7 films to stream during Pride Month

Wanda Sykes stars in "Stand Out: An LGBTQ+ Celebration."
Wanda Sykes stars in “Stand Out: An LGBTQ+ Celebration.”
Beth Dubber/Netflix

As Pride Month continues, a handful of terrific LGBTQ films and specials are available on streaming platforms and on demand. Here is a rundown of what to watch.

“Outstanding: A Comedy Revolution”

“Outstanding: A Comedy Revolution” showcases dozens of LGBTQ+ performers talking about what it means to be an out stand-up comic. There are many funny moments, of course. Marsha Warfield’s joke about not knowing her Aunt Butch and Uncle Twirl were gay, and Joel Kim Booster’s wisecrack about his white boyfriend having some Asian DNA in him are very funny. But much of this documentary is serious as it describes how difficult and limiting it was for LGBTQ+ comics to be out. Robin Tyler’s remark about Anita Bryant in the ’70s cost her a TV show, and Todd Glass decides to come out only after he suffers a heart attack. “Outstanding” also shows how comedians use humor as a form of activism and to normalize queerness. Moreover, being out, Scott Thompson says, allowed him to flip stereotypes. In contrast, several talking heads address the unfunny and harmful impact of homophobic and transphobic jokes by straight comedians. Comedy, the subjects in the film say, is a way of dealing with trauma; laughter can also change minds. “Outstanding” does what good humor should — it makes audiences laugh and think at the same time. 

“Peppermint: So-Sigh-Ety Effects” (Hulu)

Speaking of comedy, “Peppermint: So-Sigh-Ety Effects” is the trans performer’s engaging 2023 special. Peppermint has the audience eating out of her hand right from her fabulous opening musical number, “Best Sex,” about fuckboys. Her comic monologue addresses dating while trans, and the “after sex side effects” — how they guys she dates are concerned about what society may say about their relationship. But the best part of her show describes Peppermint’s work as a “translator;” she recounts in stories that are both amusing and awkward how she has transformed decent men into better men for relationships with other women. Peppermint’s expressions are very funny when she describes getting her first hormone shot in a public restroom, or her strange experience when she was participating in “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Peppermint appears to be having a great time on stage and her special is an enjoyable performance for fans and the uninitiated. 

No Straight Lines: The Rise of Queer Comics”

The affectionate documentary, “No Straight Lines: The Rise of Queer Comics” (PBS) traces the careers of five groundbreaking gay and lesbian comic book artists. Director Vivian Kleiman shows how these artists defined themselves and took risks to create a queer comics scene that is in full bloom today. There are charming anecdotes and illustrations as “No Straight Lines” shows how these artists, “drew themselves as they wanted to be represented.” In doing so, they changed the landscape and formed a strong sense of community. This is a fun and at times touching film that should inspire viewers to seek out these artists’ work.

“Big Boys” (On Digital and On Demand)

“Big Boys” is a sweet and sensitive coming out/coming of age story, written and directed by Corey Sherman. Jamie (Isaac Krasner) is a heavyset 14-year-old who is frustrated to learn his cousin Allie (Dora Madison) is bringing her boyfriend Dan (David Johnson III) on their camping trip. But when Dan bonds with Jamie while cooking burgers and gives the teen some brotherly advice, Jamie develops a crush on Dan — even fantasizing about him. Jamie’s infatuation leads to several awkward moments, but Sherman and the superb Krasner handle these scenes — as well as a moving coming out episode — with grace. “Big Boys” succeeds because its emotions ring true. 

“Big Boys” is available on digital and on demand.
“Big Boys” is available on digital and on demand.Dark Star Pictures

“Fancy Dance” (Apple TV)

“Fancy Dance,” by director/cowriter Erica Tremblay, is an involving drama about Jax (Lily Gladstone) a lesbian on the Seneca-Cayuga reservation, who is caring for her teenage niece, Roki (Isabel Deroy-Olson). Roki’s mother has been missing for a few weeks, and Jax has taken the search into her own hands given the FBI’s unhurried investigation. However, Child Protective Services have come to take Roki away; Jax is deemed an unfit guardian, given her criminal record. As Jax gets information on her sister from her girlfriend Sapphire (Crystle Lightning) or Boo (Blayne Allen), whom she runs drugs for, Jax takes Roki on a road trip to follow the clues, getting deeper into trouble. Roki, meanwhile, is determined to attend a powwow where she and her mother perform annually. “Fancy Dance” can be didactic at times with characters overexplaining things, and the plotting is frequently contrived—Roki effortlessly steals what she needs, and an identity check by an officer fails to build the suspense it should—but Gladstone is marvelous and flinty, and the film ends on a truly graceful note.

In Bed”

The Israeli import “In Bed” (Film Movement Plus) opens with Guy (Israel Ogalbo) and Joy (Moran Rosenblatt) heading off to the Pride Parade in Tel Aviv. However, their fun is cut short when a shooter opens fire on the crowd. Rushing back to Guy’s apartment, they meet Dan (Dean Miroshnikov) in the stairwell. He is a shaken by the events, and invited into Guy’s apartment, where everyone tries to process what happened. When Dan leaves, Guy and Joy take some drugs. But later, Guy reconnects with Dan, who returns for sex and more drugs, including Tina. “In Bed” soon becomes a kind of thriller as Guy suspects Dan — who is on the downlow (he has a girlfriend) — may be involved with the attacks on the queer community. Are the drugs causing Guy to imagine things? Ogalbo, who spends much of the film in a jockstrap or less, is mesmerizing as a young man who slowly starts to doubt everything — including his friendship with Joy as well as his budding relationship with Dan. His intense performance elevates this drama about some of the dangers facing the queer community.

 “Water Lilies” (Criterion)

 “Water Lilies” is the debut film by out lesbian writer/director Céline Sciamma, best known for “Portrait of a Lady on Fire.” Filled with poignancy and a little heartbreak this terrific coming of age film has Marie (Pauline Acquart), an outsider becoming smitten with the self-confident Floriane (Adele Haenel), a teenage synchronized swimming goddess. As she acknowledges her attraction, Marie’s friendship with Anne (Louise Blachère) ebbs and flows. “Water Lilies” finds considerable drama in the romantic entanglements of these characters: Anne lusts after François (Warren Jacquin), who is Marie’s boyfriend; Floriane uses Marie’s crush on her to see François, and so it goes. Sciamma captures the adolescent angst not in words so much as in visual cues — e.g., when Marie is invited into the pool by Floriane, she takes tentative, hesitant steps. And Like Marie who is fascinated by the nubile young girls’ bodies, Sciamma is considerably observant. Her film depicts the budding, nascent sexuality of these teenagers — gay and straight, curious, ashamed, and afraid — with remarkable sensitivity and grace.