By Brian T. Carney, Washington Blade
Despite a bloated presentation that clocked in at almost four hours, the telecast of the 90th Academy Awards had some spectacular moments, especially for LGBT movie fans.
The big moment came when “A Fantastic Woman” won the award for Best Foreign Language Film, the first Oscar win for he country of Chile. Directed by Sebastián Leilo, the movie centers on Marina Vidal (Daniela Vega), a trans woman who is kicked out of her apartment when her boyfriend suddenly dies. Vega’s moving performance marked a cinematic milestone—a trans woman being payed by a trans actress in a mainstream movie.
The award was presented by veteran actress and LGBT icon Rita Moreno (now appearing in the Netflix reboot of the classic sitcom “One Day at a Time” which now features a lesbian character and is set in a Cuban-American household). In the most fabulous entrance of the evening, Moreno strutted to the microphone wearing the same dress she wore to accept her Academy Award for “West Side Story.”
Vega made even more cinematic history when she became the first openly trans person to be a presenter on the Oscar stage (appropriately enough, she introduced Sufjan Steven’s performance of his song “The Mystery of Love” from “Call Me By Your Name”). She acknowledged the importance of her appearance on the Oscar stage, saying, “Thank you so much for this moment.” She also encouraged the audience to “open your heart to love.”
Sadly, the trans director Yance Ford did not win for his documentary “Strong Island.”
Openly gay screenwriter James Ivory (“Maurice”) also made Oscar history when he accepted the prize for Best Adapted Screenplay for “Call Me By Your Name,” the only award for the film. The 89-year old Ivory became the oldest person to win an Academy Award. In a touching speech he mentioned his late collaborators Ismail Merchant (who was also his life partner) and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.
In another noteworthy development, after Disney’s “Coco” won the award for Best Animated Feature, no one commented when two members of the creative team (producer Darla K. Anderson and co-writer and co-director Adrian Molina) thanked their same-sex spouses. In the past, such declarations of LGBT love would have made headlines.
In addition, “Coco” director Lee Unkrich underscored a major theme of the evening when he said, “Marginalized people deserve to feel like they belong. Representation matters!”
Perhaps this means Tio Oscar and Tio Felipe were a gay couple after all.
“Coco’s” lovely ballad “Remember Me” took home the Oscar for Best Original Song, beating out the power ballad “This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman” written by the gay-straight duo of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. During the ceremony, “This Is Me” (which will undoubtedly be performed at every Pride celebration this summer) was given a powerhouse performance by cast member Keala Settle. Settle also appeared in a commercial for Walmart that was actually part of the ceremony.
“The Shape of Water,” a queer celebration of community and resistance, was nominated for 13 Oscars (the most nominations this year) and won four: Best Picture, Best Director (Guillermo del Toro), Best Score for Alexandre Desplat and Best Production Design. Richard Jenkins, who played the heroine’s next-door neighbor and gay best friend did not win, nor did his co-stars Octavia Spencer and Sally Hawkins.
While the creative team behind “The Shape of Water” gathered the most statues, no movie dominated the evening. “Dunkirk,” “The Darkest Hour” and “Blade Runner 2049” won several of the design awards (and Gary Oldman won Best Actor for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in “The Darkest Hour”). Not surprisingly, Mark Bridges won Best Costume Design for his sumptuous couture designs in “Phantom Thread.”
And in an unexpected moment, a very surprised Jordan Peele won Best Original Screenplay for his powerful horror film, “Get Out.”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” won acting honors for Frances McDormand (Best Actress) and Sam Rockwell (Best Supporting Actor). McDormand’s acceptance speech was a call to action. She asked all the women in the audience to stand and be recognized and she called on everyone to demand “inclusion riders” in their contracts. (Inclusion riders are clauses that require that film crews meet minimum diversity standards to retain the services of the artist.)
Several major movies surprisingly went home empty-handed, including: “Lady Bird,” “The Post” and “Mudbound,” which was directed by the ground-breaking Dee Rees, an out black lesbian.
In what may have been the funniest moment of the very long telecast filled with lame jokes, Mark Bridges (Best Costume Design) won the Jet Ski that host Jimmy Kimmel promised to the winner who gave the shortest acceptance speech, Bridges cam in at 38 seconds.
A full list of winners is here.