· The Kids Are All Right*
o Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson), the children of same-sex parents Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), become curious about the identity of their sperm-donor dad (Mark Ruffalo) and set out to make him part of their family unit, often with hilarious results. But his arrival complicates the household dynamics, and nobody is sure how he fits in -- if atall -- in this Oscar-nominated, Golden Globe-winning comedy.
o When a famous person, like the nation's first openly gay male city supervisor, inspires an acclaimed book (The Mayor of Castro Street) and Oscar-winning documentary (The Times of Harvey Milk), a biopic can seem superfluous at best. Taking over from Oliver Stone and Bryan Singer, Gus Van Sant, whose previous picture was the more experimental Paranoid Park, directs with such grace, he renders the concern moot. Unlike Randy Shilts' biography, which begins at the beginning, Dustin Lance Black's script starts in 1972, just as Milk (Sean Penn, in a finely-wrought performance) and his boyfriend, Scott (James Franco, equally good), move from New York to San Francisco. Milk opens a camera shop on the Castro that becomes a safe haven for victims of discrimination, convincing him to enter politics. With each race he runs, Harvey's relationship with Scott unravels further. Finally, he wins, and the real battle begins as Milk takes on Proposition 6, which denies equal rights to homosexuals. He does what he can to rally politicians, like George Moscone (Victor Garber) and Dan White (Josh Brolin). While the mayor is willing, the conservative board member has reservations, and after Milk fails to back one of White’s pet projects, the die is cast, leading to the murder of two beloved figures. If Van Sant’s film captures Harvey in all his complexities (he was, for instance, a very funny man), Milk also serves as an enticement to grass-roots activism, showing how one regular guy elevated everyone around him, notably Cleve Jones (Emile Hirsch), the ex-street hustler who created the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial. Released in the wake of Proposition 8, California’s anti-gay marriage amendment, Milk is inspirational in the best way: one person can and did make a difference, but the struggle is far from over. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
· The Laramie Project*
o An all-star cast (including Christina Ricci, Dylan Baker, Peter Fonda, Jeremy Davies, Janeane Garofalo, Laura Linney, Steve Buscemi and Amy Madigan) delivers a compelling performance based on a theatrical portrayal of reactions to the Matthew Shepard story, a 1998 murder that took place in Laramie, Wyo., and became a lightning rod for rallies against homophobia and hate crimes. Moisés Kaufman writes and directs, based on his own stage play.
o Liam Neeson turns in a fascinating portrayal of Dr. Alfred Kinsey, who interviewed thousands of people about their sex lives and released his findings in a groundbreaking 1948 book known popularly as "The KinseyReport." Kinsey's Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (and a subsequent study of females) caused ripples in the scientific community and paved the way for further inquiry into the subject. Laura Linney and Peter Sarsgaard co-star.
· Brokeback Mountain*
o A sad, melancholy ache pervades Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee's haunting, moving film that, like his other movies, explores societal constraints and the passions that lurk underneath. This time, however, instead of taking on ancient China, 19th-century England, or '70s suburbia, Lee uses the tableau of the American West in the early '60s to show how two lovers are bound by their expected roles, how they rebel against them, and the repercussions for each of doing so--but the romance here is between two men. Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) are two itinerant ranchers looking for work in Wyoming when they meet and embark on a summer sheepherding job in the shadow of titular Brokeback Mountain. The taciturn Ennis, uncommunicative in the extreme, finds himself opening up around the gregarious Jack, and the two form a bond that surprisingly catches fire one cold night out in the wilderness. Separating at the end of the summer, each goes on to marry and have children, but a reunion years later proves that, if anything, their passion for each other has grown significantly. And while Jack harbors dreams of a life together, the tight-lipped Ennis is unable to bring himself to even consider something so revolutionary.
· A Single Man
o Colin Firth gives the performance of a lifetime in A Single Man, a drama directed and adapted for the screen by fashion designer Tom Ford, who clearly has a deft vision and ability in the world of film as well. A Single Man is based on a novel by Christopher Isherwood, and Ford's--and Firth's--gift is bringing the inner-turmoil world of the novel to believable, and devastating, life on the screen. Firth plays George, a gay British professor, living a life of true, if closeted, bliss with his partner, Jim (Matthew Goode), in the straitlaced early '60s. When Jim dies suddenly at the beginning of the film, George wrestles with how to go on without his true love--and with never being able ever to express his grief openly. The film flashes back to scenes of George and Jim and their dogs, scenes awash in warm tones, and then forward to the present, shot in subtle sepia tones that show joy has disappeared from George's life. Yet there are flashes of hope and feeling. A Single Man's cast also includes Julianne Moore, playing a complex role as George's best friend and long-ago lover--one of the only people on the planet who can know all that George is going through, yet with vast vulnerabilities of her own.--A.T. Hurle
· Another Country
o An indictment of the British class system dressed up like a Ralph Lauren ad, Another Country is the movie that made a very young and very gorgeous Rupert Everett a star. Whatever other ideas it has knocking around its head (and there are quite a lot of them), director Marek Kanievska's adaptation of Julian Mitchell's play is first and foremost a star vehicle for Everett, who played the openly gay main character with a vigor, flair, and smoldering appeal that was rarely seen onscreen in the early '80s. Everett is Guy Bennett, a charming, confident schoolboy in 1930s England who yearns to climb to the top of the social strata at his Eton-like school. His ambitions, however, are waylaid by the young and equally gorgeous James Harcourt (Cary Elwes), with whom he begins a passionate yet secret affair. Soon, however, Guy finds that balancing his love and his ambition is a no-win situation, and that no matter how hard he bucks against it, the ages-old traditional structures of British class and etiquette won't yield in his wake. Added to all this E.M. Forster-style drama and romance is the fact that Guy later on becomes a spy for the Russians against England; it's a weighty theme to drop on the movie, and the fact that it's a true story just shows how less than artfully the film unfolds. Still, holding it all together is the sublime Everett, who took this persona of the classy, beautiful, passionate, British gay man and ran with it throughout the '80s and '90s. With Colin Firth as Everett's Marxist (and heterosexual) compatriot. --Mark Englehart
· A girl like me – The Gwen Araujo Story
o Won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Movie for Television. A Girl Like Me is the true story of Gwen Araujo, born Eddie, who begins to dress and act as a girl as a teenager. Defying the family's traditional Latino heritage, this teen insists on wearing makeup, growing long hair and eventually adopting the name Gwen, after her idol, singer Gwen Stefani. When Gwen's transgender status is discovered by four young men at a local party, they savagely beat and kill her. The shocking and senseless murder shakes the community, and Gwen's mother, Sylvia Guerrero, dedicates her life to bringing her daughter's murderers to justice and advocating for the rights of all transgender people.
· Prayers for Bobby
o In this affecting cable movie about the consequences of intolerance, Sigourney Weaver plays Mary Griffith, a California woman who paid dearly for her beliefs. In the late 1970s, she and her close-knit Christian family, including husband Bob (Henry Czerny), live in comfortable Walnut Creek. Her son Bobby (Ryan Kelley), a high-school student, has a secret he hides well until it becomes too hard to bear, so he tells his older brother. Out of concern for his welfare, Ed (Austin Nichols) tells Mary, who considers homosexuality "an abomination." She believes Bobby can change if he sets his mind to it, so she fixes him up on dates and sends him to a therapist. Wanting to please his mother, he goes along with her plans. When they fail, he drops out of school to live with a sympathetic cousin in Portland, where he works and dates another young man, but years of guilt and shame drive him to seek a permanent solution to his problem. At this point, the story shifts to Mary, who meets Reverend Whitsell (Frasier's Dan Butler). With his help, she learns to reconcile her religious faith with her son's orientation. There are a few missteps in this Lifetime production, as when Bobby contemplates suicide while watching Spartacus, but Queer as Folk director Russell Mulcahy adapts Leroy Aarons's 1996 book with sensitivity, and Weaver makes a potentially off-putting character sympathetic--good luck keeping those tears at bay. Extra features include interviews with the producers, the cast, and the subject. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
o The feature-film debut from art director Jonah Markowitz (Quinceañera) pivots on the tension between responsibility to family and responsibility to self. Recent high-school graduate Zach (Trevor Wright) has one summer to reconcile the competing halves of his life. The aspiring Picasso lives in blue-collar San Pedro with his irresponsible sister, Jeanne (Tina Holmes, Half Nelson), her five-year-old son, Cody (Jackson Wurth), and their rarely-seen father. Zach gave up his art school dreams to toil in a diner and help look after his much-loved nephew. With his best friend, Gabe (Ross Thomas), away at college, Zach draws, surfs, and skateboards by his lonesome. When Gabe's novelist brother, Shaun (Brad Rowe, Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss), returns to his Orange County home to recover from a broken heart, he and Zach alternate between riding the waves and encouraging each other to pursue their aspirations. Shaun is gay, while Zach appears to be straight, but a casual kiss between the two soon leads to a secret relationship. Before the former returns to Los Angeles, the latter has to decide who he is--gay, straight, artist, cook, uncle, or father--and what he's going to do about it. Except for the location shooting, this low-budget indie plays like an extended episode of The O.C. what with all the "bro"s and "dude"s and love scenes tame enough for network TV. Nonetheless, Markowitz’s heart is in the right place, and Shelter may provide some real-life Zachs with the courage they need to follow their passions. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
o Bree (Felicity Huffman) gets the shock of her life a week before her final sex change surgery when she discovers a son she didn't know she had. After bailing him out of jail, the two set out on a cross-country journey riddled with road bumps. Huffman won numerous awards (and an Oscar nomination) for her role as a man longing to be a woman. Elizabeth Pena, Burt Young, Kevin Zegers and Graham Greene co-star.
· The Matthew Shepard Story
o Killed in a senseless act of hatred, openly gay college student Matthew Shepard was murdered in 1998. In this critically-acclaimed, moving film, the final days of Matthew's killers' trial--and the weeks leading to Matthew's death--are recounted with unnerving detail. Stockard Channing delivers an unforgettable, Emmy® Award winning performance as Matthew's grieving mother, Judy, in a story of a murder that moved a nation to action. Also starring Law & Order's Sam Waterston.
· Aimee and Jaguar
o In 1943, while the Allies are bombing Berlin and the Gestapo is purging the capital of Jews, a dangerous love affair blossoms between two women. One of them, Lilly Wust (Juliane Köhler), married and the mother of four sons, enjoys the privileges of her stature as an exemplar of Nazi motherhood. For her, this affair will be the most decisive experience of her life. For the other woman, Felice Schragenheim (Maria Schrader), a Jewess and member of the underground, their love fuels her with the hope that she will survive. A half-century later, Lilly Wust told her incredible story to writer Erica Fischer, and thebook, AIMEE & JAGUAR, first published in 1994 immediately became a bestseller and has since been translated into eleven languages. Max Färberböck's debut film, based on Fischer's book, is the true story of this extraordinary relationship. The film was nominated for a 1999 Golden Globe Award and was Germany's submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Both actresses received Silver Bears at the 1999 Berlin International Film Festival for their portrayals of "Aimée" and "Jaguar".
· Loving Annabelle
o A lot of taboos are broken in Loving Annabelle, even if the film itself remains remarkably tasteful--even demure. The central characters are two women, a teacher and her student, and the setting is an all-girls school (shades of Lost and Delirious). Annabelle (the smoldering Erin Kelly), a senior, is a rebellious rocker chick--the Beverly Hills version that is, i.e. highlighted hair, black eyeliner, and nose ring. Her senatorial mother ships her off to boarding school to shape up. Annabelle's hard-partying ways are starting to become an embarrassment. Miss Simone Bradley (the sympathetic Diane Gaidry) is a popular poetry teacher. She's a Catholic. Annabelle is not. Simone has a boyfriend, Annabelle is gay. Looks can be deceiving, however, and there's more to both than meets the eye. For one, Simone's relationship is not as secure as it appears. For another, Annabelle's ardor is so relentless it threatens to sway sympathy against her. She seems to have no regard for the damage an affair would inflict on her teacher's career. Nonetheless, Simone is not entirely resistant to her charms. Inspired by 1931's Mädchen in Uniform, writer/director Katherine Brooks preserves the forbidden relationship at the heart of the Weimar-era classic, but drops the political subtext. Consequently, she doesn't take on more than she can handle, but Loving Annabelle still feels a little slight. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
· Puccini for Beginners
o In this love-crazed comedy, commitment-phobic lesbian Allegra (Elizabeth Reaser) is recovering from a breakup with her girlfriend when she starts to fall for a member of the opposite sex -- and now she's questioning her sexualityand her sanity. Philip (Justin Kirk) is the tidy professor who's romancing the ambivalent Allegra while she pursues Grace (Gretchen Mol), a straight woman who's recently become single.
· Were the World Mine
o When his drama teacher casts him as Puck in his school's upcoming production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Timothy (Tanner Cohen) turns in an inspired performance, whipping up a fittingly Shakespearean love potion with the power to turn people gay. He begins, of course, with the school jock -- the object of his affection. Tom Gustafson directs this unconventional movie-musical based on his award-winning short film, "Fairies."
· Lesbian Nation
o This anthology of five daring short films explores life as a lesbian in modern times, including a look at a college woman's repeatedly thwarted efforts to explain her orientation to her family in Mitch McCabe's "Playing the Part." Other films include Ela Troyano's "Carmelita Tropicana," Jane Schneider's "Jumping the Gun," Barbara Heller's "Little Women in Transit" and Marc Mauceri's documentary about lesbian film directors, "Lavender Limelight."
o Iris Murdoch (Judi Dench and Kate Winslet, in Oscar-nominated roles) wasl'enfant terrible of the literary world in early 1950s Britain -- a live wire who thumbed her nose at conformity via a voracious and scandalous sexual appetite. In this snippet of her life, an aging Murdoch (Dench) faces the onset of Alzheimer's disease and the loss of memories about her younger self (Winslet). Jim Broadbent won the Oscar for his portrayal of her husband.
· Unconditional Love
o Kathy Bates plays Grace Beasley, a loving wife whose life takes a tragic turn when her husband (Dan Aykroyd) leaves her and her favorite pop star/life-long inspiration Victor Fox (Jonathan Pryce) dies. She travels to London for the funeral, where she meets the dead star's lover (Rupert Everett). She convinces him to return with her to Chicago to find the singer's killer, and their adventure helps her learn to live life on her own terms.
· Girl Play
o Director Gabriel (Dom DeLuise) sets the stage for a real-life drama when he casts lesbians Robin (Robin Greenspan) and Lacie (Lacie Harmon) in his latest play. Robin is in a long-term relationship, and Lacie isn't ready to settle down, but as rehearsals continue the two seem to grow closer. Neither actress is sure about the other's intentions: Is it just acting, or are the vibes real? The truth comes out on opening night. Mink Stole also stars.
· But I'm a Cheerleader*
o A promising comedy that goes awry all too early, But I'm a Cheerleader concerns a misunderstood high school kid (Natasha Lyonne) whose parents send her to a harsh, homosexual-rehabilitation camp despite a lack of evidence that she's gay. Ruled with an iron fist by a fascist counselor (Cathy Moriarty), the clinic only drives Lyonne's character toward an attraction to a rebellious tomboy (Clea DuVall), though screenwriter Brian Wayne Peterson and director Jamie Babbit are curiously intent on keeping the two apart and depriving the audience of other comic possibilities. Meanwhile, hoary clichés abound: prancing boys, butch gays, lipstick lesbians. Despite a fine cast full of young talent, and cameo appearances by Julie Delpy and RuPaul Charles, this attempt to skewer a present-day trend in "curing" homosexuals of their sexual preferences is flattened by stereotypes and unimaginative thinking. --Tom Keogh
· Imagine Me and You*
o In this unconventional romantic comedy that gives new meaning to the term "cold feet," bride-to-be Rachel (Piper Perabo) is love-struck -- not with her groom, but rather with another woman who's a guest at their wedding. As she's marching down the aisle with her longtime sweetheart, Heck (Matthew Goode), Rachel is immediately bewitched by a beautiful guest (Lena Headey). But following her heart's true desire is hardly an easy proposition.
· Kissing Jessica Stein*
o Jessica (Jennifer Westfeldt) is a single, straight, successful New York journalist who, like most of her female friends, has had a history of dating (male) creeps. But when she answers an intriguing personal ad from Helen (Heather Juergensen), Jessica finds herself intensely drawn to her. AsJessica explores this new side of her sexuality, the two begin a friendship that ultimately leads to romance.
· The Birdcage*
o The great improvisational comedy team of Mike Nichols and Elaine May reunited to (respectively) direct and write this update of the French comedy La Cage Aux Folles. Robin Williams stars as a gay Miami nightclub owner who is forced to play it straight and ask his drag-queen partner (Nathan Lane) to hide out when Williams's son invites his prospective--and highly conservative--in-laws and fiancée to a meet-and-greet dinner party. Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest play the straight-laced senator and his wife, and Calista Flockhart (from television's Ally McBeal) plays their daughter in a culture-clash with outrageous consequences. May's witty screenplay incorporates some pointed observations about the political landscape of the 1990s and takes a sensitive approach to the comedy's underlying drama. Topping off the action is Hank Azaria in a scene-stealing role as Williams's and Lane's flamboyant housekeeper, "Agador Spartacus." --Jeff Shannon
· Gray Matters*
o Sam (Thomas Cavanagh) and Gray (Heather Graham) are a devoted brother and sister who share a dwelling and a love of many things -- ballroom dancing, 1940s movie musicals and, much to their surprise, strong feelings for an attractive woman (Bridget Moynahan). But Gray, who's historically heterosexual, is confused by her strange new feelings. Sibling rivalry, love and destiny go topsy-turvy in first-time writer-director Sue Kramer's romantic romp.
· Kiss the Bride
o Daddy's little girls are all grown up but they ve also grown apart. Niki (Brooke Langton, Swingers) is the star of a TV show in LA; Chrissy (writer-director Vanessa Parise) runs a high-poweredcompany on Wall Street; Toni (Monet Mazur, Blow) is a free-spirited singer who brings her girlfriend (Alyssa Milano, Charmed ) home to get attention. Danni (Amanda Detmer, Saving Silverman) is the only one who stayed close to their parents, and now she's about to start a new life with her husband-to-be (Johnathon Schaech, That Thing You Do!). But they're all getting a secondchance as they attempt to make Danni's special day one the whole family will always remember.
· Kiss the Bride
o A gay man is on the brink of getting into a hetero marriage when the long lost gay "love of his life" returns (at the bride's secret invitation to "test" her finance's true orientation) to try to "save" him (a la "My Best Friend's Wedding"). The gay lovers decide to forego their love for each other because the long lost friend thinks the bride-to-be is "cool." So the gay groom-to-be and the bride-to-be decide, at the alter, to have a commitment ceremony instead of a wedding.
· Itty Bitty Titty Committee
o This latest fabulous movie from Jamie (But I m a Cheerleader) Babbit is a dynamic, romantic, frequently funny and politically astute movie with a smart script, rockin soundtrack and terrific ensemble cast that includes sexy young Melonie Diaz as the new dyke on the block who falls in with a great gang of Feminist troublemakers called Clits in Action (CiA), and then falls in love with leader of the pack, Nicole Vicius. Unfortunately, Nicole has a girlfriend Melanie Mayron and, as they say, drama ensues. With Carly Pope, Daniela Sea, Guinevere Turner, Deak Eugenikos, Jenny Shimizu and Lauren Mollica.
· Saving Face
o Dutiful daughter Wil (Michelle Krusiec) sidesteps her mother's (Joan Chen) attempts to marry her off in Alice Wu's romantic comedy. At 28, Wil's the old maid of her traditional Chinese family, so there's no way she can tell them about her budding lesbian romance with Vivian (Lynn Chen). But her widowed mom has her own problems, as she learns she's pregnant at 48. Kicked out by her disapproving father, she seeks refuge at Wil's place.
· In & Out
o When dim-bulb actor Cameron Drake (Matt Dillon) wins an Oscar for playing a gay Marine, he outs his high school drama teacher, Howard Brackett (Kevin Kline), in his acceptance speech. It all comes as a surprise to Howard -- not to mention to his long-suffering fiancée, Emily (Joan Cusack). With his wedding just days away and national media descending on his town, Howard's under the gun to prove just how much of a man he is.
· The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love
o While working part-time at her aunt's gas station, defiant tomboy Randy Dean (Laurel Holloman) falls in love with Evie Roy (Nicole Ari Parker), a rich, straight honor student who's already in a relationship. The two girls navigate the magical and confusing world of young love. Writer-director Maria Maggenti's touching and funny debut won&nbs