Academy Awards Preview
With gay producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan returning to oversee the show, out comic/daytime TV goddess Ellen DeGeneres hosting, and the AIDS drama "Dallas Buyers Club" up for six awards in major categories, this year’s 86th Annual Academy Awards may prove to be the most LGBT-relevant yet.
While there are no openly LGBT actors among this year’s nominees, several performers received nominations for playing characters belonging to or at least friendly toward our community. Leading the pack are Matthew McConaughey, as an AIDS-afflicted straight man who establishes a life-saving business relationship with a trans woman (played by fellow nominee Jared Leto) in the eye-opening "Dallas Buyers Club." Leto and McConaughey are considered the front-runners in their categories, having won both Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards as well as numerous critics’ group honors.
Upsets though, are always possible at the Oscars and either old-timer Bruce Dern ("Nebraska") or younger favorite Leonardo DiCaprio ("The Wolf of Wall Street") could steal McConaughey’s thunder as Best Actor. Leto could similarly find himself beaten as Best Supporting Actor by "Captain Phillips"’s charismatic newcomer Barkhad Abdi or the popular "American Hustle"’s Bradley Cooper. Still, I’m putting my money on McConaughey and Leto.
Jonah Hill was also nominated as Best Supporting Actor for his turn as DiCaprio’s literal partner in crime, a bisexual stockbroker, in Martin Scorsese’s controversial "The Wolf of Wall Street." Hill’s portrayal of a closeted member of our community is not a favorable one, but it is frequently entertaining in a hedonistic sort of way. Finally, Dame Judi Dench received a nod as Best Actress for her moving performance as a mother searching for the gay son she was forced to give up for adoption in "Philomena," which was inspired by a true story.
"Philomena" was directed by Stephen Frears who, while not gay himself, previously helmed the 1980s gay classics "My Beautiful Laundrette" and "Prick Up Your Ears." Frears was passed over by the Academy branch as a Best Director nominee this year, but "Philomena" racked up several other nominations including Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay and Original Music Score.
The five men vying for Best Director are David O. Russell ("American Hustle"), Alfonso Cuaron ("Gravity"), Alexander Payne ("Nebraska"), Steve McQueen ("12 Years a Slave") and Scorsese. Cuaron is favored to win for his technologically ground-breaking, breathtaking work, but Russell and McQueen can’t be counted out entirely.
Other nominees beside "Philomena" in the all-important Best Picture category are "American Hustle," "Captain Phillips" (whose star, Tom Hanks, was a surprising snub in the Best Actor category), "Dallas Buyers Club," "Gravity," Spike Jonze’s futuristic romance "Her," "Nebraska" (this year’s most overrated contender, in my opinion), "12 Years a Slave" and "The Wolf of Wall Street." As of press time, there is a three-way race between "Hustle," "Gravity" and "12 Years" - all of which are very deserving of the main prize.