Whether or not the oohs and ahs over Brokeback Mountain announced gay cinema's ecstatic mainstream acceptance or its bitter death in the bloodless clutches of institutional Hollywood, that film at least brought the audience one serious benefit: it raised the bar.
Now, to swipe an old Canadian film industry joke, it is no longer enough to be gay - you must also have talent.
Remember the bad old days, when we had a lot of fun-free little flicks whose only virtue was that they were gay? But the talent and the spirit were always there, sometimes recognized, sometimes not. These are a few that did it for me back then and still do it for me now.
THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT (MGM, 1994) D: Stephan Elliott, w/ Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving.
The greatest gay celebration ever. Total spiritual uplift achieved via glorious, trashy costumes set against stark desert beauty and fuelled by a great, funny script and outstanding performances by Stamp, Weaving and Guy Pearce as a trio of big-city drag queens touring the Australian Outback.
THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE (Fox, 1968) D: Robert Aldrich, w/ Beryl Reid, Susannah York.
Major heartbreak. Aging butch TV actress is about to lose her prestigious, lucrative soap opera gig and her younger femme lover to a predatory producer. A bit over the Joan Crawford top at times, but a good study of power and loss.
BOUND (Republic, 1996) D: Andy and Larry Wachowski, w/ Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon.
The coolest outlaw dykes on celluloid. Hard-boiled ex-con Gershon gets together with Tilly to rip off her mobster boyfriend. Highly suspenseful thriller. Highly lubricious seduction and sex in the first half-hour, for which Gershon and Tilly were hand-coached by sexpert Susie Bright.
MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE (MGM, 1986) D: Stephen Frears, w/ Daniel Day-Lewis, Gordon Warnecke.
The power of love and a gritty, high-energy look at Thatcher's dog-eat-dog England. Middle-class Anglo-Indian Warnecke and white trash hoodlum Day-Lewis start up the titular suds emporium and endure race and class conflict. Prurient interest points for a kiss and a bit of soft sex.
FORBIDDEN LOVE: THE UNASHAMED STORIES OF LESBIAN LIVES (NFB, 1992) D: Lynne Fernie, Aerlyn Weissman.
How it really was. Canadian lesbian life from the 1940s through the 60s recalled in frank interviews with women who were there, gloriously spiced with period photos and scenes enacted from the lesbian trash paperbacks of the period. Fascinating look at an unknown bit of social history.