The Oscars are never as gay as the Tonys, since Broadway’s queers have long been more open than Hollywood’s; but maybe having gay power couple Craig Zadan and Neil Meron producing for the first time will narrow the gap.
There are no LGBT standard bearers among this year’s nominated films, no “Brokeback Mountain,” “Milk” or “The Kids Are All Right.” It’s “Argo,” not “Argay,” but you can still find plenty to root for if you look between the lines and around the edges.
The highest-profile out nominee is Tony Kushner (“Angels in America”), nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for “Lincoln,” which has the most nominations (12) overall.
Kushner missed the opportunity to address rumors that our 16th president was less-than-honest Abe when it came to his sexuality, and has suggested in interviews that it was irrelevant because Lincoln was post-sexual by 1865. (At 56? Well, people didn’t live so long then.)
It was obvious (to me at least) in Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” that plantation owner Leonardo DiCaprio was in a long term relationship with his Uncle Tom of a house slave, Samuel L. Jackson; maybe the first time a movie has explored a gay master/slave couple, however obliquely, in a historical context.
The most significant instance of LGBT inclusion in the movies of 2012 was the coming out of a major supporting character in the PG-rated, animated “ParaNorman,” which is in essentially a three-way race (against “Frankenweenie” and “Wreck-It Ralph”) for Best Animated Feature.
What’s momentous is that it was no big whoop, in the movie or the world’s reaction to it. A few years ago church groups and politicians would have been up in arms over “the indoctrination of our children as part of the Homosexual Agenda.”
David France and Howard Gertler’s “How to Survive a Plague,” about the rise of AIDS activism in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, is in a tight race for Best Documentary Feature.
Best Foreign Language Film is sure to go to multiple nominee “Amour”; but in the Danish contender, the historical drama “A Royal Affair,” Enevold Brandt (played by Cyron Bjørn Melville), a member of King Christian VII’s court, is called a “fruit” and a “fairy,” at least in the subtitles. He denies it but seems pretty obvious without acting effeminate.
“Les Misérables” isn’t gay, despite the campy shenanigans of Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter, but it’s a Broadway musical so we’ll claim it.
After sweeping the guild awards, “Argo” is likely to take Best Picture, but there are only two sure things on Oscar Night (besides “Amour,” as noted). Daniel Day-Lewis will win Best Actor for “Lincoln,” and when Barbra Streisand sings live at the Oscars for the first time since her “Evergreen” won Best Song in 1977, someone will start a rumor that she lip-synced.
Adding to the diva quotient are Adele and Norah Jones singing nominated songs and Dame Shirley Bassey belting themes in a James Bond tribute. (Did I mention that two gay men are producing the show?)
Of course there are several LGBT nominees in behind-the-scenes categories (including “Les Miz” producer Cameron Mackintosh). We won’t know about them unless they win and kiss their partners or acknowledge them in their acceptance speeches.
Noteworthy but not nominated
Also noteworthy from an LGBT standpoint are some people and films that weren’t nominated, contrary to expectations and, in some cases, recognition from other groups.
Javier Bardem’s villain in “Skyfall” put moves on James Bond. That should be worth some kind of Oscar, as should Bond’s response, “Who said it would be the first time?”
First-rate, third-billed Ezra Miller revealed during promotional rounds that he’s as gay as Patrick, the character he played in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” Coming out as transgender was Lana Wachowski, one of three writer-directors of “Cloud Atlas,” which featured a gay romance between Ben Whishaw and James D’Arcy as one of its multiple story lines. D’Arcy also played gay as Anthony Perkins in “Hitchcock.”
While Lincoln stayed closeted, Eleanor Roosevelt was outed in “Hyde Park on Hudson,” where it was noted that she and Franklin “lived separate lives.” Lorena Hickok was mentioned as one of the “friends of Eleanor” FDR called “she-men.” (“Friends of Eleanor” could be code for lesbians, as “Friends of Dorothy” is for gay men.)
Also overlooked were Jack Black as the gay title character in “Bernie” and Matthew McConaughey, supporting him in “Bernie,” being naked in “Magic Mike” and (spoiler alert!) playing gay in “The Paperboy”; the documentary “Bully,” about schoolkids being picked on for various reasons, including their orientation; and “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” with gay senior Tom Wilkinson traveling to India to look up the boyhood crush he’s loved all his life.
Oscar host Seth MacFarlane, a Best Song nominee, kept the cheerfully offensive gay jokes coming in “Ted,” and showed his heart was in the right place with a gay-positive ending that included a surprise cameo.
We may not have many chances to cheer for Team LGBT at this year’s Oscars, but how can you think of not watching?
Top photo: ‘How to Survive a Plague,’ a searing documentary about the early days of HIV, is nominated for the Academy Award for Documentary Feature. (Photo courtesy the Independent Film Channel)