It’s that time of year again. Putting the spotlight on the LGBTQ+ community and queer media to look out for and binge. As a person of color in the community, I take great delight in delving into films and shows that have made for joyful and appreciative experiences, whether they be heartwarming or saddening. Not only that, but I believe in the importance of having quality representation and stories told on the screen. Despite there being more queer representation in film these days, few have managed to reach that level of cinematic gold. That being said, here are five films worth watching this month in celebration of pride:
Bound (1996) dir. Lana and Lilly Wachowski
Sex, booze, and fun-filled heists. What’s not to love about the Wachowski sisters’ directorial debut? Despite having a lot of skepticism about this film over the years, I finally had the pleasure of watching it this month and wow. To say this was a homerun would be an understatement. Bound at its core is a chaotic yet enjoyable film noir about two contrasting women who find out that they’re not all that different. So they conspire to run off with themselves and $2,000,000. The film is, unashamedly, all over the place and gay gay gay. You can feel the oozing attraction between Corky and Violet from the start of the film, but at the same time it’s not entirely important to the central plot and heist in the film, which arguably makes it better.
Bound is available to stream on Hulu here.
Desert Hearts (1985) dir. Donna Deitch
One of my favorite comforting rewatches. Despite its criticisms on adhering to heteronormative dynamics as I’ve recently learned, to say it is boring and uneventful cinema would be one of the biggest lies out of my mouth. Desert Hearts portrays the experience of figuring out what you want in one of the most captivating settings yet: a divorced literature professor and free spirited artist falling in love in the deserts of Reno. The warm unsaturated lighting in combination with its sophisticated yet subtle west coast comedy definitely gives this film a warm hug kind of feeling to it while holding no bars on the queer romance and representation. As one of my favorite quotes from Cay in this film goes:
“I don’t act this way to change the world. I act this way so the goddamn world won’t change me!”
And I think that just about encompasses how important and real this film comes out (pun intended) to be.
Desert Hearts is available to stream on the Criterion Channel here.
But I’m a Cheerleader (1999) dir. Jamie Babbit
The quintessential (or should I say queertessential?) gay satire of the 20th century, everyone. But I’m a Cheerleader utilizes vivid color palettes in combination with hilarious takes on queer stereotypes to form a classic that speaks volumes on the absurdity of homophobia and conversion therapy. Not only that, but you get a well-rounded cast that joins in on the fun that this film is unashamed to explore (from RuPaul to Julie Delpy to Dante Basco). But I’m a Cheerleader is a fantastic comedy that brings light to the problems with parents taking their queer kids to conversion therapy while also poking fun at the queer community itself. A spicy treat for both the homophobe and the homosexual.
But I’m a Cheerleader is available to stream for free on Plex here.
Saving Face (2004) dir. Alice Wu
An Asian American classic take on the queer experience. I take great comfort knowing this was written and directed by a queer Chinese American woman who went from being a software engineer to pursuing film (as an aspiring software engineer and writer myself). It encapsulates the struggles that come with growing up in a Chinese American family that is so meticulous on public perception and judgment, especially when it comes to one of their own being gay. Saving Face is, quite literally, about saving face, or trying to. You have Michelle Krusiec as Wil, a hospital surgeon who falls in love with Vivian, a professional dancer (and Wil’s boss’s daughter). Then you have Joan Chen as Wil’s mom Gao, who is mysteriously pregnant in her 40s and brings shame to the Hwei-Lan family. Both women are trying to hide important parts of who they are in order to “save face” and appear perfect like nothing’s wrong. It is a splendid romantic-comedy at heart, but a heartwarming ode to the queer Asian American experience at best.
Saving Face is available for rent on Amazon here.
D.E.B.S. (2004) dir. Angela Robinson
This may be a mixed bag for some (it certainly was for me at first), but fear not. If you’re up for a comforting campy queer film and are a fan of Reese Witherspoon’s wit and vibes in Legally Blonde, then D.E.B.S. is the movie for you to watch right now. In this film, four school girls secretly work as spies for the D.E.B.S. society, and, boy, is it pure entertainment at its best. It is not one of the cinematic greats, but that’s okay! It’s not trying to be, and that I think is what makes it great in itself. It was designed to be an absurd yet wholesome work of cinema that you may not have known you needed, and for that, I highly recommend experiencing this film at least once, whether you may enjoy it or not. It’s a wild blast to the early 2000’s for sure and a fun one at that.
D.E.B.S. is available to rent on Amazon here.