THIRD ANNUAL GAY GUIDE TO THE Oscars – 1999 Academy Awards
Bruce C. Steele
FROM AFFLICTION TO ZORRO, THE ADVOCATE FINDS ALL THE HIDDEN AND NOT-SO-HIDDEN REASONS YOU SHOULD CARE ABOUT THIS YEAR’S 71ST ANNUAL OSCAR RACE
>> GODS AND MONSTER
What It’s here: This entrancing tale about Frankenstein director James Whale’s last days in 1950s Hollywood earned three nominations–for Ian McKellen (lead actor), Lynn Redgrave (supporting actress), and gay writer-director Bill Condon (adapted screenplay). Why we All our chips are on McKellen, the first openly gay actor ever nominated for playing a gay role. And we couldn’t ask for a better movie to root for. Whether playfully sparring with the maid (Redgrave) or smoothly wooing the gardener (Brendan Fraser), McKellen is brilliant–bitter, stirring, and fragile. As for Condon, the man responsible for this Oscar milestone, he definitely earned his place with a witty and devastating screenplay (based on Christopher Bram’s novel Father of Frankenstein). Let’s hope Condon can beat out the favorite, dialog whiz Scott Frank (Out of Sight), and prodigal artiste Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line).
Why it’s here: Nick Nolte’s treoglodyte-with-a-toothache growl earned him a best actor nomination; as Nolte’s abusive dad, James Coburn is up for best supporting actor. Why we care: We don’t. Any number of lesbian and gay filmmakers have made more illuminating films about the impact of child abuse. Indeed, the only respite in this bleak, unendurable saga of the evil straight men do is Coburn’s denture-aided scenery chewing. But in early odds-making, Nolte is the only contender standing in the way of a McKellen win, setting up a king-of-pain vs. queen-of-Hollywood showdown.
>> SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE
Why it’s here: Who has time to list the nominations? With 13 nods, this Elizabethan showbiz romp outmarched Saving Private Ryan and is assured wins for its screenplay, costumes, makeup, and art direction. Why we care: The question of Shakespeare’s bisexuality aside (this film does not go there), everybody knows Will is only the second-best writer in 1593 London. The top man is Christopher Marlowe, played by this year’s second openly gay actor in a gay role, Rupert Everett. We know Marlowe bats for ye pink team when he barges in on a hot hetero coupling–and goes right on talking business. Not that he’s immune to a set of luscious lashes. After all, he gives that fetching Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) the plot setup for Romeo and Juliet. Maybe Will had Marlowe’s example in mind when he kissed the “boy” playing Romeo (Oscar-favored Gwyneth Paltrow).
Why it’s here: This making-of-a-queen drama was crowned with seven richly deserved nominations, including best picture and best actress (Cate Blanchett). Why we care: Geoffrey Rush, a nominee for Shakespeare, here plays Walsingham, the Queen’s enforcer, as a gay Svengali, seducing handsome young men to his own wicked ends–and to their deaths. Even more captivating to us is Blanchett’s star-making performance as the young queen determined to be no man’s puppet. Here’s hoping England’s first feminist upsets Shakespeare’s first muse.
>> SAVING PRIVATE RYAN
>> THE THIN RED LINE
What they’re nominated for:
Among Ryan’s 11 nominations, director Steven Spielberg may be a shoo-in (along with victories in some crag categories), but Ryan will have to fight off Shakespeare to capture best picture. Fellow grunt epic The Thin Red Line earned seven mentions (including picture, director, and cinematography, where it’s favored), largely on the mystique of director Terrence Malick, who has been AWOL for the 20 years since his Days of Heaven. we care: Nope, no brave gay soldiers on the Normandy beaches or in the picturesque grasses and streams of Guadalcanal–although with as much poetry as the Line troops regurgitate in that film’s annoying voice-over, there must be a closet case or two in the ranks. At least Ryan’s cowardly Corporal Upham (Jeremy Davies) wasn’t a homo–even if he did raise a few eyebrows when he recited the words to an Edith Piaf song.
>> LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL
Why it’s here: Life’s seven nominations include both best picture and best foreign-language film (which it will win) and three separate nods for director-co-writer-star Roberto Benigni. Why we care: With its second half set in a German death camp, we searched in vain for even one pink triangle. A woman prisoner appears to be wearing the black triangle assigned to some “antisocial” lesbians, but we guess that Benigni thought Bent said all there was to say about gay men in the Holocaust.
>> CENTRAL STATION
Why it’s here: Fernanda Montenegro beat out Susan Sarandon (Stepmom), among others, to earn a best actress nomination. Why care: In this touching Brazilian road movie, hard-bitten Dora (Montenegro) helps a street-smart 9-year-old boy find his family. The two hitch a ride with a trucker who’s all smiles until Dora gets romantic. After the trucker disappears, the boy offers a gentlemanly excuse: “He’s one of those queer men, isn’t he?” To Dora’s credit, she leaves us out of it. “No,” she says wryly. “He isn’t.”
>> PRIMARY COLORS
Why it’s here: Two Academy vets got mentions: Kathy Bates, for supporting actress, and Elaine May, for adapted screenplay. Why we care: Talk about your dyke drama. As Libby Holden, superduper lesbian campaign operative for weaselly presidential candidate Jack Stanton (John Travolta), Bates gets to do it all–wear a cowboy hat, drive a pickup, get the girl, and throw a climactic hissy fit that will make your worst breakup look like a sorority tea. We only regret that she never played softball–and that Bates is up against Oscar favorite Judi Dench as Shakespeare’s Queen Elizabeth.
>> LITTLE VOICE
Why it’s here: In the title role the amazing Jane Horrocks (ex of Ab Fab) was passed over, but blustery Brenda Blethyn, as her mom, is up for best supporting actress. Why we care: Doing her own singing, Horrocks channels Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe, and what could be gayer than that? But Blethyn was obviously wise to lend sleazy impresario Michael Caine her housecoat. He got the lingerie; she got the nomination.
Why it’s hero: With its clever black-and-white ’50s sitcom setting, the film earned nods for art direction, costume design, and Randy Newman’s original score. Why we care: Pleasantville equates Father Knows Best with the Christian Coalition as badguy mayor J.T. Walsh appeals to outmoded “tradition” in order to oppose artistic expression, sexual liberation–and colorization.
>> PATCH ADAMS
Why it’s here: Yes, it’s the return of three-time Oscar bridesmaid Marc Shaiman, nominated for original musical or comedy score. Why we care: OK, America liked this movie. We accept that. And if gay composer Shaiman finally gets his gold, then we will not have suffered through that preview with the clown nose in vain. But–ouch!–Shaiman’s score for The First Wives Club lost out two years ago to a Miramax costume comedy starring Gwyneth Paltrow (Emma). One guess as to his chief competition this year.
>> A BUG’S LIFE
What they’re nominated for: These Disney animated features are competing sister-against-brother for original musical or comedy score. Why we care: In Oscar’s first cross-dressing cartoon, spunky Mulan steals her father’s armor and fights as a man to defend China. True, she ends up in a dress, but so do her army buddies (including one voiced by Harvey Fierstein), who dress up as geishas in order to sneak past the sentries and storm the palace. They would all be right at home with Francis, the male ladybug in A Bug’s Life who gets in touch with his “feminine side.” Disney has come a long way since that classic movie about seven little men sharing a bedroom.
>> BABE: PIG IN THE CITY
Why it’s here: Randy Newman’s original song “That’ll Do” goes snout-to-snout with this year’s heavily favored Celine Dion tune (“The Prayer”). Why care: With all those spikes and chains, this under-appreciated Babe sequel was actually the first children’s movie for leathermen. “That’ll do, pig,” indeed.
Why it’s here: Dancemaker faces the Spielberg-produced Holocaust film The Last Days in the documentary feature category. Why we care: This terrific documentary on pansexual dancer-choreographer Paul Taylor makes all the right moves. And watching him bully his dancers just makes us grateful for the bosses we have.
>> VELVET GOLDMINE
Why it’s here: Thank the glam gods that writer-director Todd Haynes’s labor of love was remembered for its incredible costumes. Why we care: Apart from the affection we have for gay auteur Haynes (Poison, Safe) and for the glitter era, how could we not love the first rock-and-roll flick with three gay or bi lead characters? We eagerly await the day when films this edgy and gleefully homoerotic are as commonplace as World War II movies. The Thin Velvet Ryan, anyone?
>> THE MASK OF ZORRO
Why it’s here: Sony’s summertime crowd pleaser is up for best sound and sound-effects editing. Why we care: Any film that offers Antonio Banderas with a whip–and Catherine Zeta-Jones at the business end of a rapier–is muy caliente. Since he’s often played gay on-screen and she’s about to play lesbian in The Haunting of Hill House, these two hot fajitas add up to a straight couple you can love and still be gaily correct.
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