The silver and small screens feature best of an eventful year

2016 Year in Review — Retrospective: Love stories, drama, comedies and documentaries highlighted

Top five LGBTQ love stories

Everybody say, “Love!”

I’ve been a firm believer in the recently popular sentiment that “if the love doesn’t feel like 1990s R&B, I don’t want it.” I mean, nothing says “love” quite like SWV’s “Weak.” Am I right? Sadly, my love for “The Boy is Mine” hasn’t exactly helped me find a boy of my own, but that hasn’t stopped me from binge-watching love stories in an attempt to fill that Toni Braxton-sized hole in my heart. Check out the best of the best in the list below. No scrubs, guaranteed.

Photo Credit: ‘Lazy Eye’ film still courtesy T42 Entertainment

“Lazy Eye”

Passions ignite and hidden secrets are revealed when a graphic designer in Los Angeles reconnects with an ex-boyfriend he hasn’t seen or heard from in 15 years. Over the course of a weekend at a vacation house in the desert, they must determine whether or not they have a future together. “Lazy Eye” is a story about roads not taken, unfinished business and the struggle to adjust to progressive lenses.

Cast: Lucas Near-Verbrugghe, Aaron Costa Ganis, Michaela Watkins

Why You Should Watch: Given the budget for this film, the production value is top-notch. The utmost care is given to the set design and choice of location, not to mention the engaging script that is effortlessly delivered by the phenomenal (albeit tiny) cast.

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“Esteros”

Matias and Jeronimo spent childhood summers together in the Argentina wetlands of Esteros until Matias’ father moves his family to Brazil to take on a new job. The friends are reunited by chance as adults when Matias returns to his hometown with his girlfriend after 10 years. As the two men tentatively reconnect, the unresolved tensions of their youth rise to the surface, which is shown through vivid flashbacks to a particularly formative summer. Feelings between the two men slowly reappear, leading to a long-repressed awakening. But at what cost?

Cast: Ignacio Rogers, Felipe Titto, Renata Calmon

Why You Should Watch: While the story may be yet another telling of a classic trope, the way in which the material is handled as well as the backdrop of the Argentinian countryside are nothing short of exquisite.

“First Girl I Loved”

Seventeen-year-old Anne just fell in love with Sasha, the most popular girl at her L.A. public high school. But when Anne tells her best friend Clifton — who has always harbored a secret crush — he does his best to get in the way.

Cast: Brianna Hildebrand, Dylan Gelula, Pamela Adlon

Why You Should Watch: This lesbian coming-of-age story stands as being a beacon of authenticity in a genre that is often astonishingly exploitative. No agenda here. Just love, sweet high-school love.

“NY84”

“NY84” follows the adventures of three young artists in the downtown New York art scene in the early 1980s. Young and carefree, Kate, Anto and Keith party, photograph, paint, sing and play their way through the clubs and lofts of Alphabet City. The party ends in 1984 when Anton and Keith contract a mysterious illness known as the “gay cancer.” We gain an intimate glimpse into their creative and emotional lives as the trio loses their youth and innocence.

Cast: Sam Quartin, Chris Schellenger, Davy J. Marr

Why You Should Watch: French writer-director Cyril Morin’s atypical collage-like approach to telling his fragmentary story won’t be for everyone, but it’s a valiant effort and creates a poignant portrait from the time of innocence to the era of AIDS.

“People You May Know”

Joe, Delia, Rodrigo and Herbert are very close friends in their mid-30s. Delia and Rodrigo are married, while Joe is Delia’s ex-boyfriend who turned out to be gay. After a night of drinking, Joe and Delia sleep together and she gets pregnant. Meanwhile, Joe is in a secret online relationship with a man named Tom. They have not met in person yet…and they never will.

Cast: Sean Maher, Andrea Grano, Mark Cirillo

Why You Should Watch: Because the world of social media and catfishing (falsely using someone else’s identity to establish a romantic connection with an unsuspecting person) always makes for quality entertainment.

Top 5 LGBT Documentaries of 2016

Gypsies, trans and documentaries…

Phew, gurl. 2016 has been a year, hasn’t it? In my opinion, 2017 can’t come fast enough. I don’t know what we did to make 2016 mad, but she came right out of the gate swinging …taking the lives of all manner of gay icons! 2016 is fast coming to an end, and I am still legitimately afraid for Cher (you in danger, gurl!). Who am I kidding? We all know from following her on Twitter that she is immortal. But I digress. Even in light of all the madness, inspiring and informative stories continue to come out of the woodwork to help try and make sense of this world. Documentaries that help break down barriers not just between LGBT people and the rest of the world, but also within the community itself. Here’s our list of 2016s must-see LGBT documentaries.

Photo Credit: ‘Suited’ film still courtesy HBO

“Suited”

“Suited” follows its subjects — clients seeking a personalized experience — into Bindle & Keep, a bespoke tailoring company based in Brooklyn that looks beyond the gender binary, creating custom-made suits for gender-nonconforming and transgender clients. The film takes a modern, evolved look at gender through the conduit of clothing and explains the private and emotional experience surrounding it. It documents a cultural shift that is creating a new demand—and response—for each person’s right to go out into the world with confidence.

Why You Should Watch: While on the surface this slick film may seem like a fashion piece, delve a little deeper and you will find it is actually a compassionate look into the workings of this “business of people” and its remarkable clientele.

“Oriented”

“Oriented” is a feature documentary that follows the lives of three gay Palestinian friends confronting their national and sexual identities in Tel Aviv, Israel. Determined to “change their reality,” the three form a group called “Qambuta,” a non-violent cultural resistance movement fighting for gender and national equality. Through their activism, they address what it means to grow up with the burden of a multifaceted identity.

Why You Should Watch: This film gives insight into a whole new world. It provides a fantastic opportunity to introduce yourself to a new Palestinian generation, and change your mind as to what it means to be a gay Palestinian or Arab.

“Tickled”

After stumbling upon a bizarre “competitive endurance tickling” video online, wherein young men are paid to be tied up and tickled, reporter David Farrier reaches out to request a story from the company. But the reply he receives is shocking — the sender mocks Farrier’s sexual orientation and threatens extreme legal action should he dig any deeper. So, like any good journalist confronted by a bully, he does just the opposite and uncovers a vast empire known for harassing and harming the lives of those who protest their involvement in these films. The more he investigates, the stranger it gets, discovering secret identities and criminal activity.

Why You Should Watch: Competitive. Endurance. Tickling. Need I say more?

“The Trans List”

Acclaimed director and photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders shines a light on transgender Americans, several of whom share their insights on trans rights, the fight for equality, and their personal struggles and accomplishments. Featuring such outspoken subjects as Kylar Broadus, Nicole Maines, Shane Ortega, Caitlyn Jenner, and Laverne Cox.

Why You Should Watch: Informative, empowering and uplifting, “The Trans List” gives fantastic insight into the lives of 11 trans people with varying backgrounds through heartfelt and eye-opening interviews.

“Mariela Castro’s March: Cuba’s LGBT Revolution”

As a champion of recent legislative and social LGBTQ reforms, Mariela Castro travels the country with a message of diversity, including stories of love and hardship from a number of gay, lesbian and transgender Cubans.

Why You Should Watch: It’s fascinating to think what family get-togethers would be like given the awkward juxtaposition of Mariela and her uncle, former president Fidel Castro.

Top 5 LGBT Dramas of 2016

[Insert shady rattlesnake noise]

Drama: She’s the plus-size model of the genre world. She can be funny, intense and even sassy. Sometimes she’s deathly serious, and other times she’s straight-up flying at your face with a knife and a high kick. Long story short, drama can be a number of things, but when you’re looking for a good drama flick, you definitely want substance. Here’s a list of the biggest, most beautiful LGBTQ dramas that dropped in 2016.

‘Viva’ film still courtesy Magnolia Entertainment

“Viva”

A young hairdresser working at a Havana, Cuba, nightclub that showcases drag performers dreams of being a performer himself. But when his estranged father abruptly re-enters his life, his world is quickly turned upside-down. As father and son clash over their opposing expectations of each other, they struggle to understand one another and reconcile as a family.

Cast: Héctor Medina, Luis Alberto García, Jorge Perugorría

Why You Should Watch: Come for the drag show, but stay for the drama. The machismo culture present in Cuba is in direct contrast to its flamboyant opposition in drag queens, making this film an absolutely compelling watch.

“King Cobra”

It’s 2006, YouTube is in its infancy and internet porn is still behind a paywall. Taking the stage name Brent Corrigan, a fresh-faced, wannabe adult video performer is molded into a star by a closeted gay porn mogul who runs the skin flick empire Cobra Video from his seemingly ordinary suburban home. But as Brent’s rise and demands for more money put him at odds with his boss, he also attracts the attention of a rival producer and his unstable lover.

Cast: James Franco, Garrett Clayton, Christian Slater, Alicia Silverstone

Why You Should Watch: Because Garrett Clayton really nails the role of Brent Corrigan. No pun intended. Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.

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“Spa Night”

The atmospheric “Spa Night” is a portrait of forbidden sexual awakening set in the nocturnal world of spas and karaoke bars in Los Angeles’ Koreatown. A timid 18-year-old living with his financially-struggling immigrant parents, chances upon a secret cruising spot when he takes a job at an all-male spa. There he begins to realize hidden desires that threaten his life as a dutiful son and student.

Cast: Joe Seo, Haerry Kim, Tae Song

Why You Should Watch: While its pacing and restrained style may inhibit “Spa Night” from receiving wider appeal, its attention to characters, environment and reality are of the highest order.

“Equity”

When a senior investment banker is passed over for a promotion at her firm, she fights for the opportunity to take a start-up public, hoping this promising IPO will secure her a place at the firm’s highest level. But when an employee at the start-up raises questions about a possible crack in the company’s walls, she must decide whether to investigate rumors that may compromise the deal, or push forward with the confidence her superiors expect.

Cast: Anna Gunn, Alysia Reiner, James Purefoy

Why You Should Watch: It’s female-driven drama about life on Wall Street. It’s about freaking time.

“Other People”

A struggling comedy writer, fresh from breaking up with his boyfriend, moves to Sacramento, Calif. to help his sick mother. Living with his conservative father and younger sisters, David feels like a stranger in his childhood home. As his mother worsens, he tries to convince everyone — including himself — that he’s doing OK.

Cast: Jesse Plemons, Molly Shannon, Bradley Whitford

Why You Should Watch: Molly Shannon’s performance is undeniably powerful, heartfelt and authentic. She artfully weaves in laugh-out-loud moments without sacrificing intimacy or relying on her trademark sitcom flavor.

Top 5 LGBT Comedies of 2016

Because beauty fades and dumb is forever.

When it comes to comedy, nobody does funny like the gays. It’s not our fault that we were born with a veritable tap of witty candor and a penchant for over-the-top theatrics. I guess we’re just lucky (#HairflipEmoji). So, it should come as no surprise that when you get a gaggle of gays into a production studio and start filming, that is when the real magic happens (#UnicornEmoji). Comedy queens of the world rejoice, because we’ve pulled together a list of 2016’s best LGBT comedies for your viewing pleasure. They’re sure to tickle your funny bone (#EggplantEmoji).

Photo Credit: ‘Intervention’ film still courtesy Burn Later Productions

“The Intervention”

A weekend getaway for four couples takes a sharp turn when one of the couples discovers the entire trip was orchestrated to host an intervention on their marriage.

Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Jason Ritter, Skylar Bernon, Clea DuVall

Why You Should Watch: “It’s basically the ‘Force Awakens’ of early 1980s ensemble dramedies.” — Kevin P. Sullivan

“Grandma”

Lily Tomlin stars as Elle, who has just gotten through breaking up with her girlfriend, when her granddaughter Sage unexpectedly shows up needing $600 before sundown. Temporarily broke, Grandma Elle and Sage spend the day trying to get their hands on the cash as their unannounced visits to old friends and flames end up rattling skeletons and digging up secrets.

Cast: Lily Tomlin, Judy Greer, Julia Garner

Why You Should Watch: Because Lily Tomlin is a legend. Period. Full stop. End of sentence.

“Looking: The Movie”

“Looking: The Movie” wraps up the story of three close friends living in San Francisco, who explore the options available to a new generation of gay men seeking fulfillment in love and life.

Cast: Jonathon Groff, Frankie J. Alvarez, Murray Bartlett

Why You Should Watch: Because “Looking” is always so brilliant in its awareness of specific issues relevant to the gay community.

“Ab Fab: The Movie”

After attracting both media and police attention for accidentally knocking Kate Moss into the River Thames, Edina and Patsy hide out in the south of France.

Cast: Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Jane Horrocks

Why You Should Watch: Eddy and Patsy’s most recent reunion was enough to perk up a post-Brexit Britain… surely it will do the same for you!

“Dirty 30”

When the party’s on, it’s off the hook! Kate has only a few days to turn her life around before she turns 30, but with three besties and zero rules, anything is possible.

Cast: Mamrie Hart, Grace Helbig, Hannah Hart

Why You Should Watch: This proverbial lovechild of “Bridesmaids” and “Project X” is tons of fun. Keep an eye out for all the YouTube celeb cameos.

Visit my.xfinity.com/blogs/tv/2016/12/08/ to view many of these featured films.

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Posted by Scott Conant

Scott Conant is a writer with Xfinity Entertainment.