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    Top Ten Queer Films of 2018

    By Gary M. Kramer–

    2018 was a pretty good year for LGBTQ films. Hollywood released its first mainstream American film about a gay teen, Love, Simon. The affable comedy-drama—about the title character (Nick Robinson), coming out after falling in love with an anonymous male student over the internet—is charming and sensitive, with characters that feel authentic rather than stereotypical.

    The Chilean film A Fantastic Woman, about a transwoman (Daniela Vega) grappling with the sudden death of her lover, won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. It was the first trans-themed film to be awarded an Oscar.

    Even Bohemian Rhapsody, about queer Queen frontman Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek), overcame a scandal involving out gay filmmaker Bryan Singer being fired from the production, as well as criticism of its portrayal of Mercury’s sexuality, to become a monster hit at the box office.

    Here are the top ten queer films of 2018:

    We the Animals, directed by Jeremiah Zagar, is an impressionistic view of the childhood of a young boy (Evan Rosado) who slowly discovers his sexuality. This adaptation of out gay writer Justin Torres’ novel is heartbreaking and sensational.

    Can You Ever Forgive Me? Melissa McCarthy gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Lee Israel, a sad and lonely lesbian who commits forgery to keep herself out of debt and despair. A scene of her having a heart-to-heart with her ex Elaine (Anna Deavere Smith), is painful, but exceptional, and it counterbalances her darkly comic bad behavior with gay pal and coconspirator Jack (Richard E. Grant, also excellent).

    Yen Tan’s poetic tearjerker, 1985, concerns a gay man (out gay actor Corey Michael Smith) hiding his sexuality and his HIV status. A simple, sensitive, poignant and moving drama, it leaves a real lump in the throat.

    Gemini is Aaron Katz’s fantastic mystery about an actress Heather Anderson (Zoë Kravitz), who may be sexually involved with Tracy (Greta Lee). When a murder occurs, Heather’s personal assistant, Jill (Lola Kirke), investigates. This slinky film has a blink-and-you-missed-it theatrical run, but is worth seeking out.

    The Misandrists by out gay director Bruce La Bruce is an erotic-comedy thriller that hilariously mocks radical politics. The film features both strong lesbian and trans heroines as well as outrageous gay porn and an unforgettable graphic sex change scene.

    Transgender filmmaker Kimberly Reed wrote, produced and directed the gripping documentary Dark Money, which is about campaign finance reform and the undisclosed corporate contributions that are used to influence elections. It incited righteous outrage. 

    Jordana Spiro wrote and directed the underseen gem Night Comes On about a teenage lesbian (Dominique Fishback) released from juvenile detention. She travels through Philadelphia to first reconnect with her younger sister Abby (Tatum Marilyn Hall, excellent) and then to confront her father (John Jenks) about their past. It’s gritty and spellbinding.

    Keira Knightley gives a terrific performance as the bisexual title character Colette in Wash Westmoreland’s fabulous biopic, co-written with his late husband, Richard Glatzer. This handsomely mounted period piece shows how Colette’s relationships with various women helped her in her personal and professional relationship with her husband, Willy (Dominic West).

    On Chesil Beach Out gay director Dominic Cooke’s stunning debut was an adaptation of Ian McEwan’s eponymous novel. Cooke coaxes outstanding performances by Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle as a young couple on their wedding night in 1962. He makes exterior spaces, such as the titular beach, claustrophobic, and generates considerable tension and emotion throughout this remarkable drama.

    The clever and killer action-comedy Assassination Nation showcases trans actress Hari Nef as Bex, one of four female friends reacting to the aftermath of sinister computer hacks in their small town. It’s a darkly funny and thrilling film that embraces its chaos, asking viewers to go along for the ride.

    A trio of dishonorable mentions:

    Boy Erased, based on Garrard Conley’s novel about his experiences in gay conversion therapy, is geared toward educating straight people about the horrors of conversion therapy. That is fine and valuable, but the film makes its points in a heavy-handed fashion and featured a void of a performance by Lucas Hedges in the title role.

    Disobedience, directed by Sebastián Lelio (A Fantastic Woman), is a well-intentioned adaptation of Naomi Alderman’s novel, but it is one dull dud. Rachel Weisz plays a former Orthodox Jew who returns to her community and rekindles a relationship with the married Esti (Rachel McAdams). However, despite a passionate hotel love scene between the two women, this film is didactic and disappointing, and marred by the miscasting of McAdams.

    Anything, which didn’t screen in the Bay Area, is an absolute misfire. Out gay actor Matt Bomer tries too hard as a transgender sex worker who falls in love with Early (John Carroll Lynch), a recent widower. The film trades in stereotypes and sass, without ever being convincing.

    © 2018 Gary M. Kramer

    Gary M. Kramer is the author of “Independent Queer Cinema: Reviews and Interviews,” and the co-editor of “Directory of World Cinema: Argentina.” Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer