Gay men and straight women may dominate ‘Oscar’ night. Plus TV Shorts
by Donalevan Maines
The first time Steve Martin hosted the Academy Awards (in 2001, when Julia Roberts won for Erin Brockovich), he joked that everybody across the globe was thinking the same thing: that everyone in Hollywood is gay.
They were right, he added.
On March 7, Martin returns, along with Alec Baldwin, as co-host of the annual ceremony that honors the year’s best work in film as decided by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Out directors helmed three of this year’s nominees: Lee Daniels’ Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, fashion designer Tom Ford’s A Single Man, and Rob Marshall’s Nine.
In addition, Daniels is nominated for best director, the first time an openly gay African-American director has been nominated. Precious is the first best-picture nominee to be directed by an African-American, period. It’s also nominated for best actress (newcomer Gabourney Sidibe), supporting actress (comedienne Mo’Nique), screenplay, and film editing.
In the script by Geoffrey Fletcher, teenage title character Precious—overweight, illiterate, and pregnant for the second time—is surprised when she’s befriended by a pair of “homos.” The emotional support of her lesbian teacher, Ms. Rain, helps and inspires Precious, who also meets Ms. Rain’s partner and hears of the rejection that the loving couple faces from their families.
A Single Man won a best-actor nomination for Colin Firth for his portrait of George, a gay college professor who is banned from attending the funeral of his longtime partner who is killed in a car accident. Based on a novel by Christopher Isherwood, the film takes place in the homophobic world of the early 1960s, with George forced to present himself one way to the world, while living a different life in private.
Both Precious and A Single Man are also nominated for outstanding film (wide release) at the 21st annual GLAAD Media Awards, which recognize media for outstanding images of the LGBT community and complement the work of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to publicize LGBT images and stories.
“These films tell inclusive and diverse stories of our community which grow awareness and understanding of the lives of gay and transgender people,” said Jarrett Barrios, GLAAD president.
“Images like the love and commitment of Ms. Rain and her partner in Precious and the isolation felt by George in A Single Man spark conversations that help Americans embrace their gay and transgender friends, family members, and neighbors,” said Barrios. “We need to advocate for more gay-inclusive stories to be shared with mainstream audiences, because as more people see these images, they realize that we have the same aspirations and hopes, and deserve the same chances to take care of our loved ones and families.”
In January, the Producers Guild of America awarded Daniels the prestigious Stanley Kramer Award for work that dramatically illuminates provocative social issues. His competition for best director includes tomboy Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), who would become the first female to win the Oscar in that category; her ex-husband James Cameron, whose Avatar has eclipsed his Oscar-winning blockbuster Titanic as Hollywood’s biggest all-time moneymaker; Jason Reitman (Up in the Air); and Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds).
Their films are nominated for best picture along with the animated Up, sci-fi District 9, football flick The Blind Side, acting ensemble An Education, and black comedy A Serious Man.
This year’s slate isn’t as great a showing for LGBT films as 2006, when Brokeback Mountain and Capote led the Oscar derby, but it could go down in history as a banner year for women as best picture and best director seem to be shaping up as David vs. Goliath races to the finish for The Hurt Locker and Avatar. (I loved The Hurt Locker, with its nail-biting bomb-defusion scenes and strong characterizations of three male soldiers. I haven’t seen Avatar and don’t plan to.)
Instead of Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote or Heath Ledger as Ennis Del Mar, this year’s best-actor frontrunner is Jeff Bridges as an alcoholic country-western singer in Crazy Heart. (Didn’t Robert Duvall already win for that role in Tender Mercies? Wasn’t Joaquin Phoenix nominated for the same thing in Walk the Line?)
Other nominees, besides Firth, include George Clooney (Up in the Air), Morgan Freeman (Invictus), and Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker).
Without the likes of Felicity Huffman as a pre-operative transsexual in Transamerica, we find ourselves on the best-actress sidelines with Julia Roberts, while her successor as America’s sweetheart, Sandra Bullock, is poised to win an Oscar for a role Roberts reportedly turned down in The Blind Side (another title that’s not on my must-see list). Meanwhile, more discerning academy members can cast their votes for Sidibe or choose from among Meryl Streep’s ebullient Julia Child in Julie & Julia, Carey Mulligan’s 16-year-old schoolgirl in An Education, and Helen Mirren’s Countess Sofya in The Last Station.
Last year’s best supporting actress, Penelope Cruz, says she patterned her seductive moves in the musical number
“A Call from the Vatican” in Nine after Pink Panther cartoons. The strategy paid off with another nomination in that category, where Mo’Nique seems to be the prohibitive favorite over Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart) and Up in the Air co-stars Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick.
Matt Damon (Invictus), Woody Harrelson (The Messenger), Christopher Plummer (The Last Station), and Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones) are nominated for best supporting actor along with Christoph Waltz, who seems a lock for his role as Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterd.
As I write this the first week of February when Oscar nominations were announced and a full month before the awards, it seems almost certain that Bridges, Bullock, Waltz, and Mo’Nique will win this year’s acting laurels.
But things can change. The last time a Winter Olympics was held between the nominations and the awards was 2006 when Hollywood homophobes spent the time rallying around Crash as an alternative to the odds-on favorite for best picture, Brokeback Mountain.
I don’t know if that means that everyone in Hollywood isn’t gay, but I learned to never discount a March surprise.
The 82nd Academy Awards ceremony will be broadcast live beginning at 6 p.m. on ABC-TV from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.
What good is sitting alone in your room . . . while watching the awards telecast? Come to Oscars Unhinged, the annual Unhinged Productions Bash, where there’s food, fashion, and prizes. Red carpet arrival is at 6 p.m., showtime at 7, at Montrose Counseling Center, 401 Branard, 2nd floor.Tickets: $25 general admission, $40 VIP. For more information, visit comeunhinged.com.
Donalevan Maines also writes about the film I Love You Phillip Morris in this issue of OutSmart magazine.