Keep the Lights On
9 Great Gay Alternatives for This Year's Best Picture Oscar Nominees

By Kevin OKeeffe

Originally published on Advocate.com February 26 2014 4:00 AM ET

Maybe you’ve already seen all the Best Picture nominees for this weekend’s Academy Awards. Perhaps you're not quite thrilled at this year's short list. Maybe you’re just looking for something a little bit gayer. We’re here to help.

This isn't exactly Netflix or Amazon. But, based on our very unscientific comparison of genre and themes, here are nine best picture substitutes that you can watch before, during, and after Sunday’s Oscar ceremony.

 

People who watched Dallas Buyers Club should also watch How to Survive a Plague

Without a doubt, Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto have dominated awards season for their body-transforming, highly realistic work in Dallas. Still, the very fact that the film is a narrative may be too much separation from the gripping reality of the AIDS crisis — especially for those who haven't lived through it. For a true life interpretation, not much is better than the documentary How to Survive a Plague, which was nominated for Best Documentary at the Oscars a year ago. It depicts the harrowing beginnings of the AIDS epidemic and chronicles the efforts of many to change the culture. The subjects may not look like McConaughey and Leto, but they are no less heroic for it.

 

People who watched Philomena should also watch Transamerica

If you’re in the mood for a road trip movie with LGBT plot elements — but you consider Philomena a bit too staid for your taste, the quirky but heartwarming Transamerica might be your cup of tea. Felicity Huffman won a Golden Globe and was Oscar-nominated for her work as a transgender woman left reeling after a previously unknown son reaches out to her. It’s heartbreaking and hilarious in equal measure, and holds up well almost 10 years later. Yes, Judi Dench is great, and she’s an international treasure, but we really should appreciate Huffman’s talent here.

 

People who watched American Hustle should also watch The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Tina Fey joked at the Golden Globes that Hustle’s original title was Explosion at the Wig Factory. That could also be an alternate title for Priscilla, the epic road trip dramedy that has inspired cult followings and a Broadway musical adaptation. The film follows two drag queens and a transgender woman across Australia in a bus — the titular Priscilla. It’s a campy blast, with insane costumes — designers Lizzy Gardiner and Tim Chappel won an Oscar for their work — and a great soundtrack. Perfect for those looking for a wild ride without the credulity-straining characterizations in Hustle.

People who watched 12 Years a Slave should also watch Milk

Some Best Picture nominees, like American Hustle and Nebraska, are light, fun movies. 12 Years a Slave is certainly not fun, nor should it be. But the heartbreaking story of Solomon Northrup is important, and quite worthy viewing. That said, it might be too heavy to jump right into, so prepare with the also serious (yet still inspiring and enjoyable) Milk. Featuring an Oscar-winning lead performance by Sean Penn as Harvey Milk, the Dustin Lance Black-penned film crackles with energy in a way so few biopics do. Penn richly deserved the Oscar for his work; he’s also surrounded by a lively ensemble including James Franco, Josh Brolin, and Diego Luna.

 

People who watched Her should also watch A Single Man

If you have to watch a man lamenting his romance, maybe you’d prefer it be about the late love of his life, not his operating system. Colin Firth’s work as George in Tom Ford’s directorial debut is devastating. His pain over losing his great love, Jim (Matthew Goode), bleeds through the screen. There’s more to the film than George —including Nicholas Hoult as a student with whom George grows close, as well as Julianne Moore who plays a woman who is both effervescent and depressed — but Firth provides an unflinching, powerful emotional center.

 

People who watched Nebraska should also watch Gayby

Want a quiet dramedy, but need something a bit more colorful than Alexander Payne’s cute-but-quiet road trip movie? Try Gayby, the Jonathan Lisecki-directed film about a gay clerk at a comic book store and his female best friend who try to have a baby together. It’s got the same low-key sensibility with enjoyable characters and a quick-witted script. No, it may not have an Academy Award-winner at the helm, but the charm of this movie outweighs the gold.

People who watched The Wolf of Wall Street should also watch Keep the Lights On

For critics of Martin Scorsese’s Jordan Belfort biopic, one of the biggest problems was the not-wholly-negative light in which Scorsese depicted its characters’ rampant sex and drug abuse. A much quieter yet equally intense take can be found in Ira Sachs’s Keep the Lights On, a grim portrait of a love affair between Erik, a 30-something Danish filmmaker, and his younger, drug-addled lover Paul. Watching Erik and Paul struggle with the third entity in their relationship — Paul’s addiction — is heart-wrenching and suffocating. It’s not a jolly good time like Wolf, but it’s deeply rooted in the all-too-sad reality of Sachs’s own life.

 

People who watched Gravity should also watch Far From Heaven

Sandra Bullock and Julianne Moore may not have much in common as actresses, but they’ve both played women becoming increasingly disconnected from their worlds — in Bullock’s case, quite literally. Moore’s Oscar-nominated work is on a much smaller scale; she’s in a Douglas Sirk movie, not outer space. But unlike Gravity, a virtual one-woman show, Todd Haynes’ tribute to Sirk features so much more than Moore’s sensational performance as a woman tentatively exploring the world outside her boundaries. The ensemble is uniformly excellent, including a pre-fame Viola Davis and the should-have-been-nominated Dennis Quaid as Moore’s closeted husband. Heaven is a reminder that drama doesn’t have to play out on an epic scale. Often, it never leaves our backyard.

 

People who watched Captain Phillips should also watch Hedwig and the Angry Inch

OK, go with us on this one: A high-octane thrill ride that features a dynamic lead performance, a culture clash, and an edge-of-your-seat ending. Phillips and Hedwig have more in common than you’d think. And with Neil Patrick Harris set to take the lead role in the musical revival later this year, there’s no better time to see the cult film. It wasn’t quite as financially successful as the Tom Hanks-starrer, but it’s definitely much wilder.