AFI Silver in downtown Silver Spring gets the queer holiday season off to a glittery start with three classic Hollywood musicals shown on the big screen over Thanksgiving weekend. For its 60th anniversary, “Oklahoma!” will be shown in a newly restored print. There will also be screenings of “The Sound of Music” and “The Wizard of Oz.”
In December, AFI Silver presents the AFI European Union Film Showcase, which brings the best in European cinema to Washington audiences. Some LGBT highlights of the showcase include “The Summer of Sangailė” (in Lithuanian with English subtitles), a rapturous portrait of two teenaged girls’ summertime love affair; “Fassbinder: To Love Without Demands” (in German with English subtitles), a documentary by the Danish filmmaker Christian Braad Thomsen about his longtime friend Rainer Werner Fassbinder, the infamous bisexual German director; and “The Lady in the Van,” inspired by gay British writer Alan Bennett’s encounter with a homeless woman (played with gusto by Dame Maggie Smith) who parks her battered van on his property.
Finally, AFI Silver caps off the holiday season with a special showing of “Tangerine,” Sean Baker’s dark farce about transgender sex workers in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve. Complete schedules can be found at afi.com/silver.
On Friday, Dec. 4, Reel Affirmations marks World AIDS Day with a screening of “Desert Migration,” a moving meditation on aging and AIDS. Filmmaker Daniel F. Cardone chronicles a day in the life of a group of HIV-positive men who have settled in Palm Springs, Calif., and are facing the financial, physical and emotional challenges of being long-term survivors. Details at reelaffirmations.org.
LGBT characters are at the center of three mainstream holiday releases. First up is “Legend,” which opens on Wednesday, Nov. 25. The film tracks the rise and fall of Reggie and Ronnie Kray, identical twins who brutally ruled the organized crime scene in the East End of London during the 1960s. Reggie is straight and Ronnie is gay, and in this retelling of the fabled story both twins are played by coy Hollywood hottie Tom Hardy (“Inception” and “Mad Max: Road Fury”). Ronnie (the gay one) has glasses.
Eddie Redmayne won an Oscar earlier this year as scientific pioneer Stephen Hawking. Now he’s back as transgender pioneer Lili Erbe, one of the first known people to undergo gender-reassignment surgery. “The Danish Girl,” which opens in Washington on Friday, Dec. 11, tells the remarkable story of Lili and Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander) and their changing relationship. Directed by Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech” and “Les Misérables”), the movie also features Matthias Schoenaerts (“Far From the Madding Crowd”), Amber Heard (“Magic Mike XXL”) and openly gay Ben Whishaw (the latest Q in “Spectre,” “Skyfall” and other Bond movies).
“Carol,” slated to open in Washington on Christmas Day, stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara as lesbian lovers in 1950s New York. Based on the novel “The Price of Salt” by bisexual author Patricia Highsmith (“Strangers on a Train” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley”), the movie is directed with visual flair by gay auteur Todd Haynes, who also directed “Velvet Goldmine” and “Far From Heaven.” The cast also includes out actor Sarah Paulsen (“American Horror Story”) and Kyle Chandler (“Friday Night Lights”).
While much of the attention will go to two highly anticipated blockbusters, several other general releases are also worth taking a look at.
The first blockbuster is “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2” which opens Friday, Nov. 20 in theaters everywhere. Directed by Francis Lawrence (who also directed the video for Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”), the movie stars Academy Award-winner Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, the reluctant leader of the rebellion against President Snow (Donald Sutherland). The outstanding ensemble cast also includes Elizabeth Banks as camp icon Effie Trinket; since the character of Effie does not appear in the “Mockingjay” novel, fans of both the book and the movie may be in for a big surprise as the “Hunger Games” franchise comes to its explosive conclusion.
The other awkwardly titled blockbuster is “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” (Dec. 18). Gay geeks have already bought their tickets for the latest installment of the epic sci-fi saga, which will play at theaters across the region, including the huge IMAX screens at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museums.
With much less fanfare, “Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words” opens Nov. 20 at Landmark’s Bethesda Row Cinemas. This fascinating documentary uses home movies to examine the controversial life and career of the international movie legend. Another absorbing insider documentary is “Hitchcock/Truffaut” (Dec. 11) which centers on a series of interviews between the French New Wave director and the twisted Hollywood filmmaker who directed such queer classics as “Rope” and “Strangers on a Train.”
Also opening Nov. 20 is the thriller “Secret in Their Eyes” with Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts. Other December releases include “Macbeth,” a chilling adaptation of the Shakespeare play starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, and “Chi-Raq,” Spike Lee’s satiric retelling of the ancient Greek comedy “Lysistrata” set in modern-day Chicago.
Appropriately, the holiday film season closes with “Joy,” the multi-generational saga about the family of inventor Joy Mangano, creator of the “Miracle Mop.”