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A little more than a year ago is when I last posted to this site. I had said from the outset that I wasn’t sure what the site would become, but it was never my intention to abandon it entirely—chalk it up to the uncertainty of the election and the ongoing pandemic. Even though I didn’t post about it, I did follow the Oscar race closely, so let’s start by reviewing last year.

My top ten films of 2020: 1 Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom/Promising Young Woman

2 Ammonite

3 Hillbilly Elegy

4 The Trial of the Chicago 7

5 Nomadland

6 Mangrove

7 The Prom

8 Minari

9 Driveways

10 The Father

My Oscar nomination predictions on Oscar eve for above the line categories:

My Oscar winner predictions in all categories:

Best Picture: Nomadland

Best Director: Chloe Zhao, Nomadland

Best Actor: Chadwick Boseman - Ma Rainey's Black Bottom / Anthony Hopkins - The Father

Best Actress: Viola Davis - Ma Rainey's Black Bottom / Frances McDormand - Nomadland

Best Supporting Actor: Daniel Kaluuya - Judas and the Black Messiah

Best Supporting Actress: Yuh-Jung Youn, Minari

Best Original Screenplay: Promising Young Woman

Best Adapted Screenplay: Nomadland / The Father

Best Cinematography: Nomadland / Mank

Best Costume Design: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Best Editing: Sound of Metal

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Best Production Design: Mank

Best Original Score: Soul

Best Original Song: "Speak Now" - One Night in Miami / “Fight for You” - Judas and the Black Messiah

Best Sound: Sound of Metal

Best Visual Effects: Tenet

Animated Feature: Soul

Animated Short: If Anything Happens I Love You

Documentary Feature: My Octopus Teacher

Documentary Short: A Love Song for Latasha / Colette

International Feature: Another Round

Live Action Short: The Letter Room / Two Distant Strangers

Now that we have reviewed last year, let’s dive into this one.

I recently had the pleasure of seeing The Eyes of Tammy Faye and attended a Q&A afterwards with producer/actress Jessica Chastain and her producing partner Kelly Carmichael that was moderated by NYC drag queen and city council candidate Marti Gould Cummings. The film offers an intimate look behind the extraordinary rise, fall, and redemption of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker (Jessica Chastain) who rose to power in the 1970s along with her husband, Jim.

During the Q&A, Chastain described the film as a love bomb. She said she wanted to create the film to show the world that Tammy Faye was a selfless person who only wanted to be loved. In fact, if Bakker were alive, love is the one thing Chastain hopes she would feel from watching the film.

Above: Kelly Carmichael, Jessica Chastain, and Marti Gould Cummings at The Angelika Film Center, New York, NY, September 17, 2021 Photo: Author

Although many parts of Tammy Faye are humorous, that message of love shines through every frame. Fans of Chastain’s work may recognize a hint of her character Celia Foote (The Help) when she first appears as Tammy Faye in 1960 in the film, but before long the sweetness gives way to a young Minnesotan who wears her heart on her sleeve and finds herself falling for the man who would lift her up on eagle’s wings, only to let her down later with a thud: Jim Bakker (played by Andrew Garfield).

Garfield holds his own and gives an impressive performance as Tammy Faye’s doomed other half, but Tammy Faye is first and foremost Chastain’s show. There are several scenes that evince emotion and give her the opportunity to show the true heart of Tammy Faye, including her 1985 televised interview with Steve Pieters, a gay pastor with AIDS, whom Tammy Faye uses her star power to humanize for the Praise the Lord network’s 20 million viewers as well as the inevitable showdown scene with her husband, depicted in the film’s trailer – but one example of Tammy Faye’s contribution to the LGBTQ+ community. As put by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, the documentarians behind the film of the same name Tammy Faye was based on: “Homosexuality has often been demonized by the Christian community. At a time when people shrank from HIV and AIDS, Tammy was having none of it. She didn’t believe in labeling people. She understood the power of the camera to look into the eyes of people far and wide and share the truth.”

The trailer also depicts the amount of makeup Chastain had to put on for the role, which may be off-putting, and admittedly coupled with the more humorous elements of the film could spell disaster for the actress’s awards hopes. However, much like Renée Zellweger in Judy, Nicole Kidman in The Hours, and Charlize Theron in Monster, Chastain disappears into her character in such a way that you no longer feel you’re watching the actress on the screen. It’s also worth mentioning that Chastain had to sit for four hours in the makeup chair to complete Tammy Faye’s look.

Her transformation along with the range that Chastain shows, including singing all of Tammy Faye’s songs in the film, and her screen time, will likely propel her into one of the five slots for Best Actress. Many pundits also feel that she could even win, but it’s a bit too early for that conversation.

Verdict: Chastain’s love for, and devotion to, Tammy Faye is palpable, but outside of her powerhouse performance, the film lacks enough ebbs and flows to fully engage its audience.

Below are my predictions for Best Actress as they currently stand:

Best Actress: 1. Kristen Stewart - Spencer

2. Penélope Cruz - Parallel Mothers

3. Jessica Chastain - The Eyes of Tammy Faye

4. Frances McDormand - The Tragedy of Macbeth

5. Lady Gaga - House of Gucci Alternates:

Jennifer Hudson - Respect

Olivia Colman - The Lost Daughter

Catriona Balfe - Belfast

  • Jim Keller

This year is shaping up to be one of the more difficult Oscar races to predict. With film studios shuffling dates around, holding films until next year, and some filmmakers racing the clock to finish following a long hiatus – all due to the global pandemic – it is anyone’s guess which films will actually make it in front of critics and audiences, let alone receive the reviews and box office totals that often drive the awards race.

Accordingly, it is only natural that I begin with what we do know. In recent years the eventual Best Picture Oscar winner has premiered at the Telluride Film Festival (September 4-7, 2020) – indeed last year’s winner Parasite bowed even earlier at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Telluride’s films along with those of Venice (September 2-12, 2020), the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) (September 10-19, 2020) and the New York Film Festival (NYFF) (September 25 - October 11, 2020), usually provide most of awards season fodder. But like the studios and filmmakers, this year the festivals are somewhat discombobulated due to the global pandemic:

  • Cannes (May 11-22, 2020) was cancelled but still released its selection

  • Telluride essentially followed suit

  • Venice, TIFF, and NYFF have opted to proceed with a reduced slate of films and in the case of the latter two, with virtual attendance options

This is the backdrop of the 2020 Oscar race and therefore it is uncertain whether critical reception of the festival films will continue to shape the race or if video on demand services, such as Netflix and Amazon, will finally have their day in the sun for mere accessibility.

Either way, if we’re following the traditional awards trajectory, we must start with the festival films.

Ammonite Release date: 11/13/20 Director: Francis Lee Studio: Neon Possible Nominations: Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, Best Picture, Best Cinematography The film, set in 1840s England, is inspired by the life of British paleontologist Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) and centers on the romantic relationship between Anning and Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan), a young woman who is recuperating from a personal tragedy. The film premiered at TIFF this past weekend, where Best Actress hopeful Winslet was awarded the Tribute Actor Award. The film also features among this year’s Cannes and Telluride selections. Neon has released a beautiful trailer for the film, which showcases the talent of Winslet and Ronan, and is enough to make any believers in love swoon.

Kate Winslet Winslet has been nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Best Supporting Actress three times (Sense and Sensibility in 1996, Iris in 2002, and Steve Jobs in 2016) and for Best Actress three times (Titanic in 1998, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in 2005 and Little Children in 2007). In 2008, she was nominated for Best Actress a fourth time for The Reader and won. For me, this was one of the most dubious wins in Oscar history because it was a clear example of category fraud where Winslet was really a supporting player and not the lead. Besides, Winslet was much stronger in Revolutionary Road that year, a film that enabled her to showcase her full range of talent. Since then, Winslet’s three most prominent films failed to catch on in the award’s race The Dressmaker (2015), The Mountain Between Us, and Wonder Wheel (both 2017). In Ammonite, Winslet’s Anning looks weather-beaten and determined to stay afloat – she is almost ripe for the picking for such a romance to come along and change her life. Yet, she seems to be brooding and is somewhat irritated by the arrival of Murchison.

Judging solely on the trailer, Ronan’s looks like the meatier of the two roles, with Winslet playing the strong silent type. There is little doubt that Winslet will one day win at least a second Oscar, but Oscars tend to go to those who give the bigger performance. Still, Winslet excels in relationship dramas and is probably a safe bet for a nomination.

Saoirse Ronan

Ronan was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 2008 for Atonement at age 13, and three times for Best Actress for Brooklyn (2016), Lady Bird (2018), and this year in Little Women. Curious enough, Ronan has never been favored to win any of the times she had been nominated. But now, she has a career spanning 17 years, with four nominations under her belt, she joins the ranks of other actresses who have yet to be awarded by the Academy for their work – despite having delivered solid performances for several years. Namely, Amy Adams, who has six nominations within 13 years for a 21-year career and Jessica Chastain, who has two nominations in 2 years for a 16-year career. Both actresses also have films in this year's Oscar race: Adams with Hillbilly Elegy and Chastain with The Eyes of Tammy Faye, but Ronan’s role looks to be the supporting role, so she wouldn’t need to square off against the others.

Here, Ronan’s Murchison was put in the care of Anning’s fossil hunter following her personal tragedy. She appears listless in the trailer until she begins to develop a companionship with Anning at which point she seems fascinated by Anning’s work and appears to be the aggressor in the relationship that ensues. It is because of this drastic personality shift that I have pegged Ronan’s as the more substantive of the two performances and therefore the crux of why I feel she has a real chance to not only be nominated, but win the Best Supporting Oscar this year.

Francis Lee

Lee’s only previous film is 2017’s God’s Own Country, another LGBTQ+ effort that was nominated for Outstanding British Film of the Year by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), among a slew of other festivals and critics groups. Lee also wrote the screenplay for both films, making him eligible for the Oscar for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. As I mentioned in the last post, it has been 51 years since a gay director has won (John Schlesinger for Midnight Cowboy), and it is not often that a director wins on their first time that they are invited to the big show. So, from purely a statistical standpoint, the odds are stacked high against Lee for a Best Director nomination. However, he could certainly feature in the Best Original Screenplay race, which has seen seven LGBTQ+ nominees, two of whom have won – compare that with eight individual LGBTQ+ nominees in the last 20 years in Best Director, where none have won.

But the bigger issue, and one of the main reasons I chose to create this site, is that whereas the Academy often recognizes films that depict lesbian characters or themes with nominations, it does not often give them awards. Films with lesbian characters or themes over the last twenty Academy Award years: 2002 – Mulholland Drive: one nomination, zero wins 2003 – Far From Heaven: four nominations, zero wins; The Hours: eight nominations, one win

(Best Actress: Nicole Kidman) 2004 – Monster: one nomination, one win (Best Actress: Charlize Theron); Thirteen: one nomination, zero wins 2007 – Notes on a Scandal: four nominations, zero wins 2010 – Precious: six nominations, two wins Adapted Screenplay: Geoffrey Fletcher and Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique 2011 – The Kids Are All Right: four nominations, zero wins 2016 – Carol: six nominations, zero wins 2019 – The Favourite: nine nominations, one win (Best Actress: Olivia Colman); Can You Ever Forgive Me?: three nominations, zero wins Following Ammonite’s premiere on Friday evening, tastemakers such as Indiewire and Variety shot out the first word on the film, with the former essentially pummeling it as though it had been waiting all year to snuff out its Oscar chances. Fortunately, the review in Variety was much more positive (and fair). But it’s these moments that can make or break a film, and one would think it deserves more of a chance than the words of a single human being, or handful of them, as the case may be, are willing to give it. Indiewire:

Loving someone doesn’t ensure you will always be able to understand them; Lee and his stars may love these characters, but they never understand them. Neither can we.Variety:In his sophomore directorial effort, he steers an organic and elegant vessel with Winslet and Ronan delivering on multiple fronts…Lingering in the moments on Winslet’s stoic and brooding facial expressions, the film is able to mostly capture the complexity of its themes while remaining observant of its objectives…Ronan delivers her most mature outing yet, which could assemble a groundswell around the Irish actress who is due for an Oscar win.”

Unfortunately, for now I’ll have to wait until November to see the film, but I will share my thoughts when I see it. For now, the excerpts above prove my point.

#AcademyAwards #Oscars #LGBTQ+ #TIFF20

  • Jim Keller

I am excited to dive into this year’s films with you, from the perspective of their chances in featuring in the Oscar race. Because more than ever LGBTQ+ and horror films need a platform and more voices to back them. My hope is for this site to emphasize such films. But first, here is a little bit about me and a timeline of events that ultimately led me to launch the site.

My curiosity about the Oscar race began in 2001 after I graduated from college. I had just moved to New York City, where I still live today, from Buffalo, NY, and my neighbors were planning an Oscar viewing party. I was surprised to learn that they had pulled out all the stops, with a red carpet extending down the hall and outside of our building, and guests dressed to the nines! All this juxtaposed against the backdrop of the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, where it was not uncommon to find a smoldering hearse amidst crumbling warehouse facades the morning after it had been stolen and taken for a joyride. Up until then, I was a casual watcher of the Oscars, i.e., I would watch, but it did not have my rapt attention. It took witnessing my neighbors’ unbridled passion for the night to get my mind racing: what was it about the Oscars that caused them to go to such lengths? And how did A Beautiful Mind beat The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring for Best Picture? Unfortunately, those questions would have to wait.

By 2005, I had carved out my own space in New York, I was gainfully employed and worked as a freelance music journalist on the side, when the Oscars came calling again. I was living in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn, in a sweet pad that I shared with my bandmate and a few others. It was the first time in a long time that I shared space with a group of people who were financially stable and so it was easy to spend free time watching and discussing films and playing music. Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby, a drama based on short stories by F.X. Toole (aka fight manager/cutman Jerry Boyd), which follows determined underdog Margaret "Maggie" Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) who works relentlessly with a curmudgeonly boxing trainer to become a professional, was up for Best Picture that year and I remember wanting to see it so bad, but I was held back by anxiety that made me question whether I could handle certain films. Most often, I erred on the side of caution and avoided any film that made me feel that way. I also relied on friends to screen things for me in advance.

One day in March before the Oscars, I found myself walking around the Union Square area with a friend in search of a movie to watch. I kept vacillating on whether I could handle Million Dollar Baby, but when I had finally resolved to see it, it was sold out. Of course, now that would not have been a problem because you can just point and click for your tickets at most theaters. We found ourselves at the Angelika Film Center and decided to watch Park Chan-Wook’s Cannes Grand Prix winner Oldboy, based solely on the poster. But back to the Oscars, naturally Million Dollar Baby won as did its director, star Swank, and supporting actor Morgan Freeman. I finally did see and loved MDB, as I came to call it, not too long after. It became one of my favorite films for its rags-to-riches underdog tale. Also up for Best Picture that year was Sideways, Alexander Payne’s romantic dramedy about two men who embark on a road trip through California's wine country to celebrate one of the men’s upcoming nuptials. The film was essentially a complete 180 from MDB, and on paper, wasn’t the kind of thing I would normally be interested in, but much like 2002, I had to know: how was it that these diametrically opposed films found themselves squaring off against one another? I saw the film with my two roommates and loved it. I remember thinking at the time that the only thing that could’ve made the film better is if I were drinking wine while watching (imagine that!) I ended up buying both MDB and Sideways at Blockbuster (remember those?) and had my chance.

I decided to see all the films that were nominated for Best Picture that year, but I also set an impossible goal to see all the past and future Best Picture nominees. As I began this quest, I quickly realized that one thing I most appreciated about films were the performances, so I changed the rules: see all the Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Actor nominees. My goal had become even more unattainable, but I didn’t care! On my lunch break I cobbled together a list and printed it out. I took it home and for the longest time, I would check off the films on my list. Over time, it sunk in that I would never realize my goal, but I was content with spending my days seeing as many of the films as possible. That is, until the summer of 2008, when everything changed.

My friend and I used to eat lunch together in my office. One day, we were talking about the upcoming films of the year, Baz Luhrmann’s Australia and David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button among them. I simply couldn’t wait to see those two films, and I wanted to read about them immediately. I happened on the now defunct Oscar watch site, which was run by Kris Tapley. From then on, I would spend my lunch hour reading about the films that might feature in the Oscar race. Tapley went on to work for HitFix and then Variety, but he had always mentioned other Oscar watchers, one of whom caught my eye: Sasha Stone of AwardsDaily. I had always been partial to women, so I soon found myself making time in my Oscar feeding frenzy to read AwardsDaily. It was through the discovery of Oscar prognostication that I got what I really wanted: the Oscars all year round.

I began hosting Oscar viewing parties in 2005, and in 2010, I upped the ante. After a few years of regular party guests asking me to host a dressier affair, I decided to do a black-tie Oscar viewing party. Back then I used to attend AMC Theatres’ Best Picture Showcase, which allowed audiences to watch all the nominees in two day viewing blocks with a single-priced ticket. Never mind that I had already seen most of the nominees, it was just a fun experience to share these films with my friends. One of my favorite films of 2010 was Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, which was also a bit of a quest to see. My friend and I had originally planned to see it at Chelsea Cinemas, but it sold out, so we quickly found another theatre showing the film and got tickets over the phone. The theatre was entirely silent for the duration of the film, and I remember feeling that we were part of something special. I was ecstatic when the film along with another favorite District 9 were nominated for Best Picture, and again, showing my partiality towards women, even more so that Bigelow was nominated for Best Director – only the fourth woman in history. When Bigelow won Best Director, I was floored, I knew that she deserved it, but deserving an Oscar is hardly why someone wins one. I was ecstatic because she was the first woman to win (and sadly the only one to this day). The Hurt Locker went on to win Best Picture that night, the icing on the cake!

In anticipation of the Oscar race, I began assembling a weekly email blast where I wrote short descriptions of notable articles and links to movie trailers from websites such as and along with my own short film reviews and called it “This Week in Movie News” (the blast continued until May 2013). In 2011, I began writing an Oscar watch column titled For Your Consideration for The Rockefeller University’s newsletter Natural Selections, and soon after I became the Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor of the publication until I stepped down in 2018 to take on a leadership role in the LGBTQ+ employee resource network (ERN) at my work. To this day, I have a role as Editor-at-large for Natural Selections and I am one of the Co-Leads for the LGBTQ+ ERN. Five years ago, I began running a Fantasy Oscar League where participants select contenders (actors and actresses) and are awarded points based on how they perform during precursor awards all season until a winner is determined on Oscar Sunday. For too long, the LGBTQ+ film community has been ignored, or overlooked, when it comes to recognition from Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). The last gay director to win Best Director was John Schlesinger in 1969 for Midnight Cowboy, and Lee Daniels was the last gay director (and first LGBTQ+ African American) to be nominated for Precious (2009). Furthermore, a lesbian has yet to be nominated in the category. There is also a disproportionate number of straight directors who have been recognized by AMPAS for work that involves an LGBTQ+ character. Below is a complete list of LGBTQ+ films from the past 20 years that have been nominated by the Academy in at least one category, I have identified the sexual preference of the director from information available. Out of the 39 films nominated, overwhelmingly 26 were from straight directors (including *four women), 10 from gay directors, two of whom are featured twice (so the number of individual directors who have been recognized is 8), 2 from the same bisexual man (so again the number of individual bisexual directors is 1), and only 1 film from a lesbian.

Out of these same 39 films, only 13 were nominated for Best Director, 8 of which were helmed by straight directors, compared with 5 by LGBTQ+ directors, of whom one was nominated twice, making the number of LGBTQ+ directors recognized by the Academy 4. Furthermore, out of these 39 films, only one director, Ang Lee has won, i.e., in twenty years of Academy history, only once has a director won for a film covering LGBTQ+ subject matter and he was straight.

Aside from the damning numbers, the sad thing is there wasn’t an excuse for the omission of LGBTQ+ filmmakers in six of those years. Below is a list of LGBTQ+ films from the same period that represent notable snubs by the Academy. Out of the 7 films, overwhelmingly 5 were from LGBTQ+ directors (including one woman) whereas only 2 were from straight directors. Films with an asterisk represent films that were nominated for Best Picture; three of the remaining four should have been nominated for Best Picture: Far From Heaven, Carol, and The Danish Girl. Note the first two are from the same gay director.

Finally, when you consider other LGBTQ+ films that were released during the same period, there are seven that were completely ignored (films that were in the precursor awards conversation) by the Academy. Again, most of the directors were straight (5), with only 2 from LGBTQ+ filmmakers.

This is to say that the Academy has a lot of work to do when it comes to giving proper recognition to both LGBTQ+ stories and LGBTQ+ filmmakers. What we have seen so far is that when it comes to equality, diversity, and inclusion, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, i.e., the African American community used #OscarsSoWhite in 2015 to engender change in the Academy in response to a lack of diversity in its nominees for the 87th Academy Awards, which has set it on a path of course correction. Below is a timeline of the Academy’s diversification efforts since then:

Even so, some are still griping about the most recent changes, including actress Kirstie Alley who tweeted: “I’ve been in the motion picture Academy for 40 years. The Academy celebrates freedom of UNBRIDLED artistry expressed through movies. The new RULES to qualify for “best picture” are dictatorial .. anti-artist..Hollywood you’re swinging so far left you’re bumping into your own assSo how does it get better? I believe the Academy’s steps are important, but I also believe we need more websites such as this one to amplify important stories and foster change. I have stood on the sidelines, watching other films and performances, etc., lifted to the upper echelons of film, opening doors of near-limitless possibility for the nominees, leaving others to scrape by, hoping one day their dreams too would be realized. It is my hope that by providing a platform that emphasizes LGBTQ+ and horror films, they will gain better traction and establish a foothold to lift them into the Oscar race. In the coming days, I'll examine some current LGBTQ+ and horror films that could feature in this year's Oscar race, including Ammonite and Antebellum and reflect back on some that didn't such as Carol, Gone Girl, and Us.

In truth, I don’t know what this site will become, but I am eager to watch it evolve organically, and believing that my writing can never be divorced from who I am, I will imbue the site with pieces of me that will ultimately coalesce to define the site.

#AcademyAwards #Oscars #LGBTQ+

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