14 gay-appareled Christmas movies to make your holidays merry and bright

MaketheYuletideBlurayCoverWhether or not the weather outside is frightful, your DVD player is delightful with this fortnight of holiday flicks that appeal to gay and lesbian sensibilities — just in time for our Hollywood issue of movies, coming this Friday.

Home for the Holidays. Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter) navigates dysfunctional family dramedy during her solo trip home for Thanksgiving when her teenage daughter opts out of the year’s celebration. Tensions predictably boil over at the family table, but the weekend is wrapped nicely in a bow when the special guest of Tommy, Claudia’s gay brother, offers a second helping of stuffing. The Jodie Foster-directed Home for the Holidays celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

Make the Yuletide Gay. Astonishingly, there are few holiday films that feature LGBT characters (this list is fairly comprehensive as a result), let alone films that have gay main characters. But out Texas-native director Rob Williams changed that in 2009 by adding the spritely sweet Make the Yuletide Gay — about an in-the-closet college student (Keith Jordan) whose boyfriend (Adamo Ruggiero) suddenly shows up on his doorstep — to the Christmas-movie canon. MTYG has earned several awards, including Best Narrative Feature at FilmOut San Diego, Festival Favorite at Philadelphia QFest, and the Jury Award for Best Men’s Feature at the Long Island Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.

Holiday Heart. Ving Rhames stars as a Christian drag queen (how’d that fly under your radar until now!?) who takes in a drug addict (Alfre Woodard) and her daughter after his police-officer boyfriend dies. Based on the Cheryl L. West stage play of the same name, this made-for-Showtime movie has an astonishing 92 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

loveactuallymovieposter3762Scrooge & Marley. A modern-day variation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, this reimagined version depicts Scrooge as a bitter old queen whose bah-humbug attitude gets a makeover from the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future… and Bruce Vilanch.

Love, Actually. Widely regarding as one of the best holiday movies of the new millennium (by straight girls, at least), this romantic comedy told via 10 separate-but-intertwining stories throws the gays a bone with Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) and Joe (Gregor Fisher) — a rock star and his manager, respectively — who decide that getting drunk and watching porn together for Christmas is better than being alone. Because duh. (The writer-director recently revealed he had intended to include a lesbian relationship in the film.)

24 Nights. An unlucky-in-love gay man (Kevin Isola) thinks his new co-worker (Stephen Mailer) may be a gift from Santa Claus himself after making a Christmas wish for a boyfriend. Mental illness works in mysterious ways, y’all. David Burtka — before he was ever a twinkle in NPH’s eye — also stars in this 1999 romantic comedy.

Red Lodge. An impromptu marriage proposal is given at a train station en route to a holiday celebration with family in Montana. In lieu of an engagement ring, there’s a cock ring – because these dudes are classy AF.

TheFamilyStoneHoliday in Handcuffs. There’s not a chance you missed this ABC Family staple that premiered in 2007 – what with all the endless promotion the initial season (Clarissa and A.C. Slater are together on your TV for the first time — watch!) and the subsequent showings during the channels “25 Days of Christmas” schedule. It’s about as well acted as any Melissa Joan Hart/Mario Lopez vehicle should be, but they’re cute, so there’s that.

The Family Stone. As if Carrie Bradshaw’s alter ego, Sarah Jessica Parker, isn’t enough to get you on board with this Home for the Holidays-esque romantic comedy-drama, the brood’s deaf, gay son Thad (Tyrone Giordano) and his interracial partner Patrick (Brian J. White) should be. Plus Dermott Mulroney, Paul Schneider and Luke Wilson!

Too Cool for Christmas. Perhaps the Christmas film with the most interesting backstory, Too Cool for Christmas (a tale about a teenage girl who shuns the reason for the season — and her gay parents — in favor of a ski getaway with friends) actually has a straight-parent companion version that appeared on Lifetime in December 2004. Not much has changed since then — there are still no holiday movies with prominent gay characters on Lifetime — which is why you should support this festive anomaly all the more.

Miracle on 34th Street. Shirley Temple! Do you need another reason? 

lovethecoopersver2xlgHoliday Inn. If it’s an Irving Berlin musical, it must be Christmas! There’s a void of LGBT characters in this 1942 black-and-white musical starting Mr. Holiday Bing Crosby and the light-on-his-feet Fred Astaire — well, none that are specifically labeled as such, at least. But we’d be fooling ourselves if we thought there’s nary a nancy-boy singing and dancing around that hotel all day.

Rent. A year in the life of Bohemian New Yorkers set between Christmas Eve 1989 and 1990. You’ll come for the story, but you’ll stay for the soundtrack.

Love the Coopers. Technically you won’t be able to pick up this newly released film on DVD until next year, so instead you’ll have to head to your local cinema to watch yet another dysfunctional family handle the holidays the best way they know how: with binge eating and alcohol. But between bickering and laughing and crying — and more bickering  — there’s Anthony Mackie (one of only a handful of black gay characters in a holiday film) as a closeted cop who doles out life advice… even if he should be practicing what he’s preaching.

—Chris Azzopardi

 

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Whatcha watchin’?

Our guide to Christmas movies: ‘War Horse,’ ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’

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‘War Horse’ opens Christmas Day.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

There’s something vaguely profane about opening War Horse on Christmas Day. True, it’s a heartwarming family film suitable to share with kids — Spielberg’s most gooily inoffensive film since E.T., in fact — but it’s also a movie where the main character is treated with the same reverence as the Christ Child. I mean that quite literally: From the moment his mare foals, people look at the Thoroughbred Joey with the awed humility of the Magi bestowing frankincense and myrrh.

War Horse, in fact, is so relentless in its nudging, reassuring you, This is a magical horse! This beast is special! Take your eyes off him at your peril!!! that it in fact loses almost all sense of genuine cinemagic. Imagine a comedian who spent more time telling you his jokes are the best and you’ll be wowed by how funny he is, and you approach the counterproductive quality of this movie.

That’s surprising, because if anyone knows how to make wonder seem affectingly cinematic, it’s Spielberg. The moment the scientists see the living dinosaurs roaming about Jurassic Park is justified because freakin’ dinosaurs are walking among us!!! But a maverick quadruped at a livestock auction deserves it? Spielberg is getting soft. This is the most inept heartstring-tugging he’s done since Always, one of his few genuine flops, both commercially and artistically. And for someone who directed one of the great war movies of the modern era (Saving Private Ryan), this one contains tamely mediocre battle scenes. It doesn’t need to be a hard R, but World War I should look at least as harrowing as Saving Private Ryan.

Still, it would be unfair to say War Horse has no merit. The reunion of boy and horse is memorably charming (Hey! You can’t seriously think I’m giving anything away), and Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography is staggeringly beautiful and versatile (the finale looks like it was lifted right out of the climax of Gone with the Wind). And Joey — at least, the computer-generated version of him — conveys a lot with a glance of those big eyes. It says a lot when the best performance in a movie is from a 2,000-lb. beast, and Oprah’s nowhere to be found.

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Daniel Craig stars in ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,’ now playing in wide release.

When Stieg Larsson’s first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, debuted, it captured imaginations because it was at once a typical example of genre-fiction — the set-up, a sort of locked-room mystery about a girl who disappeared from a remote Swedish island 40 years earlier, invoked a standard whounnit structure — but also a deeply detailed screed against… well, against a lot of shit Larsson felt passionately about. Corporate control. Violence against women. Personal privacy. Journalistic ethics. By the time you sorted all those things out, you had a novel so plump with plots and subplots, it felt more like Tolstoy than Turow.

The Swedish-language film version, while altogether serviceable, had a rocky time balancing those elements, but this territory is right up director David Fincher’s alley. His English-language remake is almost as bleak as his modern quasi-masterpiece, Se7en, but the topics and the tone? Pure Fincher.

He declares his own stylish mantra during the opening credits: Organic, abstract, even desultory and festishistic images to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ pulsating punk score establishes this as Fincher’s version of a Bond film. (It’s perhaps no coincidence the lead actor in the proposed trilogy is Bond himself, Daniel Craig.) Mechanical, urban, oppressive — welcome to the worlds of Larsson and Fincher.

But The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo doesn’t weigh on you so much as it assaults you with its brazenness. The girl, Lisbeth (Rooney Mara), is a waifish and strange bisexual, antisocial to the point of psychopathic. She is clever but not subtle and without traditional cultural mores, so she has no problem hacking into the computers of industrialists if it suits her.

She eventually teams up with a disgraced journalist, Mikael (Craig), hired by a rich businessman (Christopher Plummer) to solve the enigma of what happened to his great niece on that summer day in 1965. That investigation leads down rabbit holes that uncover a serial killer half a century in the making, fueled by religious fervor and a Fascist past.

The pacing of this version has an energy the Swedish version did not, and Fincher excels during several violent ballets: A subway mugging, a harrowing rape scene (two rapes actually, but that may be saying too much), a chamber of horror torture sequence. He and screenwriter Steven Zaillian also streamline the plot, balancing Larsson’s philosophizing with dramatic tension (though they do tip their hand too soon with one key plot point and rushing some others.

Mara does a lot with a little; her Lisbeth is emotionally stunted but she moves and thinks deftly — she would be at home with Tom Cruise on the next Mission: Impossible. Craig also plays it close to the vest expertly. But the star is really Fincher, whose visually fluidity make you crave the next installment, and the next. It’s like Harry Potter for cynics.

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For reviews of The Artist, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and A Dangerous Method, visit DallasVoice.com and click Screen.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas