James Franco. When he wasn't studying for two Master's Degrees, publishing a book, writing poetry and saving the world from an onslaught of intelligent apes (oh, sorry, that's later this year, when he will headline the sci-fi prequel Rise of the Apes), Franco was playing one of Julia Roberts' lovers in Eat Pray Love, stalking hunky Steve Burton on General Hospital and directing a gay-themed short film (The Feast of Stephen) that appeared on the 2010 queer festival circuit.
Franco has long held viewers' attention, and gave memorable performances in both the Spider-Man trilogy and the Oscar-winning biopic Milk. The latter film, especially, sparked considerable "is he one of us?" speculation about Franco on the part of gay fans (according to recent reports, the actor is dating a woman). But Franco has also been regarded at times as laid back to a fault on screen. That perception changed dramatically in 2010, when Franco did exuberant, even joyful work in Howl and 127 Hours. In the first, Franco embodied the Beat Generation energy and protest spirit of gay poet Allen Ginsberg. In the second, the actor rivets in a largely immobile role, contemplating life as a hiker literally stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Next on Franco's growing list of broad achievements: co-hosting the Academy Awards ceremony with Anne Hathaway on February 27, where he will also more than likely be a nominee. Will nothing hold him down? You go, Franco! Movie Dearest salutes you.
The first season of Fox's hit musical-dramedy Glee introduced Chris Colfer to the world in the role of Kurt Hummel, a gay high school student who zigzags through various points of the coming out process. The untried actor-singer reportedly snagged the role shortly after stepping off the bus for his first professional audition. Colfer and Kurt have since become role models for a new generation of GLBT teens, with Colfer participating in the 2010 "It Gets Better" video campaign in the wake of a tragic number of suicides by bullied young people. I had the pleasure of being present last summer when Colfer presented his Glee co-star Jane Lynch with the Outfest Lifetime Achievement Award, and was impressed by his poise and sincerity. And can he sing! His rendition of "A House is Not a Home" this season was a standout among a number of impressive musical moments, culminating in his holiday duet on "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with Kurt's maybe-boyfriend, Blaine (Darren Criss). Keep up the great work!
We loved Colin Firth's performance as a gay college professor mourning the death of his longtime lover in last year's A Single Man. Duly Oscar nominated, Firth tragically (in the opinion of some of us) lost the award to Jeff Bridges. If Lady Justice is gay, she'll make sure the scale tips Firth's way this year for his acclaimed performance in The King's Speech, when he and Bridges will likely compete again in the Best Actor category. However, Firth has the edge this time around since (A) he hasn't won before and (B) he gave a simply glorious performance as stuttering, stammering King George VI. Definitely more crowd-pleasing than A Single Man, if no less significant a character study, The King's Speech explores the importance of national leadership at a time when the subject couldn't be more critical. Firth has turned in consistently great work (he was also fun in last year's St. Trinian's School for Girls), and now as a king in addition to his previous "queens."
By Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.