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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Knight at the Movies: Best movie of the year and a final farewell
by Richard Knight, Jr., for Windy City Times
2016-12-28

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Last year, it was easy to put together a Top 10 LGBT Movie list.

With titles like Carol, Grandma, Tangerine, The Danish Girl and others to choose from, it was actually a no-brainer. This year was not the same. Increasingly, queer-themed movies—and there are still a lot of them being made—go the LGBT film-festival route, followed by streaming and DVD release. Other than those festival screenings it's become a rarity to find queer films in a movie theater though the smaller, independent houses still take chances on them. That doesn't mean you shouldn't seek them out; quite the opposite. It's more important than ever that Our People support the movies that reflect our lives.

With that in mind, keep your eyes peeled for these terrific LGBT movies: AWOL, bwoy, Certain Women, Closet Monster, First Girl I Loved, Henry Gamble's Birthday Party, The Handmaiden, King Cobra, Lazy Eye, Major!, Memories of a Penitent Heart, Miles, Other People, Paris 05:59, Pushing Dead, Retake, Slash, Southwest of Salem, Spa Night, Tomcat, Upstairs Inferno and Viva—for starters. All of these queer-themed movies—narratives and documentaries alike—will reward your attention.

So will things like Andrew Haigh's Looking: the Movie; Jill Soloway's Transparent; Tig Notaro's One Mississippi, Amazon's tremendously queer, fantastically entertaining dual web series; and a number of other TV shows with prominent LGBT characters. And your financial support will encourage producers to greenlight more queer-themed projects—something that's going to be progressively more important as we head into this conservative regime and find ourselves under the gun from all sides.

This year, although not a great one in general for movies, did see the release of the cinematic equivalent of a revolution for Our People, albeit a rather quiet, elegiac one. This was Moonlight, from writer-director Barry Jenkins—whose adaptation of In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, a never produced story by the Black gay playwright and actor Tarrell Alvin McCraney ( a Steppenwolf company member )—is justifiably heading multiple top-10 lists and is an awards favorite. Moonlight focuses on Chiron, a young Black boy whose life is seen in three defining stages—as the quiet, watchful boy we first encounter, as the cautious teen eager to fit in and as the life-scarred man in his 20s. The film is split into these three sections, with a trio of actors—Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes—playing Chiron.

As I wrote in my review of the film earlier this fall: "Moonlight is a deeply lyrical work but unfussy in its approach and the director is helped immeasurably by the stellar performances, without a false note among them. In Dee Rees' lovely Pariah mainstream filmgoers were given glimpses of the interior life of a young Black lesbian and now we have, at long last, its male twin, though Moonlight goes much further; digs down much deeper. How long have audiences subconsciously ( and consciously ) been waiting for this kind of sensational film? I can't recall a film since Marlon Riggs' 1989 polemic Tongues Untied that has examined so closely and with such insight the life of a gay Black male. I'm glad, as a queer film fan and critic, that I lived long enough to see this extraordinary movie and what I sincerely hope will be a game-changer for cinema."

As I penned my review I was contemplating my own game-changer—moving from writing about movies to making them. I took my first step in that direction in 2012 with Scrooge & Marley, the modern-day gay version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol ( executive-produced by Windy City Times Publisher Tracy Baim ).

Now, the opportunity to continue writing and directing my own projects has proved irresistible. Over the years, I've reviewed hundreds of films and interviewed dozens of filmmakers and actors—all from my inherent queer sensibility which has made this labor of love that much lovelier. My enthusiasm for film, in general, and for LGBT-themed ones, in particular, is just as strong as when the first Knight at the Movies column appeared in May of 2004. But after 12-and-a-half years as cinema writer for Windy City Times, the time has come for me to move on ( although my work with my non-profit, the Queer Film Society, will continue ). I express my deep gratitude and thanks to Tracy Baim for giving me the opportunity and to her and Andrew Davis, my managing editor, for their constant support and encouragement throughout the many years.

It feels appropriate to sign off this final Knight at the Movies column with an overview of a list of my Best LGBT Films since I've had the privilege of being film critic for WCT. Anyone wishing to explore the multifaceted world of queer cinema will find these movies a great starting point. In closing, I am happy to have this opportunity to also thank my loyal readers. I sincerely appreciate your avid support throughout the years.

2004—A Home at the End of the World and Tarnation ( a tie )

2005—Brokeback Mountain and Capote ( another tie! )

2006—Shortbus

2007—Before I Forget

2008—Milk

2009—A Single Man

2010—The Kids Are All Right

2011—Weekend

2012—How to Survive a Plague

2013—Valentine Road and Cloudburst ( a tie )

2014—Love Is Strange

2015—Carol

2016—Moonlight


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