queer cinema

trailer enders game

“Probably the most egregiously overlooked area of gay visibility is, if you can swing with me on this, science fiction…Since all these shows are set in the future, the grim possibility exists that, at least in their creators’ minds, there are no gay people in the future. It’s a curious notion for science-fiction to embrace…” Discussing queer visibility on network television, Bruce Vilanch wrote these words for The Advocate in 1997, but he might as well have been talking about films in 2013. Last year, I made a point that “the genres that dominate Hollywood right now are also the most heteronormative (action sequels, superhero franchises, and children’s films)”; outside of the occasional allegory, one could add science-fiction to this mix as well. Of all the conversations surrounding the controversy over Orson Scott Card’s affiliation with the homophobic National Organization for Marriage in advance of Lionsgate’s expensive adaptation of Ender’s Game, one repeated assertion has been bugging me quite a bit – the notion that the film itself will have nothing to do, and does not in any way exercise, Card’s problematic politics. Such a view sees the routine absence of homosexuality in popular movies – specifically, genre movies – as somehow apolitical.

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Laurence1

Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy decides he wants to be a girl, and girl struggles with whether or not she can still love boy-turned-girl. This seems like such an obviously compelling storytelling scenario, a queer twist on an otherwise conventional love story, which makes it striking that a film like Xavier Dolan’s Laurence Anyways hasn’t already been made before (at least, not to my knowledge). Montreal, 1989. Laurence Alia (Melvil Poupaud of Arnaud Desplechin’s A Christmas Tale) is a novelist and literature teacher well into a passionate years-long relationship with Fred Belair (Suzanne Clément), an AD in the Quebec film industry. The couple plans a vacation, Laurence prepares his first novel, but something is amiss; something is tearing Laurence apart. While in the middle of a drug-addled, fiery exchange in a car wash, Laurence breaks down and reveals to Fred that he was never meant to be a man, that he despises the body he was given and longs to realize his true self as a woman.

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Culture Warrior

Thursday is National Coming Out Day. While this annual recognition of LGBT civil awareness on the anniversary of the 1987 Lesbian and Gay Rights March on Washington marks an important milestone each and every year, it seems particularly important within today’s heated political climate. The tide of support for equal rights for LGBT-identified persons has shifted dramatically since the previous election year, when the inauguration of the first African-American President occurred on the same day that the 2nd most populous state in our country voted to take away the rights of same-sex couples to marry. But subsequent the passing of new hate crimes legislation, the repeal of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell, and the first declaration by a sitting US President in support of same-sex marriage, it seems that support for equal rights is no longer the social boogeyman on the national scale that it once was; in fact, at least generationally, the polarization of anti-gay/pro-gay has reversed. Social politics are changing in favor of progress, and at a dramatic rate. It is now politically beneficial to be for equal rights. 2012 is also the year that has seen more LGBT characters on television than ever before. According to a recent study by GLAAD (and neatly summarized by Buzzfeed), 4.4% of all regular characters featured on scripted network television are LGBT-indentified. And with the popularity of shows like Glee, Modern Family, and The New Normal (and popular cable shows like HBO’s True Blood), the presence of LGBT characters resonates further outside what the […]

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Criterion Files

Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence is a truly unique film by several definitions. Japanese master filmmaker Nagisa Oshima’s first English-language film (and it is worth noting here that much of it is in Japanese) embodies some dense discourses about Japanese identity, yet in many respects this is a film without a nation. But that’s exactly the point, for Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence embodies a host of contradictions in terms of how we’re used to experiencing films of its relative ilk: it is a film about war, yet it is never about patriotism or combat; it is a film about an intersection of cultures, yet it never seeks to deliver a message of sameness of common ground; and it is a film about sexual tensions between males, yet homosexuality is never explicitly addressed in a way that would place it fittingly in the canon of “queer cinema.”

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