Good, bad, or mediocre?
by Donalevan Maines
You know you’re gay when you watch the Oscars for the gowns.
You know you’re really gay when the sight of a bald, naked man makes you purr “Hello, gorgeous!”
For those of you who just came in (or came out), that was Barbra Streisand’s reaction when she won best actress for Funny Girl. It was a tie with Katharine Hepburn and one of the few times until this year that “best actress” was a surprise.
The next year, Time magazine reported on a Hollywood Oscar-watching party where only one guest correctly predicted Maggie Smith as best actress for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. These were Tinseltown insiders! Can you imagine an Oscar-watching party last year—say, in Conroe, much less Los Angeles—where everyone didn’t know to pick Natalie Portman?
There were few surprises at the 84th annual Academy Awards on February 25, but that was a good thing for The Artist, that charming love letter to Old Hollywood, as well as Christopher Plummer and Octavia Spencer in films that apparently wrote and directed themselves, since writer/directors Michael Mills (Beginners) and Tate Taylor (The Help) got ignored throughout awards season.
Billy Crystal was back as host, blessed with a kiss by George Clooney, who assured him “the youngest, hippest writers in town” would assist him. Not! Instead, the Oscars played it safe with Borsch Belt humor, including a poke at Plummer, who at 82 would become the oldest Oscar-winner for acting. Said Billy: “He may be walking onstage tonight, because he wanders off.”
He also got a cross-dressing jab in when, introducing the gals from Bridesmaids, he cracked, “This has been a great year for strong, feminine characters. Some wore high heels and ran countries, like The Iron Lady and J. Edgar.
“The band loved that,” he added.
Lame jokes created an opening for Ellen Degeneres to steal the night with JC Penney “fair and square” ads that placed her in the wild, wild West, a My Fair Lady hat and a single bed from I Love Lucy, her face painted to a Japanese sunset.
All of the winners in technical categories looked gay to me, from J. Roy Helland, Meryl Streep’s hair and makeup stylist for almost 40 years (who topped Glenn Close’s right-hand man, Martial Corneville) to costume designer Mark Bridges (The Artist). Then a winner would thank his wife and I’d remember this wasn’t the Tony Awards after all.
One of Hugo’s sound engineers looked “like a big ol’ bear,” as Sissy Spacek said in her Oscar-winning performance as Loretta Lynn. Another wore an earring in his left ear, but these days, that doesn’t mean anything. Or does it?
Only two nominees for best song? Whaaa? All the more reason to catch “Oscar in the Box,” the movie-themed cabaret tribute through April 28 at Houston’s Music Box Theater.
Angelina Jolie’s vixen pose in Atelier Versace erased all sympathy for her partner Brad Pitt not winning best actor for Moneyball, but it didn’t halt my at-home retrospective of his films. Have you seen his brilliant turn in Snatch? Like Clooney, I love this guy onscreen and off.
If I could have willed just one surprise among the Oscar outcomes, I might have picked Pitt. I would have been tempted to choose Janet McTeer as macho Hubert in Albert Nobbs. Certainly, my “Norma Jean” girls, Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn and Jessica Chastain in The Help, deserved consideration. But I couldn’t be more happy than seeing Meryl Streep finally nabbing her third Academy Award.
“We were in Greece. We danced. I was gay and we were happy,” said presenter Colin Firth, in reference to their Mamma Mia! roles.
I loved the other nominees, but I can think of 10 other actresses who could have done as well. I can’t think of anyone but Streep who could have convincingly played Margaret Thatcher. But who knows? I was probably surprised that Charlize Theron was so great as Aileen Wuornos in Monster. Until you give someone the chance, ya never know what they can do.
But for honoring Streep as best actress of the year, I gotta say, “I want to thank the Academy.”
Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.