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Gay films weren’t the fashion this year
Few LGBT depictions could be found in mainstream movies

by Steve Warren . Contributing Writer

John Travolta might have dragged it up for ‘Hairspray,’ but he also starred in ‘Wild Hogs,’ the most homophobic movie of the year.

Two years ago, when “Brokeback Mountain” was winning awards and, more importantly, turning a sweet profit, we thought Hollywood — which never saw a hit it couldn’t clone — would start cranking out queer films by the dozens, filling those multiplex screens with A-list stars in same-sex liplocks. Gay was going to be the “new black.”

So what did 2007 bring? Jude Law and Michael Caine in an ill-conceived re-imagining of “Sleuth,” Heather Graham discovering she loves her brother’s wife in “Gray Matters” and Woody Harrelson as an anachronistic gay stereotype in “The Walker.” Total combined North American box office? Less than a million.

John Travolta appeared in drag in “Hairspray,” but also starred in the year’s most homophobic movie, “Wild Hogs.” Secret lover Peter Dinklage outed the deceased in “Death at a Funeral.” There was eye candy galore in “300,” thanks to the soldiers’ ridiculous battle garb, but we never saw them do what we know Greeks did, thanks in part to the mess Oliver Stone made of “Alexander.”

There were the traditional (i.e., pre- “Brokeback”) movies with token gay friends (“Bug,” “You Kill Me”), gay relatives (“The Jane Austen Book Club”) and trendy gay chatter (“P.S. I Love You”). Ray McKinnon played twins, one of them gay, in “Randy and the Mob.” A male-male rape in “The Kite Runner” is so obliquely presented the movie got a PG-13 rating, yet the young actors had to flee Afghanistan because of death threats.

The year’s gayest mainstream movies were “Reno 911!: Miami,” with Lt. Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon) leading the campy fun and “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry,” with Adam Sandler and Kevin James as straight men pretending to be gay.

There were gay pretenders in queer films too. Sam Huntington was straight-playing-gay in “Freshman Orientation” (with lesbian actress Heather Matarazzo in a straight role) and gay Jim Verraros was gay-playing-straight in “Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds.”

As usual, the best queer films came from abroad, but even they were in short supply this year. Israel gave us Eytan Fox’s “The Bubble,” about the clandestine relationship between an Israeli man and a Palestinian man. Gus Van Sant’s gay love story was one of the 18 shorts in “Paris Je t’Aime,” and a couple of others had some gay content.

Nick May plays the title character in ‘The Houseboy,’ a gay variation on ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’

With here! and LOGO TV offering increased distribution opportunities on cable and DVD for queer independent films you’d expect to see an increase in quality as well as quantity. Sadly, that’s not true. The numbers may be rising but most of the narrative films (e.g. “Boy Culture,” “Itty Bitty Titty Committee,” “Colma — The Musical,” “Puccini for Beginners”) are still pretty mediocre. They may be okay for movie nights at home or in the communal context of a festival, but when you consider the superiority of many straight indies on the market, you have to wonder what happened to our famous creativity.

This year’s festivals didn’t offer much hope for the future. One of the best queer dramas I saw, “The Houseboy” should have been released to theaters for the holidays, as it’s a gay variation on “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Maybe next year.

As usual, documentaries outshone narrative films. Among the year’s best were “For the Bible Tells Me So,” practically a remake of Arthur Dong’s “Family Fundamentals;” “The Life of Reilly,” an autobiographical performance piece by Charles Nelson Reilly, who passed away this year; and Jessica Yuâ’s “Protagonist,” in which one of the four personal journeys we follow is that of a gay man turned “ex-gay” turned gay again.

As for movies in general, ticket buyers proved to be a bunch of idiots in 2007.

I don’t mean you personally, of course. If you have enough taste to read this feature you’re not one of the people who started the year by making huge hits of horrible movies (“Norbit,” “Ghost Rider,” “Wild Hogs”), then stayed away when the “serious” pictures started arriving in the fall.
Everything came in batches all year: great actresses (Julie Christie and Marion Cotillard) and failed “torture-porn” sequels in the spring, threequels in late spring/early summer, vigilante thrillers and Jane Austen-related romances in late summer, anti-Iraq War movies in early fall, African-American holiday movies in late fall. Whatever you liked, there would surely be at least one more just like it opening soon.

The studios continue making a self-fulfilling prophecy of the idea that awards go to late-year releases by saving their potential contenders at least until September, then flooding the market with them. It’s worth noting that most of my Ten Worst opened in the first half of the year, so I don’t forget.

Marco Dapper as Troy and Brett Chukerman as Marc in ‘Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds.’

After eight months of crap, can the public really be blamed for not flocking to “Eastern Promises,” “Reservation Road,” “Things We Lost in the Fire,” “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” “Lions for Lambs” and “Martian Child,” some of which weren’t very good anyway; or for confusing “Dedication” and “Delirious,” “Rendition” and “Redacted,” “The Hoax” and “The Host,” “In the Valley of Elah” and “In the Shadow of the Moon,” “September Dawn” and “Rescue Dawn” or “We Own the Night” and “30 Days of Night?”

As disappointing as many of the films themselves were, more disappointing was when one the masses should have enjoyed (e.g. “Shoot’em Up”) got lost in the shuffle. At this writing, the box office jury is still out on those year-end releases that are supposed to make the wait worthwhile.
You’ll see several of their titles in the “Best” list below and on many other lists of nominations and awards, but will you go to see them when they’re up against sequels to “Alien vs. Predator” and “National Treasure?”

Oh, you will, but what about all those other idiots?

Top 10 films of 2007
Some of these movies are in limited release and haven’t screened everywhere.
1. “Atonement”
2. “The Kite Runner”
3. “There Will Be Blood”
4. “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”
5. “Juno”
6. “No Country for Old Men”
7. “The Lookout”
8. “Michael Clayton”
9. “Lars and the Real Girl”
10. “Golden Door”

Bottom 10 films of 2007
1. “Wild Hogs”
2. “Romance & Cigarettes”
3. “Norbit”
4. “Daddy Day Care”
5. “The Brothers Solomon”
6. “September Dawn”
7. “Georgia Rule”
8. “King of California”
9. “In the Land of Women”
10. “The Number 23”

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