No “‘Brokeback’ this year in Oscar race but we’ll take what we can get
On a day when Hollywood should have been buzzing about the Oscar nominations, most talk was focused on the sad death of Heath Ledger at 28. Ledger, who was himself a nominee two years ago for his iconic role as Ennis Del Mar in “Brokeback Mountain,” also appeared in queer director Todd Haynes’ 2007 Bob Dylan biopic, “I’m Not There.”
Ledger’s death on the heels of the Oscar nominations merely served to highlight on a day when movies get recognized by their community how paltry the gay content of much of the Hollywood product is compared to its stage-bound brethren.
Consider: In 2007, the big contenders for the Tony Awards included a play about a lesbian agent and her gay client (“The Little Dog Laughed,” written by an openly gay playwright); a musical about sexual freedom with gay characters (“Spring Awakening”), one about a kooky society maven and her gay best friend (“Grey Gardens”), even one with a song about detecting a gay man based on his appearance (“There, Right There!” from “Legally Blonde: The Musical”). David Hyde Pierce, who played straight in “Curtains,” even thanked his longtime lover when he won for best actor. And that’s just a sampling from last year.
So why, on the film side, is there such an appalling lack of gay content among the major nominees for the Academy Awards?
While Philip Seymour Hoffman and Tilda Swinton have both gained notoriety for their queer turns and Johnny Depp has never shied from quirkiness bordering on camp, there are no openly GLBT nominees, plots or characters among the six big ones (despite Cate Blanchett in a cross-dressing performance in “I’m Not There” and Viggo Mortensen’s homoerotic naked fight scene in “Eastern Promises”).
Indeed, for any overtly content, you have to dig down to the tie-breaking category of documentary short subject. That’s where you’ll find “Freeheld,” a film about a fatally ill policewoman’s campaign to have her survivor benefits pass to her lesbian partner and that was directed by a straight woman. (The exceptional film “The Kite Runner” contained a scene of sodomy rape, but that’s hardly good news for gay rights.)
Still, there is no shortage of nominees that appeal to queer audiences. Of the best picture contenders, the comedy “Juno” has the hippest attitude and a queer-friendly sensibility. And while gay composer Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” failed to get much recognition, a best actor nod to Johnny Depp was well-deserved.
Laura Linney was a happy inclusion among the best actress finalists, delivering yet another exceptional character turn as a neurotic academic in “The Savages.” Pixar’s animated “Ratatouille” scored five nominations. Another documentary short, “Sari’s Mother,” addresses an Iraq boy dying of AIDS.
Surprise nominees include Tommy Lee Jones for best actor for “In the Valley of Elah,” a film that came and went without much fanfare; supporting actress Ruby Dee for a tiny role in “American Gangster;” and welcome longshots such as Mortensen, Hal Holbrook (“Into the Wild”) and Sarah Polley (for her screenplay to “Away from Her”).
Notable omissions include heck, why worry about what we can’t change?
Here are all the nominees. Let the office pools begin!
Picture: Atonement; Juno; Michael Clayton; No Country for Old Men; There Will Be Blood.
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood; Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men; Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton; Jason Reitman, Juno; Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
Actor: George Clooney, Michael Clayton; Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood; Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street; Tommy Lee Jones, In the Valley of Elah; Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises.
Actress: Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age; Julie Christie, Away from Her; Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose; Laura Linney, The Savages; Ellen Page, Juno.
Supporting Actor: Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford; Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men; Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War; Hal Holbrook, Into the Wind; Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton.
Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There; Ruby Dee, American Gangster; Saoirse Ronan, Atonement; Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone; Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton.
Original Screenplay: Diablo Cody, Juno; Nancy Oliver, Lars & the Real Girl; Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton; Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava and Jim Capobianco, Ratatouille; Tamara Jenkins, The Savages.
Adapted Screenplay: Christopher Hampton, Atonement; Sarah Polley, Away from Her; Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly; Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men; Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood.
Cinematography: Roger Deakins, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford; Seamus McGarvey, Atonement; Roger Deakins, No Country for Old Men; Janusz Kaminski, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly; Robert Elswit, There Will Be Blood.
Film Editing: The Bourne Ultimatum; The Diving Bell and the Butterfly; Into the Wild; No Country for Old Men; There Will Be Blood.
Art Direction: American Gangster; Atonement; The Golden Compass; Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street; There Will Be Blood.
Costumes: Across the Universe; Atonement; Elizabeth: The Golden Age; La Vie en Rose; Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
Score: Dario Marianelli, Atonement; Alberto Iglesias, The Kite Runner; James Newton Howard, Michael Clayton; Michael Giacchino, Ratatouille; Marco Beltrami, 3:10 to Yuma.
Song: “Raise It Up” from August Rush; “Happy Working Song” from Enchanted; “So Close” from Enchanted; “That’s How You Know” from Enchanted; “Falling Slowly” from Once.
Sound: The Bourne Ultimatum; No Country for Old Men; Ratatouille; 3:10 to Yuma; Transformers.
Sound Editing: The Bourne Ultimatum; No Country for Old Men; Ratatouille; There Will Be Blood; Transformers.
Visual Effects: The Golden Compass; Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End; Transformers.
Makeup: La Vie en Rose; Norbit; Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.
Foreign Language Film: Beaufort (Israel); The Counterfeiters (Austria); Katyn (Poland); Mongol (Kazakhstan); 12 (Russia).
Animated Film: Persepolis; Ratatouille; Surf’s Up.
Animated Short: Even Pigeons Get to Heaven; I Met the Walrus; Madame Tutli-Putli; Moya Lyubov; Peter and the Wolf.
Documentary Feature: No End in Sight; Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience; Sicko; Taxi to the Dark Side; War Dance.
Documentary Short: Freeheld; La Corona; Salim Baba; Sari’s Mother.
Live Action Short: At Night; Il Supplente; The Mozart of Pickpockets; Tanghi Argentini; The Tonto Woman.