Just over a year ago, Jordan Horowitz declared Moonlight had won Best Picture.
Horowitz’s declaration came moments after delivering a speech for a life-changing award that no longer belonged to him. For a moment, his honesty seemed like a stunt. In an era of shock tactics and fake news, the biggest shock of the night came from simply telling the truth. The LGBTQ+ underdog had won Best Picture, rather than La La Land’s nostalgic Valentine to classic Hollywood. To Moonlight’s naysayers, its win was simply a case of it being the right movie at the right time. Of course, handing Best Picture to La La Land in the wake of Trump’s inauguration would have been a faux pas too tone deaf to simply shrug off. This would have been a Crash level misfire. On an enormous platform, the Academy seemingly would choose to once again squander their chances of being culturally relevant At best this critically thin line of argument, usually spouted by those who see the silver screen as a mirror, doesn’t do justice to the simple truth of the matter. Moonlight won because, simply, it really deserved it.
Largely homogenous and dominated by ‘safe’ choices, the Best Picture category was reshaped by Moonlight’s win. It was more than just a prestige picture, starring Tom Hanks or Meryl Streep, but a radical piece of social art. Moonlight constituted less of a movie and more of a series of formative moments reshaped into a movie: boldly constructed and delicately executed. Perhaps most radical of all was Barry Jenkins’ unwavering devotion to his character’s struggle with the intersection of their racial and sexual identity. To the majority, though, it was the first time they saw queer black lives on screen, and to a few, it was the first time they could see their own.
With the Academy’s bias toward cozy cinephilia, The Shape of Water felt like another retreat into the celluloid closet. In his stylish homage to ‘50s cinema, del Toro’s direction is often crafted as if Alessandro Michele himself had helmed a reboot The Creature from the Black Lagoon. But del Toro never willingly succumbs to his own impulses, nor does he keep a distance from the audience. For a director that so often focuses on design, there’s a undeniable radicalism that comes from him frequently interrogating his own fetishism. Understanding the association between “Old Hollywood” and whiteness, The Shape of Water grounds itself through the lens of its ‘other’ characters: a mute woman, her black colleague and her gay best friend. In its silent radicalism, the film becomes more than just “The Fish Fucking Movie”. Instead, del Toro re-imagines, or re-contextualises, the heteronormativity of classic monster movies as something carnally queer. And this is before we consider Call Me By Your Name.
All of the aforementioned have set high benchmarks for what an LGBTQ+ prestige picture can look like, and both on their own artistic terms. In an era of ideological polarisation, cinema now has the chance to become a cultural weapon in the fight to platform marginalised voices. With the bar raised, here are three LGBTQ+ movies we would hope to see go on to achieve golden Oscar glory.
Disobedience (dir. Sebastián Lelio)
Barely allowing the dust settle on his first Oscar win for A Fantastic Woman, Sebastián Lelio’s English language debut Disobedience charts an affair between two Orthodox Jewish women (Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz). Based on the 2006 novel, Disobedience continues to follow Lelio’s directorial knack of passing the microphone to queer women at the margins of their own society. If nothing else, Disobedience could provide Rachel McAdams with an overdue Best Actress nod.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (dir. Desiree Akhavan)
Three years after Desiree Akhavan launched a toxic curveball at the New York rom-com with Appropriate Behaviour, she returns with The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Starring Chloë Grace Moretz, this adaptation of Emily M Danforth’s 2012 novel follows a group religious teenagers struggling with their sexuality in a Christian conversion camp. Premiering at Sundance this year, Akhavan’s sophomore effort shows a blithe disregard for melodrama, which lent it to considerable critical and audience reception. With one of the most influential awards in independent cinema in her back pocket, this could be Akhavan’s warning shot for a Best Director nom.
Hard Paint (dir. Marcio Reolon, Filipe Matzembacher)
The Teddy Award for Best Picture has produced some rather significant alumni over the years: Nasty Baby, A Fantastic Woman, The Kids Are All Right. This year’s winner, Hard Paint, is an off–kilter character piece about an online sex worker. This is the toughest sell on the list but Reolon and Matzembacher don’t care — and audiences don’t mind, with a frenzied neon direction and triptych narrative, Hard Paint could see itself being shortlisted for Best Foreign Picture continuing Moonlight’s streak of subversive social commentary.
Follow Jordan on Twitter.
Join our club.
Words by Jordan Crosbie