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Best bets from Los Angeles Outfest

A random selection of our favorite films



Hey all you queer cinemaphiles out there, Los Angeles Outfest is just around the corner, ready to showcase an impressive array of new and exciting LGBTQ films.

We know you want to fit as many screenings as possible into your schedule – and your budget- but with so many exciting titles on the program, how can you ever know which ones to choose?

No need to fret, we’ve got you covered. Though every movie in the festival is undoubtedly worthy of your attention, we’ve compiled a list of highlights that can serve as a jumping off point for any taste.

We’ve mostly stuck with feature-length narrative films here, with a couple of important exceptions thrown in; but it should be noted that Outfest also offers a host of short films, documentaries and special events that are highly recommended to round out your Outfest experience.

In any case, once you’ve got your bases covered, you can dive deep into the schedule (available for perusal, along with specific venues and ticket info, at and add as many more selections to your gay agenda as your time and money will allow.

GOD’S OWN COUNTRY (July 6th) – Kicking off the festival at the Opening Night Gala is this Sundance favorite from first-time filmmaker Francis Lee. A gritty tale of unlikely romance between an English sheep farmer and Romanian migrant he takes on as a hired hand, this drama is described as “an unflinching and compassionate plea for unity in these divisive times.”

THE PASS (July 7th, July 9th) – Another Brit drama, this one features Russell Tovey and Arinzé Kene as a pair of rising soccer stars whose encounter in a hotel room the night before a big game triggers a cascade of consequences. Tovey’s status as a “gay heartthrob” is sure to make this one a hot ticket.

THE CITY OF THE FUTURE (July 7th) – A Brazilian offering, this bold drama follows the efforts of a polyamorous bisexual trio as they shun convention and build their own vision of a happy family as they prepare for the birth of their child. Directed by Claudio Marques and Marilia Hughes Guerreiro, it’s a must-see.

RIFT (July 7th) – This Icelandic entry for horror fans, this is a story of two boyfriends being terrorized by someone (or something) in a secluded cabin. Promising to “keep you guessing and leave you haunted,” this Erlingur Thoroddsen-directed thriller looks like a real nail-biter.

100 MEN (July 8th) – A documentary by New Zealander Paul Oremland, who looks up 100 men he’s had sex with over the past 40 years. Tracking the changing attitudes towards homosexuality over the years, it’s described as “a personal, often humorous look.”

THE REVIVAL (July 8th) – Jennifer Gerber’s drama takes on religious fundamentalism through the story of a young preacher whose efforts to open the minds of his Arkansas congregation are complicated when a handsome drifter enters his life. With its “simmering resentments and repressed emotions,” it’s sure to be controversial in all the right ways.

SATURDAY CHURCH (July 8th) – With its clear debt to the iconic Paris Is Burning, this film about a Bronx teen who flees his sternly religious aunt and finds refuge in a West Village church where “voguing is more important than sermons,” is threaded with “dream-like musical interludes.” With its message that a holy space is somewhere you can be yourself, this will surely be another crowd-pleaser.

THE WOUND (July 8th) – A South African drama about a young man undergoing a tribal rite of passage into manhood, this one explores the difficulties of reconciling traditional expectations of masculinity that is at odds with individual sexual identity. Offering a thoughtful performance by Xhosa singer Nakhane Touré, promises to be less harrowing than inspiring.

BECKS (July 9th) – Starring Lena Hall (who won a Tony for the recent revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch) and Mena Suvari, this romance by Liz Rohrbaugh and
Daniel Powell is the story of a down-and-out singer songwriter who moves back into her childhood home and finds herself in a whirlwind romance with a “lonely housewife” from the neighborhood. It also features original songs by Hall herself.

4 DAYS IN FRANCE (July 9th) – A French movie with subtitles, directed by Jerome Reybaud, it’s a “road picture” in which a young man tracks his boyfriend across the countryside by following him on Grindr. According to the description, it’s “full of charming and unexpected moments,” as the two men make their way through a series of anonymous encounters towards an “unexpected destiny.” It sounds delightfully Euro.

THE DEATH AND LIFE OF MARSHA P. JOHNSON (July 9th) – Sure to be another hot ticket, this documentary by David France (How to Survive a Plague) explores the mysterious death of Stonewall heroine and trans icon Johnson, using it as a springboard to address the risks that still face the trans population today.

IN BETWEEN (July 9th) – Maysaloun Hamoud’s multi-lingual film pushes against a lot of taboos with its story of three very different Palestinian women sharing an apartment as they attempt to break free of societal expectations. With its cast described as “charming,” this is likely to be a smartly iconoclastic exploration of clashing cultures.

A MILLION HAPPY NOWS (July 9th) – The bittersweet story of a soap opera actress with early-onset Alzheimer’s who retires to spend the time she has left with her longtime partner, this Albert Alarr-directed lesbian tear-jerker promises to provide “a million reasons why we all need to appreciate love to the fullest.”

PATHS (July 8th) – This German film with subtitles follows a pair of longtime male partners who grow apart as their son grows up, despite their continuing love for one another. Directed by Chris Miera, it promises to “avoid flashy melodrama” in favor of a tender and moving portrayal of the couple’s deteriorating relationship.

PROM KING, 2010 (July 9th) – The story of a 20-year old college boy whose pursuit of love is hampered by the idealized vision of romance in the classic films he loves, this feel-good entry is probably a sure-fire hit for gay cinema nuts. The sumptuous widescreen cinematography of its New York locations makes it even more appealing.

BODY ELECTRIC (July 10th) – Brazilian Marcelo Caetano, another first-time director, takes us on an odyssey through his country’s “changing sexual landscape” with this story of a young factory worker named Elias who spends his nights contemplating his future and exploring his sensuality as he learns to enjoy life’s fleeting pleasures. This one is in Portuguese with subtitles, though it sounds as if not much translation will be needed.

CHERRY POP (July 10th) – Fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race will enjoy this comedy featuring Bob the Drag Queen and Tempest DuJour (among other Drag Race alumni), about the backstage hi-jinks at a drag dive bar where “dreams go to die.”

GIRL UNBOUND: THE WAR TO BE HER (July 10th) – A joint Canadian-Pakistani production, this documentary focuses on Maria Toorpakai Wazir, an androgynous Muslim Pakistani squash champion who struggles to persist and endure in the face of persecution and threats from Al-Qaeda. Directed by Erin Heidenreich, it’s a timely and challenging look at the effects of religious fanaticism.

HELLO AGAIN (July 11th) – Musical theatre fans will want to jump on this one, a screen adaptation of Michael John LaChiusa’s acclaimed 1994 off-Broadway work which is itself an adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s classic play, Der Reigen. Directed by Tom Gustafson and featuring a wide variety of musical styles, it leapfrogs ten characters through ten clandestine sexual encounters, exploring the reasons why people hook up while showcasing the talents of such performers as Audra McDonald, Martha Plimpton, Nolan Funk, and Rumer Willis, among others.

TOM OF FINLAND (July 11th) – The much-anticipated biopic about iconic gay artist Touko Laaksonen is likely to draw a huge audience here in the city where he eventually made his home. Get your tickets while you can.

BOYS FOR SALE (July 12th) – A Japanese documentary about the “Urisen,” young male sex workers who cater to men in the Tokyo underground, this Itaio-directed film offers “an illuminating look into a rarely seen world that tantalizingly shows the humanity of sex work.”

THE LADIES ALMANACK (July 12th) – Shot on Super 8 film, Daviel Shy’s adaptation of Djuna Barne’s book about “lesbian Casanova” Natalie Barney explores the intertwined secrets of the Gertrude Stein, Colette, and others in the Parisian queer femme literary circle of 1928. A sumptuous feast for aficionados of the Jazz Age, this period tell-all looks like a scandalous delight.

I DREAM IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE (July 13th) – Another Sundance winner, this moving romance is the story of a linguist who travels deep into the Mexican jungle to study a disappearing indigenous language only to discover that the last two people who know it are a pair of former male lovers who refuse to speak to each other because of a 50-year-old quarrel. Directed by Ernesto Contreras, I recommend bringing some tissues to this one.

TAMARA (July 13th) – The true story of Venezuela’s first transgender politician, this queer biopic documents her journey from her pre-transition days as a family man through her rise as a trans activist and her resulting run for office. Directed by Elia K. Schneider and boasting powerful performances, this Spanish-language entry is yet another must-see.

After Louie explores the contradictions of modern gay life and history through Sam, a man desperate to understand how he and his community got to where they are today.

AFTER LOUIE (July 15th) – Already featured in the pages of the Blade, this thought-provoking romantic drama from activist-turned-filmmaker Vincent Gagliostro features Alan Cumming as a middle-aged artist whose creative energies are blocked by his fixation on the past until a handsome millennial challenges his perspective. Important for lots of reasons, it’s also moving, funny, and highly entertaining. A must-see.

QUEERCORE: HOW TO PUNK A REVOLUTION (July 15th) – Yony Leyser’s German documentary “takes us through the cut-and-paste queer anarchy of the early days of homocore to the punk-pop peak of queercore’s Pansy Division,” exploring the rise of and influence of such iconoclastic queer artists as Bruce LaBruce, John Waters, and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, among others. It looks like a wild ride.

FREAK SHOW (July 16th) – The festival’s closing night selection, this adaptation of a novel by James St. James tells the story of a flamboyant new student who shakes up his military academy by running for homecoming queen. With a cast featuring Bette Midler and Laverne Cox, it’s sure to be an audience favorite.


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LA Blade Exclusive: L Morgan Lee, Broadway’s newest icon sings her truth

She is the first ever trans actress to receive a Tony Award Nomination & the first trans performer to be in a work that has won a Pulitzer



L Morgan Lee exclusively photographed by Andrey Strekoza for the Los Angeles Blade June, 2022

NEW YORK CITY – “I am just a girl,” L Morgan Lee tells me. That simple statement is her self-definition, a girl taking life one step at a time.

To the rest of us, L Morgan Lee is so much more. She is the award-winning actress starring on Broadway in the hit show of the season, A Strange Loop. Her singing talent matches that of any legendary diva, she is creating landmark theatrical projects on womanhood and New York Times articles are being written about her. She is the “girl” in the spotlight now.

She is also, the first ever transgender actor or actress to receive a Tony Award Nomination.

While she is not the first trans performer to be seen on a Broadway stage, she seems to have broken the glass (or some might say, cement) ceiling of being recognized in the upper echelon of talent. She is the first transgender performer to be in a work that has won a Pulitzer. While the Pulitzer recognizes the author, whom she was not, certainly her creative input was weaved into the final book of the play.

L Morgan has journeyed a complex path to self-awareness. “For me, even in terms of being trans, the idea of being anything outside of what I was assigned at birth was just laughable and crazy to me as a child,” she says. “It just, it made no sense. It was not something that I was comfortable saying out loud to anyone or voicing. How would I be looked at by my parents, by anyone else? So, I would sit and dream. The dreaming is, I think, what forms, much of so many queer people’s lives and experiences.   Those dreams become our lifelines. I would dream and dream. I have a memory of when I was maybe six years old, in the middle of the night, looking up at my ceiling in my bedroom. Waking up soaked with tears. Saying, if I could wake up and be a girl, a girl, everything would be okay.” She adds. “That is why I am so excited to have gotten my first opportunity to be on Broadway, excited to have gotten a Tony nomination. Because I know that there is some kid somewhere, who is also looking up at the ceiling saying that same thing.”

L Morgan’s first adventure into performing was as a kid and ironically projected her future identity fluidity: she costumed up and performed “Karma Chameleon” in nursery school. She allowed herself to explore her true identity under the guise of a Halloween costume quite a few years later. She went in fully fashion glammed drag, and it changed her world forever. “The minute I did it, I felt a jolt of energy I had never felt before. I finally felt free in so many ways. It’s as if like it’s as if I finally got to breathe.”

When she started work on A Strange Loop, she had been cast under the assumption that she was a cisgender man playing female parts. As the years of work into the play went on, L Morgan’s transgender journey escalated, and she attempted to resign from the play as she realized she was no longer the person they thought they had hired. Not only were they aware, as many close loved ones can be, of her journey, but they embraced her and assured her that she belonged more than ever.

“The characters I played allowed me to, in some ways hide until I was able to be more public about who I am. And once I did that, it certainly brought another layer of depth to what I was doing. I have been that much more comfortable in my own skin. I’ve grown. Transition has settled in more. So, both my viewpoints about the show, the people I’m playing, and my lens of life in general, has evolved through the process. So, certainly the woman I am today, views the show and the script, and the characters I play in a very different way than I did when I first sat down to do it in 2015.” 

Her growth within the show, and the growth of the show itself are intertwined. Certainly, some of the magic of the show is that it is not “performed” as much as it is lived out of the souls of the actors in it. L Morgan describes, “The experience of A Strange Loop has been beautiful, complex, layered and ever evolving, for me in particular.  Every time I’ve come back to the rehearsal room with this project, my own lens has been slightly evolved or has moved forward in some ways.”

“The piece is as strong as it is because the lens itself, the lens through which the story is told, is very specific and very honest. Inside of that specificity, there are lots of complications and layers and messy stuff. There are things that you don’t ‘talk about out loud’ taboo to discuss. There are things that people see as problematic. There are so many things inside of all of that, but it’s honest and it’s human. It is a 25-year-old, who’s about to turn 26, sort of raging through life, feeling oppressed and unseen and shouting out to find how he fits into the world. It is how he can find his truest voice in a world that doesn’t really allow him to feel like he’s enough. Because it is so specific about those things the show touches so many different people.”

L Morgan demonstrated coming out as a confident transgender actress, with her vulnerabilities unhidden, on the opening night of the play and decisions she made as she stepped into the public spotlight. “I feel a responsibility. It feels like a dream, it feels wonderful. It feels exciting. It’s like everything I’ve ever asked for but the, the most poignant feeling for me is the responsibility. How could I show up for that person that needs to find me.”

“On my opening night on Broadway, we were trying to figure out what I was going to do with dress and hair and all these things. You only get a first time once. You get your debut one time. So how do I make the most of this moment? I felt raw and excited. I needed to show like the most honest and clear-cut version of me I could. I needed to show my shaved head because that’s something that’s important to me. It’s something, I almost never show. I stepped out revealed, exposed and vulnerable on the very public red carpet, speaking to cameras with my buzzed head. Our relationship with hair runs very deep, especially for trans people, and there was something about it, that just felt like, I needed to do it. That kid somewhere under the covers needs to see this trans woman who is in her Broadway debut and she’s in a pretty dress and she has a shaved head, and she seems like she’s comfortable. Then when you hear her talking about it, you hear about her vulnerability and hear that she felt nervous, and you hear that she was dealing with dysphoria and she was dealing with confidence and she was dealing with all these things that we attached to our hair and she reveals those things. Not only because they’re true but because when we reveal Our Truth, our humanness, there is universality there. There is connection inside of our vulnerability.”

While the Tony nomination escalates her Broadway experience, L Morgan does not lose sight of her mortal existence. “On the day that the Tony nominations happened, I fell apart, completely losing it in my bedroom. Then I realized, I still needed to get a couch, and clean up the apartment. I still feel regular. It’s been a wild dream and at the same time, your real life just keeps on going. I am just trying to put one foot in front of the other.”

On the night of the Tonys. L Morgan will be up against some heavy hitters. Not the least of these is Broadway Legend Patty LuPone. L Morgan is ok with that. Her dream has been to see her face in one of the camera boxes on television of the nominee hopefuls.  

“The biggest reason I do, what I do is one because I love storytelling. My experience is black, my experience is trans, but I’m just, I’m just a woman. I am a woman who had a trans experience. That’s my story. I know that somewhere there’s s a kid, as I have said, who is just like I was. It is extremely important for me to make that kid proud and make that kid feel seen and make that kid know that it’s possible.” 

“I want that kid to be able to know that most importantly, they already are who they are dreaming to be. The world is telling you something different, but you know who you are. There’s nothing wrong with you, there is nothing wrong with us. The world has never told us that we were an option.”  

“That kid needs to find my story. They need to know that we exist. It is the reason it took me so long to be public about things and to start speaking, because I wasn’t seeing enough examples. There’s a quote, ‘she needed a hero, so that’s what she became.’ I really live by that.”

She needed to see a transwoman Tony Nominee. So that’s what she became.

When they call the winner on Tony Night, it will be between a Broadway legend and Broadway’s newest icon.

However it goes, another ceiling has been broken forever, and somewhere a trans girl in hiding will realize her dream too can come true.


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For better and for worse, Oscar makes history again

The biggest queer moment of the night was Ariana DeBose’s historic win as the first out woman to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress



Jessica Chastain accepts the Oscar for Lead Actress (Screenshot/ABC)

HOLLYWOOD – By the time you read this, the biggest moment from this year’s Oscars will already be old news – but before we can move on to a discussion of what the wins and losses reveal about the state of LGBTQ+ representation, inclusion, and acceptance in the Hollywood film industry, we have to talk about it anyway.

When Will Smith stepped up onto that stage at the Dolby Theatre to physically assault Chris Rock – a professional comedian, doing the job he was hired to do in good faith that he would be safe from bodily harm while doing it – for making an admittedly cheap and not-very-funny joke, it was a moment of instant Oscar history that overshadowed everything else about the evening.

There’s been enough discussion about the incident that we don’t need to take up space for it here – tempting as it may be – other than to assert a firm belief that violence is never a good way to express one’s disapproval of a joke, especially during a live broadcast that is being seen by literally millions of people.

Smith, whether or not he deserved his win for Best Actor, succeeded only in making sure his achievement – which could have been a triumphant and historic moment for Black representation in Hollywood, not to mention an honorable cap for his own long and inspiring career – will be forever marred, and the palpably insincere non-apology that replaced what could otherwise have been his acceptance speech was only a textbook example of putting out fire with gasoline.

Yet that polarizing display also allows us a springboard into the much-more-important subject of queer visibility in the movies, thanks to another Smith-centered controversy (and there have been so many, really) from the early days of his career that sheds a lot of light on the homophobic attitudes of an industry almost as famous as playing to both sides of the fence as it is for the art it produces. 

Back in 1993, riding his success as a hip-hop artist-turned actor and springboarding from his “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” fame into a movie career, Smith appeared in the film adaptation of John Guare’s critically-acclaimed play “Six Degrees of Separation,” playing a young con artist who preys on a wealthy Manhattan couple (played by Donald Sutherland and Stockard Channing), convincing them to give them money and even move into their home before they eventually discover the truth after coming home to find him in bed with a male hustler.

Unsurprisingly (it was 1993, after all), some of the play’s homosexual content was “softened” for the film version, but Smith was still called upon to perform in a scene depicting a kiss between himself and co-star Anthony Michael Hall. After initially agreeing, he abruptly changed his mind (due to advice from friend-and-mentor Denzel Washington, who warned him that kissing a man onscreen could negatively impact his future career) and refused to do the kiss, necessitating the use of camera trickery to accomplish the scene.

Decades later, Smith expressed regret at the choice, saying it was “immature” and that he should have gone ahead with the kiss – but the story nevertheless provides some insight about the pressure placed on actors in Hollywood to appear heterosexual for their audiences, no matter what.

Despite advancements, that pressure continues today – and Smith, whose unorthodox and publicly rocky marriage already has put him under an arguably unfair microscope, has also been alleged (most notoriously by trans actress Alexis Arquette, who made controversial comments about the couple shortly before her death in 2016) to be participating in a sham marriage in an effort to conceal both his own and his wife’s queer sexuality, may well have been feeling it when he was moved to assert his masculinity at the Academy Awards.

True or not, such rumors still have the potential for ruining careers in Hollywood; and while it may be a facile oversimplification to assume that homophobia was behind Smith’s ill-advised breach of decorum, it’s nevertheless a topic that goes straight to the heart of why the Academy, even in 2022, has such an abysmal track record for rewarding – or even including – openly queer actors on Oscar night.

Granted, things have improved, at least in terms of allowing queerness to be on display at the ceremony. On Sunday night, out Best Actress nominee Kristen Stewart attended with her fiancée, Dylan Miller, with the couple sharing a public kiss on the red carpet as they arrived for the festivities; the trio of female hosts – which included out woman of color Wanda Sikes alongside fellow comedians Amy Schumer and Regina Hall – called out Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill with a defiant joke during their opening presentation.

Jessica Chastain – who won Best Actress for playing unlikely LGBTQ ally and AIDS advocate Tammy Faye Baker in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” – made an emotional speech decrying anti-LGBTQ legislation and advocating for all people to be “accepted for who we are, accepted for who we love, and to live a life without the fear of violence or terror.”

Numerous participants in the evening, whether male or female, queer or straight, took the opportunity to push gender boundaries with their couture for the evening (thanks for that, Timothée Chalamet). Elliot Page, joining Jennifer Garner and JK Simmons for a “Juno” reunion, became the first trans man to be a presenter at the Academy Awards. Finally, two beloved queer icons shared the stage for the evening’s finale, as Lady Gaga was joined by wheelchair-bound Liza Minnelli, frail but full of obvious joy at being there, to present the award for Best Picture.

The biggest queer moment of the night, of course, was also one of the first: Ariana DeBose’s historic win as the first out woman to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Accepting the award (for which she was considered by far the front-runner), De Bose proudly highlighted her queerness alongside her other intersecting identities, saying “You see an openly queer woman of color, an Afro-Latina, who found her strength and life through art. And that is, I think, what we’re here to celebrate.”

The evening’s other queer nominees did not fare so well. “Flee,” the Danish documentary about a gay Afghan refugee’s escape from his homeland as a teen, made history by scoring triple nominations as Best Documentary Feature, Best International Feature, and Best Animated Feature, but it went home empty-handed. Stewart – the only other openly queer acting nominee – lost to Chastain for Best Actress, and the divisive but queer-themed “Power of the Dog” lost its bid for Best Picture to “CODA,” as well as all of its multiple acting nominations – though its director, Jane Campion, already the first woman to be nominated twice for the Best Director Prize, became the third woman to actually win it.

Of course, the Oscar, like any other award, should be bestowed upon the most deserving nominee regardless of sexuality, gender, or any other “identity” status, and it seems unreasonable to expect all the queer nominees to win – though some might feel a little reparative favoritism wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing when it comes to balancing the scales. Even so, nobody has a chance to win if they’re not even nominated, and that’s where Oscar has repeatedly and persistently fallen short.

According to a recent report from Professor Russell Robinson, Faculty Director of Berkeley Law’s Center on Race, Sexuality & Culture, analysis of more than half a century of Academy Award acting nominations reveals that out of 68 nominations (and 14 wins) for performers playing LGBTQ roles, only two nominees – neither of whom went on to win – were LGBTQ-identified in real life.

While actors like Tom Hanks (“Philadelphia”), Sean Penn (“Milk”), Penélope Cruz (“Parallel Mothers” and “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”), and the late William Hurt (“Kiss of the Spider Woman”) garnered career-boosting acclaim along with their Oscars for playing queer characters, there are no equivalent success stories for queer actors playing straight roles – indeed, only eight openly queer performers have gotten a nomination for ANY role, queer or otherwise, in the entire history of the Oscars, and no transgender performers have ever received one at all.

While one might believe statistics like this are at least beginning to change, bear in mind that both of Benedict Cumberbatch’s two Oscar nods so far were for playing gay men, including this year’s “Power of the Dog” (the first was for playing real-life queer hero Alan Turing in “The Imitation Game”).

The topic of whether straight actors playing queer characters is appropriate at all is of course a hotly-debated one, with reasonable arguments – and queer voices in support of them – on both sides. We won’t attempt an in-depth examination of that issue here, but what is obvious even without the above statistics is that the Academy – or rather, looking at it from a wider scope, Hollywood itself – has a deeply-ingrained prejudice against queerness, regardless of how loudly it proclaims itself to be an ally.

Yes, progress has undeniably been achieved, especially within the last few years; the strong showing of films like “Moonlight,” “Call Me By Your Name,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and other LGBTQ-oriented titles on recent Oscar nights has gone neither unnoticed nor unappreciated.

Yet the Academy – as well as the industry it represents – has a pattern of responding to criticism over its inclusiveness in half-measures. It takes more than a hashtag to end sexual harassment of women in the workplace, no matter how many times it’s flashed on the screen during an awards show, and it takes more than a token nomination every few years to give an underrepresented population a fair place at the table, too.

This year’s ceremony was not without its missteps. The choice to bump awards from the broadcast for time while simultaneously devoting minutes to a James Bond tribute or a performance of a song (“We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from Disney’s “Encanto”) that wasn’t even nominated; accompanying the annual “In Memoriam” tribute to the year’s dearly departed with a choreographed dance and vocal performance; the insensitivity of rushing some winners (like “Drive My Car” director Ryusuke Hamaguchi, accepting when his film won for Best International Feature) to finish their speeches while letting others continue uninterrupted; these and other ill-considered decisions had already blemished the show before “the slap heard ‘round the world” ever happened.

Nevertheless, this Oscar show felt more authentic than many in recent memory. There was a raw, unpredictable quality to it, perhaps rooted in the Academy’s controversial choice to relegate several “lesser” awards to a pre-show presentation, that manifested itself in the uncomfortable response of the audience to the often sharp humor of hostesses Sikes, Schuman, and Hall – who mercilessly skewered Hollywood’s say-one-thing-do-another approach to sexism, racism, homophobia and more throughout the show, often with visible apprehension over how their jokes might land.

Nervousness notwithstanding, their presence and their comedic calling-out of industry hypocrisy, along with the willingness of the celebrities in the house to laugh about it, was an element that lifted the proceedings enough to make them not only bearable, but sometimes even enjoyable.

That doesn’t mean the Academy can rest on its laurels. While it’s become common for their awards show – and all the others, for that matter – to serve as a kind of celebrity roast, where jokes are made and laughed at about the industry’s hot-button issue of the day, the persistent problems in Hollywood can’t be corrected just by allowing its workers to blow off steam by making fun of them once a year.

The film industry thinks that by going along with self-mocking humor about its own misogyny, racism, and homophobia, it gets a pass to continue ignoring the growing demand from the public to eliminate those same toxic ingredients from its standard recipe.

Perhaps the Smith incident, based as it seems to have been in a show of masculine dominance, will prompt some soul-searching within the entertainment community over its own rampant hypocrisy. Let’s hope so, because if the Academy Awards are ever to be truly inclusive in their representation of every segment of our society, no matter who they are or who they love, that’s something that has to happen first in the movies their prizes are meant to honor.

We’ve come a long way, to be sure, but we’re not there yet.


Jessica Chastain Accepts the Oscar for Lead Actress:

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First openly queer woman of color, Ariana DeBose wins an Oscar

It was DeBose’s first academy award nomination and Oscar. The awards ceremony was held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood



Ariana DeBose in 'West Side Story' courtesy of Amblin Entertainment & 20th Century Studios

HOLLYWOOD – North Carolina native Ariana DeBose, who identifies as a Black-biracial queer Afro-Latina, won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress Sunday for her portrayal of Anita in Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation of West Side Story.

The film was based on the 1957 Tony award-winning Broadway musical production directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins with music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and a book by Arthur Laurents.

DeBose in the category for Best Supporting Actress has previously won a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA. She was awarded the Oscar over her fellow nominees in the category including Aunjanue Ellis for King Richard, Kirsten Dunst for The Power of The Dog, Jessie Buckley for The Lost Daughter, and Dame Judi Dench for Belfast.

“Imagine this little girl in the back seat of a white Ford Focus. When you look into her eyes, you see an openly queer woman of color, an Afro Latina, who found her strength in life through art. And that’s what I believe we’re here to celebrate,” DeBose said in her acceptance speech.

“So to anybody who’s ever questioned your identity ever, ever, ever or you find yourself living in the gray spaces, I promise you this: There is indeed a place for us,” she added.

It was DeBose’s first academy award nomination and Oscar. The awards ceremony was held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood and were hosted by Out lesbian comedian Wanda Sykes, actors Regina Hall and Amy Schumer.

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