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The New Oscars

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Family guy: as host of this year’s Oscar bash, Seth MacFarlane will likely expose more than his pearly whites—like his great sense of humor and his wonderful singing voice. Photo by Bob D’Amico/ABC.

Seth MacFarlane hosts the annual event.
by Donalevan Maines

With Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane as host, the 85th Annual Academy Awards ceremony promises to be the most fun Oscars ever.

As a down payment on that promise, the ever-smiling MacFarlane personally announced the nominees January 10 (along with funny girl Emma Stone) in the most entertaining pre-dawn announcement the Academy has ever held. The announcement set the stage for a dizzying month ahead as Oscarologists scrambled to read the tea leaves after a bizarre selection of nominees.

Among them is MacFarlane himself, a finalist for Best Original Song for co-writing the theme song for his live-action film Ted. MacFarlane is a staunch supporter of gay rights.

Nominated for Best Animated Film is ParaNorman, by out director Chris Butler and featuring a lead character who’s gay. At least one gay critic groused that the character’s sexual orientation isn’t revealed until the conclusion, but if your gaydar reaches to animated characters, that isn’t a problem. The hunky character is voiced by Casey Affleck, a 2007 Oscar nominee opposite Brad Pitt in The Assassination of Jesse James.

Casey’s brother, Ben Affleck, was snubbed in the Best Director category, although his film Argo was nominated for Best Picture. In the week following the nominations, Affleck won Best Director at the Golden Globes, and Argo won the Globe for Best Picture–Drama and the Broadcast Film Critics’ Best Picture award.

So it’s anybody’s guess whether Argo could still win the Oscar. The directors’ branch also snubbed Tom Hooper (Les Misérables) and Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty), while nominating Steven Spielberg (Lincoln), Michael Haneke (Amour), Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild), Ang Lee (Life of Pi), and David O. Russell, whose Silver Linings Playbook scored nominations in all four acting categories. It’s the first time since 1983 when Warren Beatty’s Reds accomplished that feat.

Lincoln, which is nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, was penned by gay playwright Tony Kushner, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Angels in America.

The powerful AIDS documentary How to Survive a Plague is nominated for Best Documentary.

Hugh Jackman, Broadway’s The Boy from Oz (lesbians know him as Wolverine), is nominated for Best Actor, and recent Oscar co-host/marriage equality activist Anne Hathaway (lesbians know her as Catwoman), is nominated for Best Supporting Actress, both for Les Misérables.

For more on the Oscars, including a full list of nominees, visit oscars.org.

Another gay first: Mitch (r) is animation’s first gay hero. Casey Affleck (l, Ben’s brother) voices Mitch in ParaNorman.

SIDEBAR

Born This Way

In ParaNorman—an Oscar nominee for Best Animated Film and a GLAAD Media Award Outstanding Film nominee—Norman Babcock sees dead people, and that makes the eleven-year-old outcast a “freak” and a “weirdo” to his family, fellow students, and other residents of Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts, where a witch was executed three hundred years ago.

The witch has put a curse on the town that only Norman can remove, meaning that he will have to battle ghosts and goblins, heartened only by the advice of his dead grandmother (voiced by Elaine Stritch, who says, “There’s nothing wrong with being scared, Norman, so long as you don’t let it change who you are.”).

Staying true to yourself, especially while being relentlessly bullied, is a major theme of the 3D stop-action comedy horror film that was co-created by out director Chris Butler. He’s said that the inclusion of animation’s first gay hero, Mitch (voiced by Casey Affleck), underscored the film’s message: “If we’re saying to anyone that watches this movie, ‘Don’t judge other people,’ then we’ve got to have the strength of our convictions.”

In a telling scene, Norman says, “I didn’t ask to be born this way,” to which his father grumbles, “Funny, neither did we.” His feelings hurt, Norman’s mother tells him, “Y’know, sometimes people say things that seem mean, but they do it because they’re afraid.” Norman replies, “He’s my dad. He shouldn’t be afraid of me.” His mom replies, “He’s not afraid of you. He’s afraid for you.”

However, ParaNorman isn’t preachy. It’s mostly zombies gone berserk, scaring up an angry mob.

Among the voice cast are Oscar-nominated actors Casey Affleck and Anna Kendrick, as well as John Goodman and Leslie Mann.

Cinemaphiles will appreciate visual allusions to Psycho, Friday the 13th, Frankenstein, The Flintstones, and other classics.

Ironic dialogue includes a radio announcer advising, “Officials are urging people to panic.”

The Houston Film Critics Society also nominated ParaNorman for Best Animated Film, an honor which it won from the Alliance of Women Film Journalists and movie critics in Boston, Central Ohio, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Las Vegas, San Diego, San Francisco, Southeastern U.S., Toronto, Utah, and the Washington DC area.

Donalevan Maines also writes about Catch Me If You Can in this issue of OutSmart magazine.

 

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Don Maines

Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.
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