August 20, 2020 at 4:32 pm EDT | by Brian T. Carney
FROM THE VAULTS: Best Actress edition
best actresses, gay news, Washington Blade
Renée Zellweger won the 2019 Oscar for her performance in ‘Judy.’ (Photo by David Hindley courtesy of LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions)

This week’s curated collection of movies to keep you entertained during quarantine focuses on the leading ladies—a group of outstanding performers who were nominated for Academy Awards for their work in recent LGBTQ-themed movies.

At the top of the list is Renée Zellweger who won the 2019 Oscar for her glittering performance as Judy Garland in the biopic “Judy.” The movie focuses on the last year of Judy’s life, including her sold-out concerts at Talk of the Town in London and her marriage to the unscrupulous Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock).

The film had some serious problems. Rupert Goold’s direction is weak; and Wittrock’s performance is flat; and, the script by Tom Edge (based on the stage play by Peter Quilter) is cliché-ridden and includes too many heavy-handed flashbacks to the filming of “The Wizard of Oz.”

Luckily, the rest of the cast is great. Zellweger is fierce as the fading star; she effortlessly captures Garland’s mercurial moods and her incredible performing style. Jessie Buckley is fantastic as her long-suffering British assistant Rosalyn Wilder and Rufus Sewell is fascinating as Judy’s third husband Sid Luft. Andy Nyman and Daniel Cerqueira are also delightful in the small but crucial roles of a gay couple who invite Judy back to their flat for dinner.

Cate Blanchett was nominated for a 2015 Oscar for her dazzling performance in “Carol.” Directed by queer auteur Todd Haynes and based on the novel by lesbian author Patricia Highsmith, the movie celebrates the romance between Carol Aird, a suburban housewife in the throes of a messy divorce, and Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), a young artist.

The sumptuous film features a sparkling screenplay by Phyllis Nagy, a lush score, stunning design and cinematography, great performances and most notably, a happy ending for the lesbian lovers. “Carol” was nominated for six Oscars, but surprisingly didn’t win any.

Glenn Close won an Obie Award for playing Albert Nobbs in 1982 and spent almost two decades trying to get a film version of the story produced. In 2011, “Albert Nobbs” finally made it to the big screen, and Close, who also co-wrote the screenplay, was nominated for her lead performance in the intriguing period drama.

Albert Nobbs was born a woman but has lived as a man for over 30 years. He befriends Hubert Page (Janet McTeer) and is shocked to learn not only that Page is also a woman living as a man, but that Page has a wife.

Both Close and McTeer were nominated for Academy Awards; the film also won a nod for Best Makeup Design.

In 2019, Lady Gaga was nominated for two Oscars for “A Star is Born,” one for Best Actress and one for Best Song for “Shallow.” She won for song and lost for actress.

Gaga plays Ally Maine, the latest incarnation of the rising star who falls in love with an alcoholic performer. Bradley Cooper was her co-star; he also directed and co-wrote the screenplay.

There are some serious weaknesses in Cooper’s fledgling outing as writer and director, but these weaknesses are covered over by the galvanic chemistry between Cooper and Gaga. Gaga’s performance is spell-binding; it is fascinating to watch her write songs and create a captivating stage persona. There are also great supporting performances from Andrew Dice Clay and Sam Elliott and fun cameos by D.J. “Shangela” Pierce and a bevy of drag queens. Unfortunately, Anthony Ramos gets lost in the shuffle as Ally’s gay BFF.

Finally, Dame Judi Dench was nominated for a 2013 Oscar for “Philomena,” a moving fact-based dramedy rooted in the horrific scandal of the Magdalen Sisters in Ireland. As a young unwed mother, Philomena Lee, like so many others, was sent to a convent and forced to work in the laundry. Her son was eventually sold to an American couple for ₤1,000.

The movie opens fifty years later when Philomena meets the cynical journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) who is working on a story about the scandal. Together, the unlikely duo travel to the convent where Philomena was imprisoned and eventually to Washington D.C. where her son’s adoptive parents lived. Philomena and Martin do discover her son’s identity, and there’s an interesting gay twist in the revelation.

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