2005 has gone down as the year of the queer film breakthrough. But hold on to your panties, people. Exactly how queer are those films? Brokeback Mountain , Capote and Transamerica all scored at the box office and awards podium. (Let's ignore, for a moment, the Crash vs Brokeback and Witherspoon vs Huffman controversies.)
But I think the X-Men films - especially the first half of X-Men: The Last Stand - are more homo-friendly than any of them.
Brokeback has more in common with doomed-lovers pics like Titanic and The Way We Were . We're engrossed in the tragedy of two people who can't be together. The two people here just happen to be hunky, inarticulate cowpokes.
Capote, meanwhile, literally ignores the sexuality of its main subject to explore instead the ruthlessness of the artistic process. Written and directed by two straight white men, the film censors Capote's sexual life. There's one moment when Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman), in a phone booth, looks at a man waiting outside a bar. Blink and you'll miss it. Most of you probably did.
X-Men: The Last Stand, meanwhile, includes a scene early on of a mutant boy trying to cut off his wings to appear normal. His back is butchered, and it's a horrifying image. It's not hard to make the leap from this scenario to a gay kid attempting suicide because he's not straight.
The film hinges on a cure for mutancy, and the good and bad X-Men must decide whether to stay the way they are and fight prejudice or inject themselves with the "cure cartridge" and lose what makes them special.
This gets to the heart of the whole diversity debate. If everyone looked and behaved the same, would there be no war?
It's strange what constitutes a queer film these days.
When Jean-Marc Vallée's C.R.A.Z.Y. came out on DVD, my (straight) film critic colleague John Harkness argued that he didn't think the central character, Zachary (Marc-André Grondin), was gay. "He slept with a woman!" was his reason.
Straight people aren't used to the strategies queers often use to hide their true nature. When Zachary affected the androgynous glam-rock look of David Bowie, he was clearly finding a way to express his difference in a societally sanctioned way - pop culture as a liberating form of identity.
Maybe that's why we queers are so obsessed with who's closeted in Hollywood. I admit I'm not immune. I, too, play the "Didja know?" card. I've Googled "Paul Rudd" + "gay" and "Kevin Spacey" + "gay" and "Anderson Cooper" (okay, not an actor, but who cares?) + "gay" to see if the rumours are true.
I'm not sure how knowing who's gay and naming actors who refuse to publicly acknowledge their sexual orientation helps us, er, "foster" a sense of pride in ourselves.
But I do think that more people saw the Tom Cruise South Park episode than saw C.R.A.Z.Y. and Capote combined.
Whether the queer indie trend will affect big studio releases is another matter. With more films targeting kids and the 25-and-under set, it seems unlikely. But there are some positive signs.
Note the gay character in the Fox holiday release film The Family Stone (even though the actor playing the gay role was absent from the marketing materials).
The "You know how I know you're gay?" scene from The 40-Year-Old Virgin was one of the funniest - and most truthful - in a mainstream comedy in years. This was humour unworried about being careful or politically correct.
And though it wasn't a big moment, I loved the bit in Mr. & Mrs. Smith when Brad Pitt asked a female co-worker if she was a vegan and she coolly replied, "No, but my girlfriend is." That's clever dialogue.
I think the future of gay cinema lies in the hands of the few openly gay directors and writers out there. It's no surprise that Bryan Singer helmed the first two X-Men films. Singer also directed the upcoming Superman Returns. No wonder Brandon Routh looks so good in those tights. And Gods And Monsters and Kinsey make me look forward to Bill Condon's next film.
Kevin Williamson, the co-creator of the Scream franchise and Dawson's Creek , regularly writes gay or lesbian characters into his works in subversive ways. At a screening of Cursed , the modern werewolf flick he penned for director Wes Craven, I was pleased to see the homophobe-who-turned-out-to-be-gay character get a good reaction from the audience.
Let's hope queer cinema, or cinema with queer characters, actors or directors, continues to show its teeth.