month and everyone has a Grindr and I don’t mean to moralize, but, let’s face it, you may or may not encounter a really hot person who just so happens to end up murdering you with Hitchcockian aplomb. Alain Guiraudie’s dark thriller speaks more about why we hook up than moralizing about it (though, its home fatale plot focus is certainly a compelling argument). Connection and intimacy is something that everyone, regardless of orientation or however one meets another, has to wade through. Explicit and even harrowing, Stranger By the Lake is a chilling, melancholic film.
Parting Glances (1986) | Directed by Bill Sherwood
Bill Sherwood’s masterpiece is how to make a film about someone with a terminal disease. Not by hitting the audience in the head over and over again with the mortality of its characters. Not by creating a straight savior or a character who is designed to act as catalyst to the lead and then die (I’m looking at you, Dallas Buyers Club). Not even to rob its characters of their sexuality. Parting Glances is an honest look at people during the AIDS/HIV epidemic and the fears they have, not merely concerning the disease, but about life and love in general. Steve Buscemi gives a stellar performance in an essential film.
GBF (2013) | Directed by Darren Stein
Because it feels great to be tokenized. GBF is not perfect, but its attempt to deconstruct the “gay best friend” archetype is admirable. Most of its charm, thankfully, is on Michael J. Willett, whose sensitivity is crucial to a role that is, now that I think of it, not unlike Lindsay Lohan’s Cady Harron in Mean Girls. Both outsiders and both attempting to subvert the roles they take on, they end up succumbing to them. Willett’s naiveté and reticence, which he exhibits primarily through his line reading and facial expressions, is, in a word, adorable. Though it’s not as clever as Mean Girls, BGF is still appealing and amusing.
Sebastiane (1976) | Directed by Derek Jarman and Paul Humfress
Eye candy in Latin. Queer artist, poet, filmmaker Derek Jarman didn’t really make movies. He made chants, rituals, spells. And his most spellbinding film was probably Sebastiane, depicting the life of the martyr Saint Sebastian. With its dialogue entirely in Latin, this is the film that shows that Laura Mulvey’s theory of the Male Gaze could evolve and mutate. This is the Queer gaze in all of its glory, hypnotically and lustfully going over the bodies of swarthy soldiers. Yet its masterful quality is not rooted in its ability to arouse, but in its power regarding religious iconography. Jarman’s fixation on the male form is a means to talk about the obsessive tendencies of monotheists to fixate on form in religious imagery. It’s stunning and dreamlike.
My Summer of Love (2004) | Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski
Maybe Emily Blunt will show up at your party. Before she was the Princess Be at Runway Magazine, Blunt used her allure in My Summer of Love, a startlingly naturalistic and quietly disturbing tale of young infatuation. It is exactly Blunt’s magneticism which drives the film, a probing into desire’s very being. Natalie Press plays opposite Blunt as Mona, the working class girl who falls for Blunt’s Tamsin. It’s a muted, sinister little film, and a showcase for the future Angel of Verdun.