All summaries are via Netflix, so don’t blame me for those either.
Must-sees of extreme gay interest:
The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson helms this chilling true-life drama set in 1950s New Zealand about an obsessive friendship between two girls — introvert Pauline (Melanie Lynskey) and self-confident Juliet (Kate Winslet, in her film debut) — that led to murder. The two become increasingly inseparable, retreating to an imaginary world, until their relationship invites opposition from their families that ultimately begets blood.
“Tying the Knot: The union that’s Dividing America”
This documentary takes a concerted look at the heated and ongoing debate about same-sex marriage in the United States. Focusing on two gay couples who’ve become entangled in laws forbidding homosexual wedlock, the film puts a human face on the issue.
“In & Out”
When dim-bulb actor Cameron Drake wins an Oscar for playing a gay Marine, he outs his high school drama teacher, Howard Brackett, in his acceptance speech. It all comes as a surprise to Howard — not to mention to his long-suffering fiancée, Emily.
“Gay Sex in the 70s”
This fascinating documentary tells the story of a pivotal era in gay history — the 12 years between the landmark incident at Stonewall in 1969 and the first reported cases of AIDS in 1981.
“The Mormon Proposition”
Filmmaker and ex-Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints member Reed Cowan examines that church’s nationwide efforts to prevent the legalization of gay marriage — including California’s Proposition 8, which was passed by voters in 2008.
In high school, Kimberly Reed was male, a straight-A student and captain of the football team. But since leaving his rural Montana hometown, he’s become a woman — and a filmmaker whose documentary could not be any more personal.
“The September Issue”
Director R.J. Cutler’s documentary offers a rare look inside Vogue as the fashion magazine’s influential editor, Anna Wintour, and creative director, Grace Coddington, produce the highly anticipated September issue.
“Follow My Voice: With the Music of Hedwig”
This moving documentary explores the experiences of four teenagers attending New York’s landmark Harvey Milk High School for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender kids, weaving their stories with scenes of musicians recording a fund-raising album. Artists supporting the school by contributing to the album include Frank Black, Ben Folds, Cyndi Lauper, They Might Be Giants, Yoko Ono, the Breeders, Rufus Wainwright and many more.
James Franco steps into the shoes of famed Beat poet Allen Ginsberg in this star-studded biopic centered around Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” — and the widely publicized obscenity trial that followed its publication in 1957. Documentarians Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (The Times of Harvey Milk) direct, with an A-list ensemble cast that includes Jon Hamm, David Strathairn, Jeff Daniels and Mary-Louise Parker.
“Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work”
Documentarians Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg provide an uncompromising glimpse into the personal and professional life of comedian and red-carpet mainstay Joan Rivers, a woman clinging stubbornly and steadfastly to the pop-culture bandwagon. Stern and Sundberg — whose previous film, The Devil Came on Horseback, covered the Darfur genocide — take a no-less-intensive approach to their subject here, taking a hard look at fame’s bitter toll.
“Broadway: The American Musical”
Julie Andrews hosts this comprehensive chronicle of the American musical that captures a century of Broadway through interviews, archival footage, personal writings, newsreels and home movies. Florenz Ziegfeld, Irving Berlin, George M. Cohan, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Stephen Sondheim are just a few of the featured icons, along with dozens of musicals — from “Porgy and Bess” to “Chicago.”
Raúl Esparza stars in this 2006 revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award-winning musical comedy recorded live for PBS’s “Great Performances” and featuring the classics “Side by Side by Side,” “The Ladies Who Lunch” and “Another Hundred People.” Celebrating his 35th birthday among married friends, swinging Manhattan bachelor Bobby (Esparza) considers the value of a committed relationship. John Doyle directs this celebrated production.
“Far from Heaven”
When she finds her husband (Dennis Quaid) with another man, a Connecticut housewife (Julianne Moore) finds herself dealing with infidelity and the racial tension that epitomized the late 1950s at the advent of the Civil Rights movement in America. As a coping mechanism to deal with the emotional turmoil, she develops an unlikely friendship with her African-American gardener (Dennis Haysbert), who’s full of sage wisdom.
While working together near Wyoming’s Brokeback Mountain in 1963, sheepherders Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) begin an increasingly passionate affair. But keeping their relationship a secret from their wives (Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams) proves agonizing and all-consuming. Ang Lee directs this Oscar-winning drama based on a short story by Pulitzer Prize winner E. Annie Proulx.
Summer camp is usually filled with activities and crafts, but for the kids of Stagedoor Manor, camp is all song and dance, literally. Spawning superstar alumni such as Natalie Portman, Robert Downey Jr., Jennifer Jason Leigh and Felicity Huffman, Stagedoor Manor is a breeding ground for talent. Director Alexandra Shiva follows five dedicated campers through rigorous rehearsals to a theatrical performance that rivals professional productions.
Three Philadelphia high school students negotiate the challenges of the inner city and the demands of their tough-minded culinary arts teacher, Wilma Stephenson, to become contenders in a citywide cooking competition. Charming and surprisingly hilarious, Jennifer Grausman and Mark Becker’s inspiring, Emmy-nominated documentary showcases the heights young minds can reach, regardless of their environment, when they’re expected to succeed.
In this penetrating look at public education in America, filmmaker Madeleine Sackler follows four children through the highs and lows of a life-changing lottery, where the prize is a spot in one of New York City’s best charter schools. When presented with a chance to pull their youngsters out of a failing system, some parents dare to be cautiously optimistic, knowing full well there are hundreds of thousands of kids in the pool.
“Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father”
Filmmaker Kurt Kuenne’s poignant tribute to his murdered childhood friend, Andrew Bagby, tells the story of a child custody battle between the baby’s grieving grandparents and Shirley Turner, Bagby’s pregnant ex-girlfriend and suspected killer. Initially, Kuenne made this documentary as a memorial for Andrew’s loved ones, but it morphs into an emotional legal odyssey when Turner goes free on bail and is allowed to raise her son.
“The Pixar Story”
Go behind the scenes at Pixar Animation Studios with this Emmy-nominated documentary tracing the creation and history of the groundbreaking company and featuring interviews with founders Ed Catmull, John Lasseter and Steve Jobs. Assembling rare Pixar footage and conversations with animators, producers, directors and voice actors, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Leslie Iwerks takes viewers on a fascinating tour of the outfit that forever changed Hollywood animation.
Director Robert Altman’s witty murder mystery won an Oscar for its screenplay, which really takes off when Sir William (Michael Gambon) is found dead soon after his guests arrive for a weekend stay at his English estate. Lady Sylvia (Kristin Scott Thomas), Constance (Maggie Smith) and Ivor (Jeremy Northam) try to make sense of the crime. Meanwhile, gossip flies among the household help (including Helen Mirren, Ryan Phillippe and Clive Owen).
This riveting Oscar-nominated documentary offers an unfiltered look at a revivalist subculture in which devout Christian youngsters are being primed to deliver the fundamentalist community’s religious and political messages. Building an evangelical army of tomorrow, the Kids on Fire summer camp in Devil’s Lake, N.D., is dedicated to deepening the preteens’ spirituality and sowing the seeds of political activism.
Several documentary directors each film a segment representing one chapter of Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner’s best-seller Freakonomics, which explains different elements of popular culture through economic theory and statistics. Issues include everything from cheating sumo wrestlers to whether Roe v. Wade produced a drop in crime. Filmmakers include Morgan Spurlock, Alex Gibney, Seth Gordon, Eugene Jarecki, Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing.
“When We Left Earth”
Follow the 20th century’s space race all the way to the moon — and beyond — in this incredible, comprehensive six-part documentary series narrated by Gary Sinise. Chronicling America’s space program from the early days of the Mercury project to the era of the space shuttle, the sensational series features eye-popping footage from a host of various missions, plus in-depth interviews with NASA astronauts and engineers.
Jenny’s (Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan) Oxford-bound teen life is a bore in 1961 London until she’s given a different kind of education after being immersed in the beguiling but hazardous world of much-older David (Peter Sarsgaard). Even Jenny’s parents, Jack (Alfred Molina) and Marjorie (Cara Seymour), are intrigued by him, but her unimpressed teacher (Olivia Williams) works to keep Jenny’s entire future from crumbling under David’s influence.
“The King of Kong”
When Steve Wiebe got laid off, he turned to the classic arcade game Donkey Kong for solace; soon, he decided to challenge Billy Mitchell’s long-standing record score. So began the bitter rivalry that lies at the heart of this curiously compelling documentary. Providing a history of competitive video gaming and a look at some of the key players, The King of Kong is at its best when revealing just how far Mitchell will go to retain his crown.