It was a very good year for movies, especially for queer movies large and small.
In a very competitive field, the best LGBT movie of 2017 was “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women.” Directed by the amazing Angela Robinson (an out and proud woman of color), the film explores the real-world origins of the iconic Wonder Woman character. Marston was involved in a polyamorous relationship with two women and drew on both their relationship and his controversial theories about submission and domination to create the classic comic book. Robinson explores their love with great sensitivity and eroticism and without sensationalism and also celebrates the power of creativity and intellectual curiosity.
Paired with that, the most notable mainstream movie of the year (although not necessarily the best) was “Wonder Woman.” Even before the Weinstein scandal and related revelations rocked Hollywood, Patty Jenkins and her team made huge strides for women, setting box office records and creating a powerful female superhero who is both commanding and caring. Gal Gadot proved to be a worthy successor to LGBT ally extraordinaire Lynda Carter.
Standouts among the other big LGBT releases were Terence Davies’ stirring “A Quiet Passion” with Cynthia Nixon’s bold performance as poet Emily Dickinson; “BPM;” “God’s Own Country,” a worthy descendant of “Brokeback Mountain”; Guillermo Del Toro’s breathtaking “The Shape of Water”; “Battle of the Sexes”; “My Cousin Rachel” and, Todd Haynes’ visionary masterwork “Wonderstruck.” There was also, of course, the somewhat disappointing “Call Me by Your Name” which featured finely layered performances by Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar and Timothée Chalamet, a weak performance by a miscast Armie Hammer and uneven direction by Luca Guadagnino.
It should also be noted that three other big releases had some interesting appearances by gay characters. The cast of the wonderful “Lady Bird” includes a gay character, but to say more would be a spoiler. Disney’s live-action “Beauty and the Beast” surprised audiences by outing LeFou, who became Disney’s first openly gay character. And, judging by the double frame on the family ofrenda in the stunning “Coco,” Tío Felipe and Tío Oscar may be Miguel’s guncles.
Other notable LGBT releases included “I Dream in Another Language,” “Beach Rats,” “The First Girl I Loved,” the Norwegian psychological thriller “Thelma,” “After Louie” with searing performances from Alan Cumming and David Drake, “My Friend Dahmer,” “Princess Cyd,” “Tom of Finland,” “Signature Move” by the dazzling triple threat Fawzia Mizra, and “Dusk” by rising trans director Jake Graf.
Among LGBT documentaries, there’s the heartbreaking “Memories of a Penitent Heart” by break-out director Cecilia Aldarondo and the searing “Whose Streets?” directed by Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis, along with “Strong Island,” “Major!” and “Chavela.”
Some of the mainstream releases worth remembering include “Mudbound,” “The Florida Project,” “Beatriz at Dinner,” “Brigsby Bear,” “Patti Cake$,” “The Big Sick,” “The Sense of an Ending” with magnificent performances by Jim Broadbent and Charlotte Rampling, and the thoughtful and visually inventive “War for the Planet of the Apes.”
LGBT audiences in Washington are fortunate to have several presenters that are champions of queer filmmakers. The Avalon, which hosted the D.C. premiere of the new cult classic “A Very Sordid Wedding,” the Landmark Theatres (the E Street Cinema, the Atlantic Plumbing Cinema, the Bethesda Row Cinema and the West End Cinema) and the Angelikas (the Pop-Up at Union Market and the Mosaic in Fairfax) all present mainstream releases along with great indie movies.
There are also great film festivals all over the region, including D.C.’s legendary Reel Affirmations, AFI Docs, the Maryland Film Festival in its new home at the wonderfully refurbished Parkway Theatre, the Annapolis Film Festival, the D.C. Independent Film Festival, the Rosebud Festival, the wide-ranging Washington Jewish Film Festival and the acclaimed Middleburg Film Festival. There’s also the internationally renowned D.C. Shorts, which this year brought area audiences such treasures as “Toys,” Amanda Quaid’s genderqueer marvel of stop-action animation, and “The Whole World,” a moving story of love and family by talented Spanish artist Julián Quintanilla.
The AFI Silver Theatre has also been an oasis. Throughout the year its programmers host the latest indie movies, well-crafted retrospectives of Hollywood and global classics, and ground-breaking international film festivals, highlighting the work of queer artists throughout all of their rich offerings.
A few final items to wrap up the year:
A shout out to film restorers who are bringing queer classics back to their original luster. This year, the Cohen Media Collection released restored movies from the Merchant Ivory library, including the gay classic “Maurice.” Late last year, they released a lush restoration of Julie Dash’s revolutionary “Daughters of the Dust” and 13 Gen released a restored print of Cheryl Dunye’s delightful ground-breaking mockumentary “The Watermelon Woman.”
A spotlight on a fascinating trend: women gone wild. “Girls Trip,” “Bad Mom’s Christmas,” “Snatched” and “Rough Night” all explored the cinematic appeal of female misbehavior and the challenge of blending comedy, raunchiness and sentimentality. “Rough Night” even included several unruly gay, lesbian and bisexual characters.
A word on late arrivals. While D.C. is getting more notice from Hollywood studios, some movies still get here after the flurry of year-end releases in New York and Los Angeles. This year’s late treats will include “Phantom Thread,” “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,” “I, Tonya” “Hello, Again” and, hopefully, “The Current War.” There’s also “A Fantastic Woman” starring trans actress Daniele Vega as a trans woman whose world is torn apart when her boyfriend suddenly dies.
And finally, some coming attractions. Follow the Blade on Facebook and Twitter (@WashBlade) for the 2017 “Top Ten” from Blade film critic Brian T. Carney (@BTCarney) and the Dorian Awards (@DorianAwards) from GALECA (The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics).