The LGBT fall film season gets off to a dramatic start with “The Skeleton Twins” starring SNL alums Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as Maggie and Milo Dean, melancholic twins who are reunited after a 10-year absence.
Maggie, unhappily married to Lance (Luke Wilson), is attracted to her scruffy scuba diving instructor. Milo, an unsuccessful actor in Los Angeles, returns to their hometown after a failed suicide attempt and tries to rekindle a romance with his former lover, Rich (Ty Burrell from TV’s “Modern Family”). Under the steady hand of queer director Craig Johnson (who co-wrote the award-wining script with Mark Heyman), this very dark comedy features richly nuanced performances and a moving story of siblings trying to rebuild their tangled relationship. It opens today at the Landmark E Street Cinema.
Starting Oct. 3, D.C. audiences can enjoy the stylish thriller “The Two Faces of January,” helmed by first-time director Hossein Amini. Adapted by the director from the novel by Patricia Highsmith (bisexual author of the homoerotic thrillers “Strangers on a Train” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley”), the film focuses on the steamy relationship between Viggo Mortenson and Kirsten Dunst as a glamorous American couple and Oscar Isaac as their scheming Greek tour guide. It will play at Landmark Cinemas.
Slated for release on Oct. 17, “Dear White People” is a complicated satire about race and identity politics that has been generating significant buzz at film festivals around the globe. Written and directed by openly gay Justin Simien, the movie tells the story of four black college students who are swept up in the controversy surrounding a blackface party thrown by a white fraternity.
Controversial gay director Greg Araki (“The Living End” and “Mysterious Skin”) returns with “White Bird in a Blizzard.” Shailene Woodley stars as Kat Connors, a teenage girl whose world is turned upside down when her perfect housewife mother (Eva Green) suddenly disappears. The cast also includes Christopher Meloni as her father and Gabourey Sidibe as her best friend. It’s available on demand on Sept. 25 and in theaters on Oct. 24.
“The Imitation Game” opens in wide release on Nov. 21 and stars Benedict Cumberbatch in a historical drama about Alan Turing, the gay cryptologist who broke the German Enigma code during World War II but was later prosecuted by the British government for homosexual acts.
Meanwhile, the AFI Silver Theatre (afi.com/silver) in Silver Spring continues to offer a scintillating combination of contemporary indie films and international film classics. The fall lineup includes “Band of Sisters,” a documentary about Americans nuns fighting for change within the Catholic Church and in their communities (Nov. 9). Retrospectives include the Silent Cinema Showcase which pairs vintage movies with modern musical performances (Nov. 1-22), the Robert Wise Centennial which includes “The Sound of Music” and “West Side Story” (Oct. 10-Dec. 1) and a Tim Burton Festival which features Halloween screenings of his creepiest movies.
In addition to these indie releases, LGBT films will be featured in three local film festivals. Continuing through Sept. 24, the D.C. Shorts Film Festival (festival.dcshorts.com) features 135 short films from 25 countries screened in 17 different 90-minute shows in three venues across the metro D.C. area. Under the direction of local gay filmmaker Jon Gann, this popular festival also includes workshops, a screenplay competition and legendary parties.
Reel Affirmations (ReelAffirmations.org), now partnered with the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community and the Human Rights Campaign, will feature a series of screenings, including:
• “Tru Love,” a sparkling and evocative love story about the intersecting lives of three women (Sept. 19).
• “Campaign of Hate: Russia and Gay Propaganda,” a powerful documentary by Michael Lucas. (Oct. 14).
• “Before You Know It,” a lively documentary about LGBT seniors (Oct. 16).
• “First Period,” a hilarious camp/drag comedy (Oct. 17).
• “52 Tuesdays,” an Australian coming of age drama film about a teenage girl dealing with her mother’s gender transition (Nov. 21).
• “What It Was,” a surreal drama about a successful Latina actress whose life is transformed after a series of personal crises (Dec. 12).
Located just an hour west of the city, the Middleburg Film Festival (middleburgfilm.org) has quickly become a notable stop on the international cinema circuit. Films include indie premieres and sneak peeks at Academy Award contenders; special events include wine tastings, panel discussions and a “Meet the Artists” dinner.
While the slate for the 2014 Festival (which will be held from Oct. 30-Nov. 2) has not been announced yet, the Festival will honor Colleen Atwood with its Costume Designer Award and Marco Beltrami with its Film Composer Award.
Finally, two mainstream releases for the LGBT community to take note of are “Gone Girl,” based on the wildly popular novel by Gillian Flynn and featuring Neil Patrick Harris (Oct. 3) and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part One,” featuring strategically campy performances by Stanley Tucci and Elizabeth Banks as Caesar Flickerman and Effie Trinket (Nov. 21).