By Donalevan Maines
Lily Tomlin will take a bow on January 29 as winner of the Life Achievement Award at the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild honors. Even Russian hackers can’t alter the result, as Tomlin’s award was announced months ago, making her the first out recipient of the ultimate career-achievement prize for movie and television performers. [Editor’s note: Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton—Tomlin’s costars in the 1980 film 9 to 5—will present the award to Tomlin.]
Also pre-announced: on January 8, marvelous Meryl Streep will get the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes “for outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment.” (You just know her greatest-hits reel will include a scene with Cher as her lesbian roommate, Dolly Pelliker, in Silkwood.)
The two buzziest films in this year’s Oscar race seem made-to-order for LGBT movie fans, as La La Land is an original movie musical with eye-catching stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, while Moonlight is the acclaimed adaptation of an out African-American man’s play about growing up gay. At both the SAG Awards and the Golden Globes (hosted by Jimmy Fallon), marriage equality will bask in the spotlight of acting nods for Loving leads Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga. They play the interracial couple who took their pursuit of happiness all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Loving v. Virginia marriage-equality case in 1967. That was two years before Tomlin became an overnight success on TV’s Laugh-In with her breakout character, Ernestine, the snorting switchboard operator who bullied author Gore Vidal and other phone-company customers. (One can only imagine how Ernestine, circa 2017, might deal with Russian hackers, utilizing today’s technology.)
The SAG spotlight on Tomlin will likely be the LGBT highlight of a whole slew of TV awards shows that lead up to Hollywood’s biggest night, the Academy Awards, which is set for February 26 with Jimmy Kimmel as host.
Until the Oscars, we will see Kate McKinnon, Sarah Paulson, writer/director Tom Ford, and other gay faves on so many red carpets that we might decide to turn our attentions to NFL playoff games. And if you think all the different honors seem to run together, you’re not alone. Even The Shark’s Mark Cuban crowed, “Alec Baldwin deserves an Oscar!” when, actually, Baldwin’s lauded portrayal of Donald Trump on TV’s Saturday Night Live will qualify him for an Emmy Award, not an Academy Award.
The frontrunner for Best Actor at the Oscars is Casey Affleck, who could easily score an Emmy nomination for his outstanding SNL hosting gig last month. In his opening monologue, the brother of two-time Academy Award-winner Ben Affleck described his movie Manchester by the Sea as “incredibly depressing” and “crushingly sad.” (In other words, just my type of date movie.) The actor added, “It’s a beautiful testament to what we’ll do for our family, to how everyone deserves a second chance, and also to how unbearably sad movies can be.”
In contrast, the tagline for La La Land reads, “Here’s to the fools who dream.” Oh, and if TV awards shows aren’t enough to make you a pigskin fan in time for Super Bowl LI, local movie fans can gather at the eighth annual presentation of the Houston Film Critics Society two evenings before the Globes. La La Land leads the nominations at the 7 p.m. ceremony January 6 at the MATCH, which will be preceded by a reception.
“Each year, the Houston Film Critics Society follows a thorough screening process to identify the best of the year’s films,” says Joshua Starnes, president of the organization. “With our annual awards ceremony, we take a moment to honor the best, as well as reach out to the community to celebrate the magic of film.”
The organization also will cheer an independent film that was made in Texas, as well as jeer the overall Worst Film of the Year.
Joining La La Land, Moonlight, and Manchester by the Sea as a favorite of the Houston critics is Arrival, which stars Amy Adams.
The slate of nominees is about the same at every awards show, with an occasional (welcomed!) surprise such as the bell-ringing Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Golden Globes for The Big Bang Theory’s Simon Helberg as closeted Cosmé McMoon, the Cole Porter-ish pianist in Florence Foster Jenkins. His competition includes Oscar favorite Mahershala Ali in Moonlight, the much-praised Dev Patel (Lion), another out-of-the-box nominee, Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Noctural Animals), and Academy Award-winner Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water, a modern-day Western set in Texas.
As “Flo-Fo,” Streep claimed her 30th nomination for a Golden Globe, and she might double-dip that night by taking home both the DeMille honor plus Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy. (But she will have to out-poll Stone as well as Annette Bening in 20th Century Women, Lily Collins [whom Bening’s husband, Warren Beatty, directed in Rules Don’t Apply], and Hailee Steinfeld in The Edge of Seventeen.)
Likewise, on the same night that Tomlin will be feted with the SAG Life Achievement Award, Tomlin could win a competitive SAG for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series. Tomlin’s rivals are her Grace and Frankie co-star, Jane Fonda, along with reigning queen Uzu Aduba (as lesbian Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren in Orange Is the New Black), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep), and Elle Kemper in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a show that also boasts nominations across the board for out actor Titus Burgess. At SAG, Burgess competes against Jeffrey Tambor as transgender Maura Pfefferman in Transparent, as well as Ty Burrell in Modern Family, Anthony Anderson in Black-ish, and William H. Macy in Shameless.
Speaking of Transparent (and back to SNL), I have to make mention of the latter’s “fake news” report of CBS launching a dramedy called Broken so that the old-codgers’ network can compete for Best Comedy Series. To see the trailer for Broken, CBS’s Transparent-ish faux “comedy,” Google “thecomicscomic snl mocks sad shows.” Although billed as a comedy, it’s “crushingly sad.”
In the category of “Hollywood redemption,” I should point out that Oscar-winning director Mel Gibson is back with Hacksaw Ridge, which is based on the true story of a heroic World War II conscientious objector who saved the lives of many of his fellow American soldiers. Nominees for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy include Gosling and Colin Farrell (The Lobster), Hugh Grant (Florence Foster Jenkins), Jonah Hill (War Dogs), and Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool). Natalie Portman, who is vying for her second Oscar for Best Actress, is hailed for her portrayal of former first-lady Jackie Kennedy in Jackie, which focuses on several days surrounding the assassination of her husband in 1963.
Viola Davis, in another of her patented runny-nose performances, is sitting pretty for Best Supporting Actress for reprising the part of Rose in August Wilson’s play Fences. (On Broadway, Davis won the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Play, but she hopes to compete in the supporting category at the Oscars). Among the also-rans in her competition are Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea), Naomie Harris (Moonlight), Nicole Kidman (Lion), and Octavia Spencer as a pioneering NASA math genius in Hidden Figures.
Among other nominees (and often multiple nominees) of particular LGBT interest in TV categories are Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), This Is Us, Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld), Atlanta, The Dresser, House of Cards, and Downton Abbey. Among the films that the Houston critics might honor (which haven’t garnered much love on pre-Oscar awards circuits) include The Handmaiden, The Nice Guys, Christine, Doctor Strange, and The Jungle Book.
Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.