This week’s cover of The Hollywood Reporter featured eight actresses the publication deemed Oscar contenders for their work in 2015 films. What stood out was that, although all of the actresses are well-liked and undeniably talented, they were all white. The Reporter posted a separate piece explaining why, which began: “The awful truth is that there are no minority actresses in genuine contention for an Oscar this year.”
via The Hollywood Reporter
But that doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve them. Similarly, there are no LGBT-identified women as part of the story either, which speaks to the same idea of white, cisgender, heterosexual normativity that Hollywood continues to celebrate en masse. Women of color, queer women and transgender women are still only a small part of the industry, and largely relegated to indie films that play at smaller theaters and receive way less money at any point in production or distribution.
Outside of lead actresses, there are queer women in other Academy Award categories that will hopefully be recognized with nominations in 2016. Here we celebrate those we think deserve the honors and look forward to a future of way more like them in the future.
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Tangerine
If you haven’t yet seen Tangerine, it’s out on VOD and DVD now and well worth watching. Kiki stars as Sin-Dee, a working girl who is let out of prison and finds out her boyfriend has been cheating on her with a “fish,” aka a cis woman. Sin-Dee is relentless in seeking them both out despite the fact it’s Christmas Eve and she has no money to her name. Considering it’s her first acting role ever and the entire thing was shot on iPhones, it’s incredible that Kiki delivered an unwaveringly strong performance with such physicality throughout the 24-hour story of identity, friendship and the reality of being a homeless trans woman in Los Angeles.
Lily Tomlin was nominated for an Oscar for her first film role ever as Linnea Reese in Robert Altman’s 1975 film Nashville. She didn’t win, which means she’s truly overdue, and her part in Grandma showed just how deserving the comic legend is. The out actress stars as Elle, a feminist lesbian grandmother helping her teen granddaughter to get an abortion, a part director Paul Weitz wrote just for her. Heartfelt and humorous in the best of ways, the film is a fantastic representation of female familial relationships and all of their eccentricities.
Although Freeheld lacked some of the depth we’d been hoping for in the long-anticipated adaptation of the tragic true story, star Ellen Page gave an emotional portrayal of Stacie Andree, the woman who lost her partner to cancer but fought by her side until the end. Co-star Julianne Moore could get the nod over her if voters liked the film, but we’re partial to Ellen’s performance and the fact she pushed so hard to get the film made in the first place.
Best Supporting Actress
Mya Taylor, Tangerine
If Kiki is Tangerine‘s Thelma, Mya is its Louise. Together, their chemistry is what most film directors dream of for their leads to have, whether they are bonding, commiserating or having it out on the streets of West Hollywood. Will the Academy recognize these talented women? Hard to say, but they definitely should.
The French know how to appreciate Kristen Stewart. The actress won the César Award for Best Supporting Actress for the same role, the first American actress to even be nominated in 30 years. Although it wasn’t as big of a release in the states, Clouds of Sils Maria was one of the best and most women-focused films of the last year with Kristen’s performance alongside star Juliette Binoche playing a huge part in that.
Because the Oscars works in weird ways, Rooney Mara will be put up Best Supporting Actress although her role as just as critical as Cate Blanchett‘s. (This same fate will befall the women of Tangerine, thus why Kiki would be up for Best Actress and Mya, Best Supporting.) Just as sad, Sarah Paulson’s part as Carol’s ex-lover/best friend Abby was cut short for time. It would have been nice to have more of her in the film (she kills it, of course), but maybe we’ll get some DVD extras in the future.
Cynthia Nixon, Stockholm, Pennsylvania
The Sundance film received raves for the story of a young woman (Saoirse Ronan) who was kidnapped as a child but returns home to her parents at 17. Cynthia Nixon is incredible as the mother who will do anything to win her daughter’s love, even when it threatens everything and everyone around her. Despite it being deserving of wider release and acclaim, Stockholm, Pennsylvania was picked up and ran on Lifetime so it might not have the prestige it needs to elevate Cynthia to Oscar status.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Phyllis Nagy, CarolPhoto by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic
The lesbian playwright turned screenwriter adapted Patricia Highsmith‘s novel, The Price of Salt, into one of the best cinematic lesbian love stories of all time. Most critics would agree Phyllis Nagy deserves a nomination if not a win.
The Irish-Canadian author adapted her own best-selling book into a highly-praised feature film that’s expected to receive several nominations this year. IndieWire has her in the number one spot for this category, but with tough competition from who else but experienced dudes like Aaron Sorkin and Nick Hornby.
Best Original Song
This collaboration between the two out musicians was one of the best parts of Freeheld, a poignant and sad but ultimately hopeful song about being lifted up by love, even in the darkest of times. Miley’s voice lends itself perfectly to Linda’s piano-laden ballad, but tough competition includes Ellie Goulding‘s song from 50 Shades of Grey and Sam Smith‘s theme for Spectre.
Lady Gaga, “Till It Happens to You” The Hunting Ground
Lady Gaga’s song from the campus sexual assault documentary The Hunting Ground is accompanied by a gorgeous and heart-wrenching video that also features a queer woman who was targeted and raped, played by out actor Jess Weiner. Critics think this one has a good chance at a nomination.
Angelina Jolie, By The SeaPhoto by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Getty
Female filmmakers have been speaking out about the gender disparities in Hollywood and people are finally listening. 2015 was definitely male-dominant when it came to directors, but Angelina’s newest (which she also starred in) shows how successful she can be at pulling double duty while also directing husband Brad Pitt. And BTW, her character is no shrinking violet.