Battle of the Sexes
Beyond trouncing proud male chauvinist Bobby Riggs in the legendary 1973 Battle of the Sexes tennis match, Billie Jean King was a proponent for equal pay early in the game. The film from Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, the directing team behind Little Miss Sunshine, recounts the story of how that famous battle came to pass at the same time it tracks King’s love affair with hairstylist Marilyn Barnett. Both Emma Stone, who stars as King, and Steve Carell, who plays Riggs, received Golden Globe nominations for their performances. Andrea Riseborough, Sarah Silverman, Alan Cumming, Elisabeth Shue, and Natalie Morales costar.
Beats Per Minute
Beats Per Minute is an essential new film that chronicles a hitherto neglected part of LGBT history: the ACT UP movement in France. Directed by Robin Campillo, a former member of the direct action advocacy group, the film shows the AIDS epidemic in 1990s Paris through the eyes of these activists, who stage die-ins, throw fake blood at pharmaceutical representatives, and debate among themselves the best ways to compel those with power into action. Actors Nahuel Pérez Biscayart and Arnaud Valois comprise the beating heart of this drama, as serodiscordant lovers who are drawn together by an epidemic that also threatens to tear them apart. See it in select theaters this weekend, and don't miss an interview with the director and stars at Advocate.com.
While Carrie certainly had its queer appeal, Norwegian director Joachim Trier’s (Louder Than Bombs) supernatural thriller takes it next-level with a queer bent. The film focuses on Thelma (Eili Harboe), a teenager whose special powers become more prevalent as she navigates falling in love for the first time with another girl while facing pressure from her oppressively religious family.
Tom of Finland
When Touko Valio Laaksonen — known by his artist's name, Tom of Finland — began drawing erotic images of men in 1940s Europe, such an act was an illegal. Yet for decades, Laaksonen labored for his art, surviving shady dealers on the black market as well as threats from law enforcement, which considered not only his art but his very being as a gay man a threat to society.
Directed by Dome Karukoski, the sweeping biopic Tom of Finland shows Laaksonen's (Pekka Strang) journey as well as the evolving acceptance of gay people throughout the latter half of the 20th century. From World War II to the AIDS crisis, Laaksonen subverts each era's agents of oppression through his art's embrace of sexuality without shame. The film offers a must-see history lesson in Resistance, which takes on renewed importance in today's world.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is the fascinating tale of the man who created Wonder Woman, William Marston (Luke Evans); his wife, Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall); and their lover, Olive (Bella Heathcote). Directed by Angela Robinson, the film, set in the early 20th century, portrays a polyamorous relationship without negative judgment and provides a shout-out to the enduring, empowering superhero Marston brought to life. Read Advocate contributor Alexander Cheves's take on the movie here.
Call Me by Your Name
Call Me by Your Name, a dream of a film directed by Luca Guadagnino, has enchanted both audiences and critics with its postcard-perfect depiction of northern Italy and its central romance between 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and his father's 24-year-old graduate student, Oliver (Armie Hammer). An Oscar contender, the film has already garnered Golden Globe nominations for its central actors, who shine in their portrayal of first love and heartbreak. But it's a capstone speech from Elio's father (A Serious Man's Michael Stuhlbarg) to his son that will linger in your mind for days, if not live on in film history.
A Fantastic Woman
Directed by Sebastián Lelio, A Fantastic Woman (Una Mujer Fantástica) is a fantastic Chilean film that follows a transgender woman, Marina (Daniela Vega), in the wake of her partner's death. In addition to loss, Marina endures many hardships and indignities, facing eviction, suspicion, and rejection from the family of her loved one. International audiences have embraced Marina's story, earning a spot on the coveted shortlist for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards.
God’s Own Country
Move over, Brokeback Mountain. There's a new gay shepherd film in town. The acclaimed God's Own Country, a British drama about a sheep farmer's (Josh O'Connor) relationship with a Romanian migrant worker (Alec Secareanu), was a hit at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the directing award in world cinema for first-time filmmaker Francis Lee. It's easy to see why. The film is a beautiful, visceral, and at times violent depiction of how self-hate, societal stigma, and prejudice can complicate queer love. Its themes resonate profoundly in a world where fear is threatening to close borders and reject outsiders. Perhaps it provides, if not an antidote, then a salve.
The South African submission for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards is The Wound, a coming-of-age drama about ukwaluka, the Xhosa initiation into manhood. In this ritual, adolescents are circumcised and then spend time healing in the wilderness alongside male adult mentors. The film, directed by John Trengove, shows closeted characters on both sides of the generational divide, who grapple with the meaning of masculinity in history and modern times.
In Beach Rats, a 19-year-old Brooklyn native, Frankie, is grappling with his sexuality — but also with many other issues. His father is dying of cancer. He has a dependence on prescription drugs. His "friends" — the beach rats in question — know nothing of his attraction to men, which Frankie pursues through a hookup site and consummates nightly on the shore where he spends his days. Directed by Eliza Hittman, Beach Rats is a mesmerizing coming-of-age story that is unafraid to show an unhappiness. And a star is born with the actor portraying Frankie, Harris Dickinson, whose beauty and complexity give this film its soul.