List by-Jarrett Leahy
The overwhelming critical success of Dallas Buyers Club and Blue is the Warmest Color (the 2013 Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or winner) is proof yet again that film is one of the leading modern art forms at the front line of helping people become more understanding and tolerant to alternative lifestyles. Of the many LGBT films and performances that have come out over the last 25 years, these are the six that really moved me…
6. Transamerica (2005) Transamerica tells the story of Bree, a pre-surgery transgender man whose discovery that he had fathered a child during his past life sends him on a journey of discovery to find the now teenage son just weeks before his final reconstructive surgery to permanently become a woman. Poignant, lonely, tender hearted, Transamerica shows the difficulties faced by a transgender individual who desperately wants to be accepted for who they are. Felicity Huffman of Desperate Housewives fame gives an almost unrecognizable and career defining performance as Bree, earning her a much deserved Best Actress Oscar nomination.
5. The Kids Are All Right (2010) Julianne Moore and Annette Bening are lifelong partners with two children, each conceived by the same anonymous sperm donor. Comedic drama ensues when the kids, curious to meet their biological father, reach out and attempt to make contact with him. Rarely do you see the topic of sperm donor parents depicted in cinema, and I have to admit it made me question what I would do if I were put in a similar situation of being informed of two unknown biological children wanting to meet me. Moore and Bening make a wonderful and very believable lesbian couple, each playing off the other to capture the slew of emotions that arise as the drama of the film unfolds. It is a shame that only Bening’s performance received an Oscar nomination, Moore also deserved to be recognized.
4. Milk (2008) Milk is the true story of the untimely death of famed 1970’s gay activist Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay elected official. After watching the 1984 documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk (available on Criterion Collection), I can honestly say director Gus Van Sant and writer Dustin Lance Black stayed very true to the real life story of Harvey. Sean Penn, who gave a spot on portrayal of Milk, was a revelation on screen. Some who are more used to Penn’s tough guy persona will not even recognize him. Despite being ignored by a larger audience during its initial theatrical release, Penn was awarded his second Academy award for his striking and impactful performance.
3. Philadelphia (1993) Andrew Beckett, a talented and up and coming lawyer is suddenly fired after an important legal document goes missing, threatening the outcome of a major litigation case. Andy fears the missing document was just a sabotage tactic to cover up the true reason for his firing, his AIDS virus. Philadelphia is the film that began a run of critical success for actor Tom Hanks that has rarely been equaled. Hanks’ performance is absolutely heartbreaking, as the effects of the AIDS virus takes a tole on his fragile body. With the help of Denzel Washington and Antonio Banderas who both give powerful and tender supporting performances, the emotional impact of Philadelphia has not diminished more than 20 years later.
2. A Single Man (2009) Set during the 1960’s Cuban missile crisis, Colin Firth plays George, an English professor struggling with the sudden loss of his beloved life partner. Tom Ford, who is more known for being a fashion design icon, adeptly steps into the director’s chair to create a film that exudes such a rich and romantic cinematic atmosphere. No actor could more effectively capture the emotional distraught of George than Colin Firth, whose performance was nominated for Best Actor of 2009. Unfortunately Firth would lose to an equally impressive performance by Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart, but that doesn’t diminish the impact of his heart-rending portrayal.
1. Brokeback Mountain (2005) While sheep herding in the remote Wyoming mountains, two cowboys discover a powerful romantic connection that cannot be shaken despite every effort to live the way society has deemed “normal”. Despite the fact that everything leading up to the Academy Awards of 2006 said that Ang Lee’s beautifully sweeping, forbidden love story was going to be rightfully honored as the best film of 2o05, a large number of movie-goers refused to see this touching film on general principle. Unfortunately, the Academy voters copped out and selected an inferior film, Crash, as 2005’s Best Motion Picture of the Year. The controversy surrounding this forbidden love story is well documented, but time has proven the lasting impact of the film and the unflinching performances from its two leading men, Jake Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger. Brokeback Mountain is true cinematic work of art that will continue to move future cinema fans willing give the film a chance and judge it on its artistic merits.-JL