2010-2019: Best Films of Decade–Call Me By Your Name, Gay Cinema at Its Best

Watching Together While Physically Apart

For purposes of simplicity, my list 30 great movies of the past decade is presented alphabetically.  Obviously, the films reflect my taste, as I look back and revisit them. As as such, they are inevitably singular and biased. No need to agree with my filmic hierarchy, but as a critic it’s my duty and privilege to expose readers to films they might not have seen upon initial release, or wish to revisit from a different viewpoint, and with the perspective of time.

All the films are available on DVD and/or via streaming.

30. A Separation (Iran, 2011)  See our review

29. Amour (France, 2012) See our review

28. Beasts of the Southern Wild (U.S. Indie, 2012). See our review.

27. Boyhood (U.S. Indie, Richard Linklater, 2014)

26. Call My By Your Name (2017)

The most emotionally impactful scene in the superb coming out/coming of age drama, Call Me By Your Name, is the tender and brutally honest conversation that Mr. Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg) has with Elio (Timothee Chalamet) at the end of the film, where as father he offers his son unconditional love and support.

Gay Directors, Gay Films? By Emanuel Levy (Columbia University Press)

“Most gay people do not have that kind of father,” says producer Howard Rosenman. “The idea of this kind of man, loving and holding his child close to him and telling him to treasure the moment, is extraordinary. It’s almost like a fantasy, but it’s powerful and real because of the way Michael Stuhlbarg delivers it.”

Says producer Spears: “I saw a meme somewhere, ‘Be the person you needed when you were younger.’ Something about that has stuck with me and I feel like Luca and I, in so many ways from the very beginning, have made the movie we needed when we were younger that wasn’t there.”

Writer’s Father as Inspiration

The character of Mr. Perlman is based on author Aciman’s own father. “My father was a very open-minded person who had no inhibitions when it came to sexuality,” says Aciman. He was a man you could always have a conversation with about anything you wanted to discuss about sex. So I wasn’t going to write the usual kind of speech, like ‘everybody goes through this’ or ‘you should see a shrink,’ or the contentious father routine, because that’s not the father I knew. My father would have said exactly what the father does in the book and the movie.”

Says Timothee Chalamet: “What was cathartic and enlightening for me in doing the scene with Michael was the sensation that pain isn’t a bad thing. In fact pain needs to be nurtured and taken care of and if you ignore pain or in the words of Mr. Perlman, ‘try to rip it out,’ you’re going to rip out everything good that came with it. Obviously, there’s going to be disappointment and hurt, but in order to achieve the good again and to reflect on the good that did happen in a positive light down the road, you need to be gentle with yourself. Don’t kill the pain and all the good that came with it.”

“If you’re lucky enough to feel something deeply, even if it hurts, don’t push it away,” says Michael Stuhlbarg, who gives an impressively tender performance as the understanding father. “What a waste to feel something beautiful and then to try to pretend like it didn’t happen.”

“I think it’s the dream scenario of all teenagers, especially gay ones, to be fully accepted by their parents, especially fathers.”


If you want to know more about gay cinema, please read my book:

Gay Directors, Gay Films? By Emanuel Levy (Columbia University Press, August 2015).


No Full Frontal Nudity: Why?

Many viewers wondered why there was no full-frontal nudity in the Oscar-winning film, Call Me By Your Name.

In interviews, James Ivory, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of the coming out drama reiterated that his original script called for full-frontal nudity for the two lead characters, Elio (played by Timothee Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer).

Ivory wished that the movie had included nudity, but director Luca Guadagnino has defended the choice by calling it “irrelevant” to the picture, and an artistic choice.

Ivory stated: “When Luca says he never thought of putting nudity in, that is totally untrue. He sat in this very room where I am sitting now, talking about how he would do it, so when he says that it was a conscious aesthetic decision not to — well, that’s just bullshit.”

Clauses in Chalamet and Hammer’s contracts prevented nudity from making it to the big screen, according to The Guardian.

Continued Ivory: “When people are wandering around before or after making love, and they’re decorously covered with sheets, it’s always seemed phony to me. I never liked doing that. And I don’t do it, as you know.” He then referenced his 1987 adaptation of E.M. Forster’s Maurice, in which “you certainly see everything there is to be seen.” Said Ivory, “To me, that’s a more natural way of doing things than to hide them, or to do what Luca did, which is to pan the camera out of the window toward some trees.”

Ivory, who has won three best directing Oscar nominations, was initially attached to co-helm Call Me by Your Name, but decided to hand the reins to Guadagnino alone when the prospect of two directors began to complicate the film’s financing: “It wasn’t that kind of a film where there was a lot of spare money. So I just sold them the rights to the screenplay.”

James Ivory Oscar

Earlier this month, Ivory won the best adapted screenplay Oscar at the 90th Oscars ceremony.  In his speech, he thanked Guadagnino, whom he called “sensitive and sensible,” and the film’s actors as “wonderful” and “emotion-filled.”