Home Entertainment Extravaganza Is This the Year a Queer Actor Goes All the Way at the Oscars? – Monomaxos

Is This the Year a Queer Actor Goes All the Way at the Oscars? – Monomaxos

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Andrew Haigh never cared about casting a gay actor in a gay role until All of Us Strangers. The British director’s new film, suffused with his own childhood memories, follows a 40-something queer Londoner named Adam who returns to the place he grew up and encounters his parents—who’ve been dead for decades—in the flesh as if they never left. “I didn’t have the happiest of childhoods.…As Adam was digging into his past, I wanted to do the same thing,” says Haigh, who filmed the metaphysical story in his actual childhood home. “I was trying to unpack some nuances of a certain generation of gay people. I needed someone who could understand that and have those conversations with me.”

That specificity is on display throughout All of Us Strangers, a gorgeously sad meditation on queer love and loneliness being released by Disney’s Searchlight Pictures. And it’s particularly evident in the performance from Andrew Scott, so vulnerable in the lead role. Strangers tends to leave audiences sniffling through a collective ugly-cry.

It’s unusual, to put it mildly, to find a film like this in the awards conversation. Queer people who love the Oscars—and trust, we’re out here—have gotten used to a severely limited brand of representation. We can be depicted in some brilliant films that go the distance, like Moonlight or Tár, but we’re rarely in front of or behind their cameras. And, as a result, even the most impressive projects often lack what Haigh is speaking to—that authentic rendering of experience, those idiosyncrasies drawn from intimate understanding. Gay men who’ve seen Strangers’ sex scenes will know what I mean.

Of the 88 titles nominated for the best picture Oscar over the last decade, only a small fraction featured primary LGBTQ+ themes; of this group, only two came from openly queer directors, and only one key queer role was occupied by an openly queer actor (Everything Everywhere All at Once’s Stephanie Hsu). An openly LGBTQ+ man has not been nominated for an acting award in more than 20 years, going back to Ian McKellen’s 2002 nod for The Lord of the Rings. No openly LGBTQ+ person has been recognized in best director by the Academy since 2010.

Pedro Pascal and Ethan Hawke in Strange Way of Life.

Pedro Pascal and Ethan Hawke in Strange Way of Life.SONY PICTURES CLASSICS.

Some of these unfortunate streaks should break this year, with All of Us Strangers leading a wave for queer cinema on the awards trail. I’m not talking about movies centered on LGBTQ+ characters that fit the typical Oscar profile, like Bradley Cooper’s Maestro or Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall, nor about Todd Haynes’s May December, a (relatively) hetero drama from the New Queer Cinema legend regularly dismissed by the Academy. A wide range of films, made by and about openly LGBTQ+ people, are meeting serious consideration, and Disney, Netflix, Sony, and Amazon are all investing in their rollouts. Roger Ross Williams, the gay filmmaker making his narrative-feature debut with the Amazon-backed Cassandro, told me back in Telluride that he was being approached in droves by LGBTQ+ attendees who were energized by the sheer variety of movies on hand.

That high-altitude festival, a major Oscar season kickoff that took place over Labor Day weekend, offered the world premieres of Netflix’s queer-led biopics Nyad and Rustin in addition to screenings of Cassandro. Williams’s film examines the rise of the gay lucha libre star (played by Gael García Bernal) who defied the masculine norms of his country to become an unlikely icon of the sport. Cassandro takes the shape of a classic crowd-pleasing hero’s journey before spiking the formula with a proudly gay twist—a recipe that plays out similarly in both Rustin, following the unsung Civil Rights Movement organizer, and Nyad, about the legendary swimmer. “We haven’t had a lot of uplifting, positive LGBTQ movies,” Williams says. “Strong queer characters that have fought hard for acceptance and have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams—that’s how I see myself. I love telling inspirational stories, and I will always tell inspirational stories. This is just the beginning.”

Williams, who’s 61, became the first Black director to ever take home an Oscar, when he won best documentary short for 2009’s Music by Prudence. He is now finding new opportunities to venture out. Another Oscar winner, Pedro Almodóvar, was on the festival circuit with his gay-cowboy short, Strange Way of Life, starring Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal. It’s a stylish, moving revising of Western tropes from the gay Spanish director best known for woman-focused melodramas like All About My Mother. “This is a genre I never thought I could do,” he told me before starting production. Every time Almodóvar spoke the word Western over Zoom, in fact, he seemed to smirk, amused by its sudden prominence in his lexicon. With a splashy Cannes bow behind it and Sony Pictures Classics mounting a robust campaign, however, Strange Way of Life is now an Oscar contender aesthetically unlike any he’s made before.

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