With groundbreaking selections, the academy is getting a lot of attention for this year’s nominations, many of the chosen nominees marking leaps in representation and inclusion in the film industry. And while this does include a couple of films that prioritize queer representation, here is what some of the Oscars lineup would look like if the entire awards ceremony prioritized queer representation.
Best picture: “The Favourite”
Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Favourite” is one of our only queer Oscars picks that is actually nominated this year. Through expert performances and complex and dizzyingly humorous characters, Lanthimos delivers a smart and innovative take on the traditional period piece. That isn’t to say that the film loses any of its merits for its use of brilliantly twisted comedy. “The Favourite” oscillates from a film about petty competition to an open criticism of the insidious nature of jealousy and the cruelty of love. It is more than fitting that its central conflict revolves around a violent love triangle of queer women. The film is careful to avoid deeply entrenched stereotypes, presenting the relationship between Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) as one with tangible, and at times heartbreaking, sincerity. Not to mention, a bunch of people settling in for a period piece were not prepared for the amount of lesbian antics they were about to endure. That makes it a win in our book.
Best cinematography: “We the Animals”
Tragically, this summer release was lost in the number of glaring and more monetarily successful films that appeared on the awards circuit this year. “We the Animals” follows three young brothers as they navigate growing up in a world that is not always kind and rarely easy but is uncompromisingly beautiful. The film handles themes of love, loss and pain through the eyes of its central character, Jonah (Evan Rosado). Jonah’s navigation of his world informs his own understanding of himself and his sexuality. Through ambient, sweeping shots of a blooming natural landscape interceded by Jonah’s own drawings, the film uniquely tackles the narrative of children growing up with the world at their feet. In rich palettes of green and blue, visually and narratively, the film works to secure the representation of Jonah and his brother’s story as one that is complex relatable, painful and exquisite.
Best adapted screenplay: “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
While Lee Israel’s autobiography “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” made literary forgery fun, Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty’s adapted screenplay amplifies Lee (Melissa McCarthy)’s humor. Yet it never fully takes her side, presenting her as an unreliable narrator through clever sleights of hand. The film’s title may have come from Lee’s best imitation — a falsified postscript on a Dorothy Parker letter — but it’s also the question the academy should ask after undervaluing one of the year’s best films. With incidental queerness to boot, including the queer kinship between Lee and Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant) — masterfully dramatized by Holofcener and Whitty — the film provides representation for queer persons who are flawed first and queer second, whose sexualities are undeniable but not crucial to their personal narratives.
Best documentary feature: “The Gospel According to André”
André Leon Talley is one of the most iconic and transformative figures in the fashion industry, and you’ve probably never heard of him. The former Vogue editor-at-large’s impact and history are explored in the documentary “The Gospel According to André,” which offers a story of significance and resilience — it shows a Black man, raised in the Jim Crow South, unapologetically making space in a world and industry that did not cater to people like him. The film depicts how Talley’s eccentricities changed and shaped the fashion industry, the way he uplifted Black women and became one of the major Black tastemakers. The film was hailed as a triumphant work, one that saw the relevance of such an important and unapologetic figure explored through personal accounts of Talley’s greatness, as well as archived footage of his life and career. While Talley has not, in the film or otherwise, publicly disclosed his sexuality, he remains an icon for the queer and Black community, and the film articulates his influence marvelously.
The Oscars are making significant strides in the way of representation, but every year great films slip through the academy’s fingertips. Still, the world is a better place for having films such as this in it, and even if the Academy Awards are not the stage where they get their due, we here at The Daily Californian are more than happy to recognize them in our queer Oscars.