The production and recognition of films by and about marginalized people has become a real part of the conversation around Awards Season. The #OscarsSoWhite controversy in 2016 pointed out that the Academy had failed to nominate a person of color for an acting category for two consecutive years. This year, Greta Gerwig’s nomination for “Best Achievement in Directing” reminds us that only 5 women have ever been nominated in that category, and only one (Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker) has ever won the category. LGBTQ representation has similarly often been a novelty at the Academy Awards, but 2018 is looking like the year when we have rightfully claimed our cupholders and put our feet up on the seats on the seat in front of us.
2006 was a banner year for LGBTQ movies at the Oscars, as Brokeback Mountain was nominated in what seemed like every category and won 3 awards. The Harvey Milk biopic, Milk, received similar accolades in 2009. The Kids Are All Right made the rounds in 2011, despite the fact that its storyline featuring a lesbian couple whose family is rattled when one of the moms has an affair with their anonymous sperm donor frustrates every lesbian I’ve ever known in real life. We saw Dallas Buyers Club in 2014 and The Imitation Game in 2015. Moonlight’s story about finding yourself throughout your lifetime while grappling with sexuality hauntingly and beautifully told a story so rarely portrayed in film that it finally broke through and won Best Picture in 2017. After winning the big prize last year with the heart-wrenching story of a queer man of color’s journey, how is this year able to compare?
The movie you’ve definitely heard about is Call Me By Your Name, and it lives up to the hype. Call Me By Your Name is the film adaptation of the novel by Andre Aciman, directed by the openly-gay Luca Guadagnino. The film tells the story of a 17-year-old boy who falls in love with his father’s visiting research assistant over a summer in Northern Italy. The cinematography and score are beautiful, the acting is superb, and the story authentically relates the emotions of first love. It’s a special LGBTQ movie in that it does not play politics. There’s no traumatic moment when the characters are rejected by their families or beaten up in a parking lot. The bad guys never show up. Instead, the viewer enjoys a sumptuous, slowly building romantic story. It is nominated for four Oscars including Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role for Timothee Chalamet, Best Original Song for Sufjan Stevens, and Best Adapted Screenplay for James Ivory.
There are also several entries that many may not have seen. Nominated for Foreign Language Film, Chile’s A Fantastic Woman features a trans actress in a lead role, playing a woman fighting against accusations that she murdered her older male lover. While they did not end up receiving a nomination, multiple other countries also submitted queer stories this year. Taiwan submitted Small Talk, a documentary about a daughter’s relationship with her lesbian, Taoist priestess mother. Norway submitted the lesbian supernatural thriller, Thelma. Finland brought a biopic of the iconic gay artist Tom of Finland and France submitted BPM, a drama based o ACT UP Paris in the 1990’s. Also notable is the inclusion of the first film directed by a trans director, Best Documentary nominee, Strong Island. Strong Island was directed by Yance Ford and focuses on the murder of Ford’s brother.
All in all, there is still room for more diverse stories to be told in film and for these films to be recognized. This year, however, shows that queer artists are making their voices heard, and people are responding. In order to keep hearing our stories, we must remember to support queer artists and see LGBTQ movies. At the theater, not on your jailbroken Fire Stick. In Hollywood, the movies that get made are the movies that make money, so if we want to continue to see more movies by and about LGBTQ people, women, and people of color, we have to make our voice heard by filling up the theaters. So pull out your wallets, grab a bucket of popcorn and enjoy!