Legendary Oscar host of yore Bob Hope once joked the ceremony was known at his house as Passover. Many LGBT and black filmmakers could say the same this year.
Although 2015 was a great year for LGBT movies, when the nominations for the 88th annual Academy Awards were announced, queer films were more likely to be on the snubbed list than included among the nominees.
When the nominations were broadcast last week, movie audiences were surprised they were dominated by three spectacular but rather conventional genre movies: “The Revenant” with 12 nominations, “Mad Max: Fury Road” (10) and “The Martian” (seven). Like the Academy itself, the list of nominees is overwhelmingly straight, white and male.
Most notably, not one of the 20 nominations for acting went to people of color. In a rather bizarre scenario, Sylvester Stallone received a sentimental nomination for his supporting performance in “Creed,” the well-received “Rocky” sequel, although writer/director Ryan Coogler and lead actor Michael B. Jordan (both African American) were overlooked. Likewise, the only nomination for the Ice Cube biopic “Straight Outta Compton” was for its white screenwriters Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff. .
Most surprisingly, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” which smashed box office records, received strong reviews and featured excellent performances by a diverse cast, only received five nominations for design and technical awards. It was not nominated for Best Picture, Best Director or Best Original Screenplay or in any of the acting categories.
On the LGBT front, critical and audience favorite “Carol” received six nominations. Cate Blanchett was nominated for Leading Actress, although her co-star Rooney Mara was nominated in the Supporting Actress category (the result of a cynical but strategic Oscar campaign by the Weinstein Company). Other nominations went to Phyllis Nagy (Adapted Screenplay), Carter Burwell (Score), Ed Lachman (Cinematography) and Sandy Powell (Costume Design). In a surprising move, the lesbian romance did not receive a Best Picture nomination, even though the Academy only nominated eight movies for the 10 potential slots. Openly gay director Todd Haynes was also snubbed.
“The Danish Girl” received four nominations. Eddie Redmayne (who won the Oscar last year for his performance as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything”) was nominated in the Leading Actor category, but his co-star Alicia Vikander was nominated for the Supporting Actress award (also the result of a studio campaign). Eve Stewart and Michael Standish were nominated for Production Design and Paco Delgado was nominated for Costume Design. Director Tom Hooper and Screenwriter Lucinda Coxon were not recognized and the film did not receive a Best Picture nomination.
Other LGBT movies fared even worse. Even though “Best of Enemies” was short-listed in the Best Documentary category, it did not receive a nomination. Likewise “Viva” and “The Club,” both of which were short-listed for Best Foreign Language Film, were shut out.
Even more disappointing, “Tangerine” failed to receive any nominations, even though it was included on more than 60 “top ten” lists by national critics, ranking higher on Metacritic’s summary list than “The Revenant” and “The Martian.” Direct Sean Baker and his talented production team were completely shut out, despite their innovative and highly praised use if iPhone video technology. Despite the buzz surrounding her breakout performance, trans performer Mya Tayler went unrecognized.
Other LGBT artists who went unnoticed by the Academy include Andrew Haigh (director of “45 Years”) and Lily Tomlin (“Grandma”).
There is, however, one category that is dominated by LGBT artists: Best Original Song. In a historic move for Oscar voters, transgender musician Antony Hegarty is nominated for her lyrics for “Manta Ray” from the little-known documentary “Racing Extinction,” about activists trying to save endangered species from extinction. Hegarty, lead singer for Antony and the Johnsons, is only the second known trans artist to be nominated for an Oscar. She follows in the footsteps of Angela Morley who was nominated for “The Slipper and the Rose” (1976) and “The Little Prince” (1974).
In addition, openly gay singer Jimmy Napes and his straight writing partner are nominated for “Writing’s On the Wall,” the theme song from the latest Bond flick “Spectre.” Lady Gaga and Diane Warren are also nominated for “Til It Happens to You” from “The Hunting Ground” the hard-hitting documentary about rape on college campuses.
Finally, “Spotlight,” which did feature a powerful performance by Michael Cyril Creighton as a gay survivor of clerical abuse, was nominated for six awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.
While the disappointing lack of diversity among the nominees may take some of the luster away from the so-called gay high holy day, there are still some excellent LGBT films and nominees to cheer on when the Academy Awards are presented on Feb. 28 (while you tweet to #OscarsSoWhite).