Forget ‘a day without an immigrant’ — nowadays, Hollywood without gays would be the death of awards, as these queer Oscar contenders show


Out Texas native Tom Ford, right, directed Michael Shannon, center, to an Oscar nomination for ‘Nocturnal Animals.’

Most of us know that the most popular Oscar-nominated film for the gay community is Moonlight, which has the second-most nominations this year. But it’s hardly the only film with gay content (or a queer sensibility, or LGBT nominees). In addition to nominations for iconic allies like Meryl Streep and Viola Davis, many gay folks behind the scenes and on screen inform particular areas of a wide swath of films this year. So here’s a primer on some of the gay influence on the nominated films.

La La Land. Though largely heteronormative, two of the 14 nominations for this po-mo musical are for best song, both of which were co-written by Benj Pasek, the openly gay lyricist responsible for such stage shows as Dogfight and Dear Evan Hansen.

Fences. Oscar-winning producer Scott Rudin, who shares a best picture nomination for this film, is openly gay.

Lion. Ditto Lion’s Iain Canning.

Zootopia. Producer and co-director Byron Howard is openly gay. If it wins as best animated film, expect him to thank his husband.

Florence Foster Jenkins. The two-time nominee features an overlooked performance by Simon Helberg as a closeted pianist. (The film’s straight director, Stephen Frears, has a long history of making films with gay content.)

Nocturnal Animals. Although supporting actor nominee Michael Shannon is straight, the film’s writer-director is out Texas native and fashion designer Tom Ford.

20th Century Women. Original screenplay nominee Mike Mills writes about his mother with this film; in his last feature, Beginners, Mills wrote about his dad, who came out as gay late in life. (Christopher Plummer won an Oscar for that film.)

Hidden Figures. The best picture nominee features out actor Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) in a key supporting role.

The Lobster. This comedy about couplehood in a dystopian future includes gay themes related to relationships of any kind being essential in a well-ordered society.

Loving. This story of the interracial couple (including best actress nominee Ruth Negga) who triggered a supreme court decision decriminalizing miscegenation doesn’t have any gay content itself, but the decision is iconic in the gay community as laying the groundwork for marriage equality.

Life, Animated. Queer documentarian Roger Ross Williams made this story of an autistic boy who deals with the world via Disney films. Williams previously won the documentary short Oscar for Music for Prudence.

I Am Not Your Negro. The center of this film is queer intellectual James Baldwin.

O.J.: Made in America. In this epic, eight-hour documentary, we learn not only that O.J. Simpson’s father was gay, but that helicopter pilot Bob Tur, who famously chased and reported on the slow escape in the white Bronco, is a trans woman, now known as Zoey.

Star Trek Beyond. The makeup nomination for this film probably wasn’t specifically for attaching pointy ears to out actor Zachary Quinto … but maybe!                  

Arnold Wayne Jones

The Oscars air on Ch. 8 Sunday, with coverage starting at 6 p.m.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 24, 2017.