YEAR IN REVIEW 2019: movie milestones

gay film 2019
Antonio Banderas in ‘Pain and Glory’ and Adèle Haenel and Noémie Merlant in ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire.’ (Photos courtesy Sony Pictures Classic and NEON respectively)

While queer cinema in 2019 may have lacked some of the sparkle and star power of queer cinema in 2018, it was still a strong year for cinematic inclusion and representation for LGBT characters.

The best movie of the year (queer or mainstream) was undoubtedly Pedro Almodóvar’s magnificent “Pain and Glory (Dolor y Gloria)” starring the queer writer/director’s long-time collaborator Antonio Banderas. Banderas plays gay filmmaker Salvador Mallo whose physical and psychological ailments have kept him away from the camera. Instead, his mind wanders freely through past and present as he fights his way towards an uncertain future.

The Cannes screenwriting award, along with the Queer Palm, went to lesbian filmmaker Céline Sciamma’s sumptuous “Portrait of a Girl on Fire.” The richly sensuous exploration of art and romance will receive a full theatrical release for Valentine’s Day in 2020.

Other queer cinematic highlights from around the globe included Lucio Castro’s excellent debut feature “End of the Century,” a smart and sexy exploration of the mysterious connection between two men whose paths cross in Barcelona; “And Then We Danced,” a portrait of romance and rivalry among the young male dancers at the elite training school for the National Georgian Ensemble; “Rafiki,” a powerful romance about star-crossed lesbian lovers in Kenya; “Rocketman,” an exuberant fantasy version of the early career of pop superstar Elton John; and, “Downton Abbey” Julian Fellowes’ opulent return to the bygone splendors of England between the World Wars where a Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) dispenses barbed quips and the gay butler Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier) visits a gay pub and finally discovers the possibility of true love.

On the domestic front, gay auteur Ira Sachs helmed “Frankie” a finely observed family drama centered around a transcendent performance by Isabelle Huppert. Jillian Bell offered a richly nuanced breakout performance in “Brittany Runs a Marathon;” written and directed by out filmmaker Paul Downs Colaizzo, the film also featured fine supporting performances by Micah Stock as Brittany’s gay running buddy and Michaela Watkins as Brittany’s seemingly perfect neighbor.

Bell and Watkins also played a lesbian couple in Lynn Shelton’s improvised comedy “Sword of Trust” which featured an excellent Marc Maron as a bemused pawn shop owner.

Finally, the wild and witty “Booksmart” was a critical and cult favorite and a box-office failure. Despite strong work by first-time director Olivia Wilde and winning lead performances by Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever, a lackluster advertising campaign, which failed to promote the film’s lesbian content, left a fine movie in the shadows.

On the documentary front, several fascinating movies examined queer life from a rich variety of perspectives. “Ask Dr. Ruth” offered an insightful portrait of LGBT-friendly sex therapist and Holocaust survivor Ruth Westheimer.  Josh Howard’s probing “The Lavender Scare” detailed the Cold War era witch hunt that drove gay men and lesbians from government service andMatt Tyrnauer’s searing “Where’s My Roy Cohn?” presented a chilling portrait of the closeted New York attorney who helped fuel that witch hunt and who later served as a mentor to Donald Trump. Filmmakers Robert Anderson Clift and Hillary Demmon offered “Making Montgomery Clift,” a thoughtful reappraisal of the uncle, the classic film star and queer icon.

Finally, “Transmilitary” profiled several of the brave service members who are challenging the trans military ban and “Gay Chorus Deep South” followed the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus as they toured several southern states in the wake of the divisive 2016 election.

Published at Sat, 04 Jan 2020 01:14:40 +0000