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2016 Was the Best Year Ever for Gay Movies

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A look at the stand out gay films, masterpieces, and near-masterpieces of the year. 

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No question about it, 2016 offered an unprecedented bounty of good films that dealt with queer experiences. But this extraordinary turn in the history of movies and gay culture never made it to the mainstream media, which always distorts sex, politics, morality, and art.

This was also the year when mainstream media, which typically marginalizes gay movies, suddenly pretended to find a rare gem (see the last slide). Don't believe the hype. The cultural and media elite only praise what's hyped; their agenda is to promote films that perpetuate the status quo stereotyping of everyone. But these films don't. The very best of them--by Techine, Davies, Thomas, Jarman, Greenaway, and Solondz--aren't just good, they're the best movies of the year.

Being 17

Only Andre Techine has the breezy cinematic mastery to make a story about high school frenemies (one French, the other Algerian) reflect geopolitical tension and simultaneously reveal the models for gay alienation and human connection in family and social dynamics--the roots of desire and self-confidence. A beautiful insight.

Sunset Song

Pouring his troubled romantic soul into the Grassic's novel--the novel of Terence Davies' life--results in a new cinematic classic. The heroine, a woman (Agness Deyn) who feels her ethnic heritage and empathizes with male anxieties, recalls Scarlett O'Hara seen through a gay man's sensibility. A beautiful vision.

Beautiful Something

Gay men in Philadelphia coming to terms with their compulsive sex drive. Joseph Graham and a dream cast--Richard Sheppard, Colman Domingo, Zack Ryan, Matthew F. Rios, and Themo Melikidze--sensualize the essence of brotherly love and community. It's what the late Billy Mackenzie confessed as "wild and lonely." George Michael would have understood. The American movie of year.

Will You Dance with Me?

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This invaluable, previously unreleased project by Derek Jarman documented one night at a 1980s gay disco. A cross-section of Londoners find common ground on the dance floor, moving, singing, flirting back when rap, disco, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax" defined social media.

Eisenstein in Guanajuato

Peter Greenaway's most inventive and accessible movie. A biopic of the great Sergei Eisenstein, the gay Russian genius who invented the action film, seen during his sexual and artistic exile in Mexico. Elmer Beck gives the performance of the year matched by Luis Alberti's below-the-border heat.

Wiener-Dog

Todd Solondz captures contemporary culture's intimate, nationwide breakdown in this daring satire. Film professor and screenwriter Danny DeVito faces the intolerance of a millennial gay student more concerned with his own arrogance than life's consequences.

Valley of Love

In Guillaume Nicloux's Honor Thy Parents/Love Thy Child proverb and existential mystery, Gerard Depardieu and Isabelle Huppert come to terms with their deepest issues when memorializing their gay son. A profoundly moving journey.

Don't Call Me Son

A gay Brazilian teen's (drag artist Naomi Nero) difficult self-realization is mirrored in the vicissitudes of family structure. Dani Nefussi's tour de force duo motherhood performance embodies director Anna Muylaert's singular insight.

The Dressmaker

Jocelyn Moorhouse and P.J. Hogan's latest woman's picture gives Kate Winslet her first real diva role as a woman who escaped a horrible adolescence then returns home to Australia (and Liam Hemsworth) to teach the fabulousness of sexual self-acceptance. It's Project Runaway as National Velvet and Judy Davis channeling Anne Revere.

Certain Women

Kelly Reichardt's got dem ol' cosmic blues again, Mama, using the lonely landscapes of Montana as her best-yet setting for lesbian character studies--by Kristin Stewart, Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, and special guest lesbian-of-color Lily Gladstone searching for a soul mate.

Spa Night

In Los Angeles' Koreatown, a gay youth (Joe Seo) balances dutiful-son, immigrant-culture loyalties with the need to embrace his desires. Director Alan Ahn gives the universal tale personal sensitivity.

And then there's Moonlight. Years after Isaac Julien, Patrik-Ian Polk, and Carl Franklin's trailblazing movies about black gay life, this film caters to politically correct self-pity and liberal condescension, mainly through its affecting black male actors . Barry Jenkins' take on themes from Trayvon Martin doesn't connect to Techine's circle-of-life (or the other films listed here), it merely reinforces victimization as the gay and black social condition. Moonlight is unacceptable but upcoming 2017 films by Davies, Duscastel-Martineau, Alain Guiraudie suggest we are entering a gay film renaissance.

Related | Trevante Rhodes Shines in Moonlight, This Fall's Essential Queer Black Film

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