Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Weak lineup for Team Gay as Oscar season approaches

Why I'm rooting for Despicable Me over The Kids Are All Right

I’m a fan of competition, but not the sensation of having a vested interest in a competitive venture.

For the last three Grey Cups (for the uninformed, Canada’s version of the Superbowl), I’ve randomly picked my team the day of the game. Typically “my” team does not win, and I end up switching allegiances halfway through the game so that I can cheer for someone, rather than yelling stuff like, “Come on! Throw the goddamned ball!”

The Oscars are a different breed altogether. My team is usually Team Queer. I get excited when the category or role in question involves queers or when women are up for things they never get awards for. For instance: I was pretty much on the edge of my seat for Best Director last year — which went to Kathryn Bigelow.

Oscar has a bit of a mixed history when it comes to queers. Queers seem to win when they create screenplays that focus on gay issues and history (see Gods and Monsters, American Beauty, Milk). Gay documentaries have won Oscars, including The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (1984), Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt (1989) and Freeheld (2008). 

At the same time, while depicting a lesbian, gay or trans person onscreen does seem to earn statues (see: Tom Hanks, Hilary Swank, Charlize Theron, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sean Penn), it’s a rare thing to see an actual homosexual actor accepting an award onstage. Openly gay actors are more likely to be hosting (see: Ellen DeGeneres).

I wonder if this means that Hollywood likes queer writers and documentary makers better than they like queer actors. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that writers are just that little bit cooler than actors. Hard to say.

Although nothing’s official as of yet (Jan 25 is the official announcement), if the Oscar buzz is correct, cheering for Team Queer at the 2011 Oscars will mean cheering for two films: Black Swan and The Kids Are All Right. 

This will mean, in part, cheering for more actors playing queers, specifically lezzies: lesbian moms (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore in The Kids Are All Right) and some girl-kissing ballerinas (Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis in Black Swan). The latter is, of course, a bit of a stretch. Although, as my friend David pointed out, the queerness we’re cheering for in Black Swan has more to do with Portman’s fabulous eye makeup, now trending on drag queens worldwide, than her role. 

I will not be cheering for The Kids Are All Right, despite writers Lisa Cholodenko (who worked on the L Word and also wrote the screenplay for High Art) and Stuart Blumberg (who wrote The Girl Next Door) and Bening (who should have won for Running with Scissors — not that she was nominated).

I don’t know what conversations transpired between Cholodenko and Blumberg during the development of this screenplay, but the end result, to me, is unbelievably annoying. Which is to say, yes, I’m super bitter that this little gem of a movie, this (rare) movie about queer families, features a romance, however brief, between a lesbian mom and a sperm donor. The lameness of this plot twist is too stupid for words.

So, instead of cheering for the straights playing queers (as cute as they all are), I suggest we look elsewhere.

At the top of my list is Despicable Me, a contender for Best Animated Feature. I love this movie for its heartwarming depiction of a clearly misunderstood, intensely enterprising, single gay father (with a basement full of cute yellow pill-shaped minions) who manages to work his way through his own personal struggles and the foster care system to end up with three great kids.

Then there’s Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. A possible for Best Documentary nominee, I think it would be amazing to see Joan up onstage at the Oscars instead of on the red carpet. And let’s face it, if there is one thing Oscar desperately needs, it’s more drag.

Trending Topics appears in every second issue of Xtra‘s Toronto edition.