By now, everyone knows what happened at the Oscars on Sunday night. Due to an embarrassing gaffe by PwC, the accounting firm formerly known as Price Waterhouse Cooper, Faye Dunaway mistakenly announced that “La La Land” had been awarded the Academy Award for Best Picture.
With class, when the slip-up was discovered “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz stopped the acceptance speeches and told the “Moonlight” team that they had really been named Best Picture. Chaos ensued.
What most people missed, however, was the way the stage transformed during the confusion. The largely white, mainly male, presumably straight creative and production team of “La La Land” faded away and was replaced by the amazing rainbow crew behind “Moonlight.” The stage became a model for diversity and inclusion that should serve as a model for future Academy Awards ceremonies.
To take it a step further, a movie that erased the existence of LGBT people in Los Angeles and positioned a white man as a savior of jazz and a black man as the slick performer/producer/promoter who tries to steer him away from his sacred mission, was replaced in the spotlight and the history books by a movie that celebrated the life of a gay African-American man who triumphs against the odds on his journey of coming out and coming of age.
It was a neat reversal of the Oscars broadcast of March 2006 when “Crash,” another self-congratulatory film about Los Angeles that denied the existence of LGBT people, was awarded the Best Picture Oscar instead of the groundbreaking queer film “Brokeback Mountain.”
The Best Picture category at the Oscars has had a fraught relationship with queer material for more than 50 years. Starting in the 1940s, films with coded LGBT characters and censored LGBT material were Oscar favorites. Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca,” with Judith Anderson’s magisterial performance as the repressed Mrs. Danvers, won the Best Picture Oscar in 1941. Anderson won as well.
Two heavily censored Tennessee Williams adaptations were nominated for Best Picture: “A Streetcar Named Desire” in 1952 and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” in 1959. The “Cat” script was so severely altered that Williams did not even receive screenplay credit.
More recently, in “The Color Purple,” nominated in 1986, Steven Spielberg removed all traces of lesbian activity from the film. In “A Beautiful Mind,” the biopic about mathematician John Nash that won Best Picture in 2002, the filmmakers did not mention Nash’s bisexuality.
In the late 1960s, Hollywood started to flirt with direct mentions of homosexuality. “The Lion in Winter” (nominated in 1969) mentions an affair between Richard the Lion-Hearted and King Philip II of France (played by rising stars Anthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton). “Midnight Cowboy” (1970) featured the homoerotic relationship between Ratso (Dustin Hoffman) and hustler Joe Buck (Jon Voight) and included a number of gay men among Buck’s clientele. In “Cabaret,” nominated in 1973, Michael York reveals that his character has slept with another man.
Queer material assumed a more central role in two movies in the following decades. Trans issues were featured in the controversial “Dog Day Afternoon” (nominated in 1976). William Hurt won an Oscar for playing a gay prisoner in “Kiss of the Spider Woman” which was nominated in 1985. While the sexual politics of both movies are somewhat suspect today, they were groundbreaking at the time.
With its depiction of the trans serial killer Buffalo Bill, “The Silence of the Lambs,” which won multiple Oscars including Best Picture in 1992, was seen as a setback for queer representation in the movies. This was echoed in “American Beauty,” Best Picture winner in 2000, with its depiction of an abusive closeted gay character.
Things improved over the following decade. A number of films with sympathetic depictions of queer characters were nominated for Best Picture. These included: “The Crying Game” (1993), “Four Weddings and a Funeral” (1995), “The Full Monty” (1998) and “The Hours” (2003). The Academy did cause some controversy in 1993 when actor Jaye Davidson was nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category for playing a male-to-female trans character.
The relationship between the Best Picture Oscar and the LGBT community underwent a seismic shift in 2006. Two queer films received multiple awards and nominations: “Capote” and “Brokeback Mountain.” In a disappointing upset, “Crash” was awarded the Best Picture Oscar instead of “Brokeback Mountain.”
Things improved again in the intervening decade when several films with prominent and well-rounded depictions of LGBT characters were nominated for Best Picture: “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006 nomination), “Milk” (2008), “The Kids Are All Right” (2011), “The Dallas Buyer’s Club” (2014), “Philomena” (2014) and “The Imitation Game” (2015).
The 88th annual Academy Awards in 2016 were once again a disappointment for the LGBT community. Two outstanding films with impeccable queer credentials, “Carol” and “The Danish Girl” were not nominated in the Best Picture category. Despite four nominations, “The Danish Girl” only took home a Supporting Actress Oscar for Alicia Vikander. Despite six nominations, “Carol” left empty-handed. Queer film had been well and truly snubbed by the Oscars.
To the Academy’s credit, this changed during the 2017 ceremony when “Moonlight” finally broke the Oscar’s rainbow ceiling and took home the statue for Best Picture (along with wins for supporting actor Mahershala Ali and writers Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney).
While “La La Land” had some fine moments (the opening number “Another Day” is a cinematic masterpiece), the Academy deserves significant praise for breaking with tradition and recognizing “Moonlight” as Best Picture instead. It’s a historic move that shows that the tone-deaf days of #OscarSoWhite #OscarSoMale #OscarSoStraight could finally be on their way out.
May the rainbow crew of “Moonlight” be a beacon for Hollywood’s future.
Rodriquez scores historic win at otherwise irrelevant Golden Globes
Award represents a major milestone for trans visibility
HOLLYWOOD – Despite its continuing status as something of a pariah organization in Hollywood, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has managed to cling to relevance in the wake of last night’s behind-closed-doors presentation of its 79th Annual Golden Globe Awards by sole virtue of having bestowed the prize for “Best Leading Actress in a Television Series – Drama” on Michaela Jaé Rodriguez for her work in the final season of “Pose” – making her the first transgender performer to win a Golden Globe.
The ceremony took place as a private, no-press-or-audience event in which winners were revealed via a series of tweets from the Golden Globes Twitter account. No celebrities were present (not even the nominees or winners), although actress Jamie Lee Curtis participated by appearing in a video in which she pronounced her continuing loyalty to the HFPA – without mention of the longstanding issues around diversity and ethical practices, revealed early in 2021 by a bombshell Los Angeles Times report, that have led to an nearly industry-wide boycott of the organization and its awards as well as the cancellation of the annual Golden Globes broadcast by NBC for the foreseeable future.
While the Golden Globes may have lost their luster for the time being, the award for Rodriquez represents a major milestone for trans visibility and inclusion in the traditionally transphobic entertainment industry, and for her part, the actress responded to news of her win with characteristic grace and good will.
Posting on her Instagram account, the 31-year old actress said:
“OMG OMGGG!!!! @goldenglobes Wow! You talking about sickening birthday present! Thank you!
“This is the door that is going to Open the door for many more young talented individuals. They will see that it is more than possible. They will see that a young Black Latina girl from Newark New Jersey who had a dream, to change the minds others would WITH LOVE. LOVE WINS.
“To my young LGBTQAI babies WE ARE HERE the door is now open now reach the stars!!!!!”
As You Are Bar and the importance of queer gathering spaces
New bar/restaurant poised to open in 2022
More than just a watering hole: As You Are Bar is set to be the city’s newest queer gathering place where patrons can spill tea over late-morning cappuccinos as easily as they can over late-night vodka-sodas.
Co-owners and founders Jo McDaniel and Rachel Pike built on their extensive experience in the hospitality industry – including stints at several gay bars – to sign a lease for their new concept in Barracks Row, replacing what was previously District Soul Food and Banana Café. In a prime corner spot, they are seeking to bring together the disparate colors of the LGBTQ rainbow – but first must navigate the approval process (more on that later).
The duo decided on this Southeast neighborhood locale to increase accessibility for “the marginalized parts of our community,” they say, “bringing out the intersectionality inherent in the queer space.”
Northwest D.C., they explain, not only already has many gay bar options, but is also more difficult to get to for those who don’t live within walking distance. The Barracks Row location is right by a Metro stop, “reducing pay walls.” Plus, there, “we are able to find a neighborhood to bring in a queer presence that doesn’t exist today.”
McDaniel points out that the area has a deep queer bar history. Western bar Remington’s was once located in the area, and it’s a mere block from the former Phase 1, the longest-running lesbian bar, which was open from 1971-2015.
McDaniel and Pike hope that As You Are Bar will be an inclusive space that “welcomes anyone of any walk of life that will support, love, and celebrate the mission of queer culture. We want people of all ages, gender, sexual identity, as well as drinkers and non-drinkers, to have space.”
McDaniel (she/her) began her career at Apex in 2005 and was most recently the opening manager of ALOHO. Pike (she/they) was behind the bar and worked as security at ALOHO, where the two met.
Since leaving ALOHO earlier this year, they have pursued the As You Are Bar project, first by hosting virtual events during the pandemic, and now in this brick-and-mortar space. They expressed concern that receiving the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) liquor license approval and the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, or ANC, approval will be a long and expensive process.
They have already received notice that some neighbors intend to protest As You Are Bar’s application for the “tavern” liquor license that ABRA grants to serve alcohol and allow for live entertainment (e.g. drag shows). They applied for the license on Nov. 12, and have no anticipated opening date, estimating at least six months. If ABRA and the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board give final approval, the local ANC 6B and nearby residents can no longer protest the license until the license comes up for renewal.
Until approval is given, they continue physical buildout (including soundproofing) and planning their offerings. If the license is approved, ABRA and the ABC Board can take action against As You Are Bar, like any bar, at any time if they violate the terms of the license or create a neighborhood disturbance that violates city laws such as the local noise ordinance. In the kitchen, the duo snagged Chef Nina Love to develop the menu. Love will oversee café-style fare; look out for breakfast sandwiches making an appearance all the way until close. They will also have baked goods during the day.
McDaniel and Pike themselves will craft the bar menu. Importantly, they note, the coffee bar will also serve until close. There will be a full bar as well as a list of zero-proof cocktails. As with their sourcing, they hope to work with queer-, minority-, and women-owned businesses for everything not made in-house.
Flexible conceptually, they seek to grow with their customer base, allowing patrons to create the culture that they seek.
Their goal is to move the queer space away from a focus on alcohol consumption. From book clubs, to letter-writing, to shared workspaces, to dance parties, they seek an all-day, morning-to-night rhythm of youth, families, and adults to find a niche. “We want to shift the narrative of a furtive, secretive, dark gay space and hold it up to the light,” they say. “It’s a little like The Planet from the original L Word show,” they joke.
Pike notes that they plan on working closely with SMYAL, for example, to promote programming for youth. Weekend potential activities include lunch-and-learn sessions on Saturdays and festive Sunday brunches.
The café space, to be located on the first floor, will have coffeehouse-style sofas as well as workstations. A slim patio on 8th Street will hold about six tables.
Even as other queer bars have closed, they reinforce that the need is still present. “Yes, we can visit a café or bar, but we always need to have a place where we are 100 percent certain that we are safe, and that our security is paramount. Even as queer acceptance continues to grow, a dedicated queer space will always be necessary,” they say.
To get there, they continue to rally support of friends, neighbors, and leaders in ANC6B district; the ANC6B officials butted heads with District Soul Food, the previous restaurant in the space, over late-night noise and other complaints. McDaniel and Pike hope that once nearby residents and businesses understand the important contribution that As You Are Bar can make to the neighborhood, they will extend their support and allow the bar to open.
Need a list-minute gift idea?
Books, non-profit donations make thoughtful choices
You knew this was coming.
You knew that you were going to have to finish your holiday shopping soon but it snuck up on you, didn’t it? And even if you’re close to being done, there are always those three or five people who are impossible to buy for, right? Remember this, though: books are easy to wrap and easy to give, and they last a while, too. So why not head to the bookstore with your Christmas List and look for these gifts.
And if you still have people to shop for, why not make a donation to a local non-profit in their name? A list of D.C.-area suggestions follows.
If there’s about to be a new addition to your family, wrapping up “Queer Stepfamilies: The path to Social and Legal Recognition” by Katie L. Acosta would be a good thing. In this book, the author followed forty LGBTQ families to understand the joys, pitfalls, and legalities of forming a new union together. It can’t replace a lawyer, but it’s a good overview.
For the parent who wants to ensure that their child grows up with a lack of bias, “Raising LGBTQ Allies” by Chris Tompkins is a great book to give. It’s filled with methods to stop bullying in its tracks, to be proactive in having That Conversation, and how to be sure that the next generation you’re responsible for becomes responsible in turn. Wrap it up with “The Healing Otherness Handbook” by Stacee L. Reicherzer, Ph.D., a book that helps readers to deal with bullying by finding confidence and empowerment.
If there’s someone on your gift list who’s determined to get “fit” in the coming year, then give “The Secret to Superhuman Strength” by Alison Bechdel this holiday. Told in graphic-novel format (comics, basically), it’s the story of searching for self-improvement and finding it in a surprising place.
So why not give a little nostalgia this year by wrapping up “A Night at the Sweet Gum Head” by Martin Padgett? It’s the tale of disco, drag, and drugs in the 1970s (of course!) in Atlanta, with appearances by activists, politics, and people who were there at that fabulous time. Wrap it up with “After Francesco” by Brian Malloy, a novel set a little later – in the mid-1980s in New York City and Minneapolis at the beginning of the AIDS crisis.
The LGBTQ activist on your gift list will want to read “The Case for Gay Reparations” by Omar G. Encarnacion. It’s a book about acknowledgment, obligation on the part of cis citizens, and fixing the pain that homophobia and violence has caused. Wrap it up with “Trans Medicine: The Emergence and Practice of Treating Gender” by Stef M. Shuster, a look at trans history that may also make your giftee growl.
Young readers who have recently transitioned will enjoy reading “Both Sides Now” by Peyton Thomas. It’s a novel about a high school boy with gigantic dreams and the means to accomplish them all. Can he overcome the barriers that life gives him? It’s debatable… Pair it with “Can’t Take That Away” by Steven Salvatore, a book about two nonbinary students and the troubles they face as they fall in love.
The thriller fan on your list will be overjoyed to unwrap “Yes, Daddy” by Jonathan Parks-Ramage. It’s the story of a young man with dying dreams of fame and fortune, who schemes to meet an older, more accomplished man with the hopes of sparking his failing career. But the older man isn’t who the younger thinks he is, and that’s not good. Wrap it up with “Lies with Man” by Michael Nava, a book about a lawyer who agrees to be counsel for a group of activists. Good so far, right? Until one of them is accused of being involved in a deadly bombing.
For the fan of Southern fiction, you can’t go wrong when you wrap up “The Tender Grave” by Sheri Reynolds. It’s the tale of two sisters, one homophobic, the other lesbian, and how they learn to forgive and re-connect.
Like nonprofit organizations throughout the country, D.C.-area LGBTQ supportive nonprofit groups have told the Blade they continue to rebuild amid the coronavirus pandemic, which disrupted their fundraising efforts while increasing expenses, at least in part by prompting more people to come to them for help.
This holiday season, if you’re looking for a thoughtful gift, consider making a donation to one of our local LGBTQ non-profit organizations in someone else’s name. This list is by no means exhaustive, but a good place to start your research.
Contributions to the LGBTQ supportive nonprofit organizations can be made via the websites of these local organizations:
• Blade Foundation, which funds local scholarships and fellowships for queer student journalists, bladefoundation.org
• DC Center, our local community center that operates a wide range of programming, thedccenter.org/donate
• Food & Friends, which delivers meals to homebound patients, foodandfriends.org
• HIPS, which advances the health rights and dignity of those impacted by sex work and drugs, hips.org
• SMYAL, which advocates for queer youth, smyal.org
• Wanda Alston Foundation, which offers shelter and support for LGBTQ youth, wandaalstonfoundation.org
• Whitman-Walker Health, the city’s longtime LGBTQ-inclusive health care provider, whitmanwalkerimpact.org
• Casa Ruby, which provides shelter and services to youth in need, casaruby.org
• Us Helping Us, which helps improve the health of communities of color and works to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS on the Black community, ushelpingus.org/donate
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