"The Living End"
Gregg Araki's second feature film gave us a cinematic road trip with a glorious motto: "Fuck everything." That's what drives reckless hustler Luke (Mike Dytri) and timid film critic Jon (Craig Gilmore) -- both HIV positive -- as they head on a hedonistic, crazy journey brought on after they murder a homophobic cop. Sort of a surreal, queer and very indie (it cost just $22,000!) "Thelma & Louise," it's a raw and occasionally hilarious representation of the awesome work that Gregg Araki has offered the LGBT cinema canon. [Peter Knegt]
"Madonna: Truth Or Dare"
Madonna will always be the Queen of Pop, but for a while, she was also a genuine gay activist. "Truth Or Dare," her 1990 Blond Ambition tour documentary, is a self-aware self-portrait of the artist at the peak of her international fame. "Truth Or Dare" feels like a part of that moment when AIDS was a death sentence, and gay Americans were receiving more cultural visibility and even more backlash. Madonna's troupe of gay dancers are a major part of the film, and, in a bold political move, "Truth Or Dare" includes their homosexuality in the Blond Ambition Tour's theme of all-encompassing sexual liberation. [Austin Dale]
Gus Van Sant’s biopic about the life of Harvey Milk features a number of historical inaccuracies, so for a realistic account of Milk’s career, you’d be better off watching “The Life and Times of Harvey Milk.” But in spite of this, there is no denying the film is a moving portrayal of the gay rights movement. Sean Penn plays Milk as an impossible to dislike political activist who uses the system to fight for LGBT equality in 1970s San Francisco. The film also serves as an effective primer for a political movement, stressing the importance of forming coalitions and emphasizing how LGBT interests fit in with the middle class. [Devin Lee Fuller]
Roger Ebert was right when he hailed Charlize Theron's Academy Award-winning turn as Aileen Wuornos in "Monster," as "one of the greatest performances in the history of cinema." In "Monster," makeup and prosthetics do the seemingly impossible: they make Theron appear unglamorous. But Theron matches her crew's efforts by pulling off another seemingly impossible feat: she makes Wuornos an empathetic (albeit extremely troubled) figure. The crux of "Monster" centers on the doomed romance between Wuornos and Selby Wall (based on Wuornos' real life lover Tyria Moore and played by Christina Ricci in the film), who meet at the outset of the film and find their relationship severely tested when Wuornos, a prostitute, kills a client of hers after he rapes her. More than anything, "Monster" is an achingly sad character study that goes to show you how harsh life is for those living on the fringe of society. [Nigel M. Smith]