By Sam Allen
If you’re at all like me, you savour the sunsets and frolicking outdoors, relaxing by the beach, and sipping tropical libations as you lounge in light clothing. Yes, all of that is fun and invigorating, but you might also be yearning to curl up indoors with a cup of tea and a good book, an enthralling Netflix show or an entertaining movie, with your friends or, dare I say, by yourself.
Now is the perfect time to watch feel-good classics like It’s a Wonderful Life and On the Avenue. I remember cosying up on the couch with my mom to revisit (and cry to) West Side Story’s score, composed by the incomparable Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. Both of them have been members of the LGBTQ+ community and came out in their own way and in their own time. Such is the plight of LGBTQ+ folks.
So I’m challenging you, dear reader. To keep an open mind and an open heart for LGBTQ+ storylines and actors. To let the inner life that is so present during these twilight days kindle your compassion – and your impulse to dance! Because what is a good queer movie without a dance-off?!
If you’re a Hulu subscriber or own a DVD player, RENT is your first go-to movie for LGBTQ+ storylines. I memorised its anthems when I was a mere baby gay in my senior year of high school and attended its touring show soon afterwards in San Francisco, the twinkling capital of all things queer+trans. RENT follows a chosen family of friends through a year or two of life and love. The cast includes several LGBTQ+ actors, but more than that, it exemplifies the joy and pain that is endemic to being a queer or trans person in recent years.
Hedwig And The Angry Inch
Written by John Cameron Mitchell, Hedwig and the Angry Inch will probably challenge you to think outside of gender boxes to see someone’s full humanity. In Hedwig, there’s a typical plot, but also a universal story. Take note of the common themes here—the search for identity, the longing for true love, the feeling of not being whole and realisation that you are just that. Along the way, resonate with the profound metaphor of Hedwig being a bridge between all divides—walls, genders, and forms of respectability. Love her, laugh with (and at) her, and then realise that you are her.
By Hook Or By Crook
This is a buddy movie that you can watch for 2.99 USD on Amazon Video. After a breakup, I use By Hook or By Crook as a tincture for my wounded heart. After all, partners come and go, but friends are forever! Directed and written by the groundbreaking Silas Howard and his real-life friend Harry Dodge, the movie is almost a subtle reworking of The Wizard of Oz. Look for shiny shoes, identity shuffles, and the realisation that ‘there’s no place like home’.
I’m Your Man: Leonard Cohen
Not so much a movie, Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man is actually a tribute concert interspersed with interviews from the one and only poet+performer Leonard Cohen. Cohen’s lyrics bring a sense of wonder and longing that queer and trans performers have made their own in the last two or more decades. Look for Anhoni (formerly Antony) singing their heart out with Cohen’s underrated classic, “If It Be Your Will.”
A fairly recent release is Rocketman, a biopic of the gay rockstar Elton John. Taron Egerton stars as the man himself, and Jamie Bell plays alongside him as Elton’s best friend and chosen brother, Bernie Taupin. Open yourself up to Elton’s triumphant overcoming of parental rejection to find, and I quote, someone who can “love him properly”. Oh, and do sing along and dance, if the toe-tapping beats get you moving. Because that’s what we do.
West Side Story
Didn’t think I’d tease you, did I? West Side Story is a classic for all. While not explicitly queer, this movie makes use of forbidden love and overcoming us/them dynamics with two “gangs” of social outcasts. The protagonist dies in the end, so chalk it up to a pre-Stonewall tragedy that not only the gays can understand. Oh, and Shakespeare. Because everyone dies in his plays. Available on a variety of streaming platforms.
See, that wasn’t so hard, was it? We are people, first and foremost. Queer stories are universal. And with recent rights being gained throughout the world, our stories are more uplifting than sad these days. Dare I say dance party? Dip your toes into a rainbow of entertainment, and you will find the world a much more colourful place.
Enjoy your epxlorations, and hug a gay today!