Indiewire just updated their (very early) Oscar predictions for this year, and they reflect the very real possibility that a whopping half of this year’s female acting nominations could go to portrayals of gay women. Lesbians have represented at the Oscars before. Charlize Theron won for playing one. Nicole Kidman sort of did. Annette Bening almost did. But 5 of 10 nominees? That would be wild, as would the possibility that openly gay Lily Tomlin could get a nomination for playing someone openly gay.
A lesbian actress has never been nominated for playing a lesbian character, and only 6 women in total — Kidman (“The Hours”), Bening (“The Kids Are All Right”), Theron (“Monster”), Julianne Moore (“The Hours”), Judi Dench (“Notes on a Scandal”) and the pioneer, Cher (“Silkwood”) — have ever been nominated for playing a lesbian. Tomlin would become only the second gay person to be nominated for playing a gay person (Ian McKellen is currently the only other example).
Tomlin would get that nomination for Paul Weitz’s “Grandma,” where she plays a lesbian poet who goes on a roadtrip with her granddaughter after she breaks up with her longterm partner. Its Tomlin’s first lead role in a film in over 27 years, and she’s incredible in it. Sony Pictures Classics is surely going to rev up a campaign for her come fall, in hopes of giving 75 year old Tomlin her first Oscar nomination since 1975, when she was nominated for “Nashville.” Our fingers are firmly crossed (as are they for Jane Fonda to also get a nomination for recent Cannes premiere “Youth” because having those two at the Oscars together would be so, so dreamy).
If Tomlin does get in, she would almost certainly be competing against Cate Blanchett, who got insanely good reviews out of Cannes for Todd Haynes’ “Carol” (many saying its a performance on par with her own in “Blue Jasmine”). Blanchett plays half of a 1950s lesbian romance in the film, the other half being played by Rooney Mara, who beat out Blanchett for Cannes’ Best Actress award. Mara is a very likely nominee too, though The Weinstein Company could very well campaign her in supporting (where she’d have a better shot at winning). Either way, that’s 3 likely lesbian nominees from films that have already screened.
And then there’s “Freeheld,” which we’ll likely not get a first look at until the Toronto Film Festival. Last year’s winner Julianne Moore pairs up with Ellen Page in the Oscar bait story of real life woman Laurel Hester (Moore), a police officer in Ocean County, New Jersey. Following her diagnosis with terminal lung cancer in 2005, Hester repeatedly appealed to the county’s board of chosen freeholders in an attempt to ensure her pension benefits could be passed on to her domestic partner, Stacie Andree (Page). The film is actually based on a documentary short that won an Oscar, and is written by the same man who got a nomination for his screenplay for “Philadelphia.” We obviously won’t know until we see it, but both Moore and Page sure seem like contenders for now… That would also make Moore the only person to receive two nominations for playing queer characters.