The stories of transgender people have helped a lot of folks find awards season glory over the years. Hilary Swank and Jared Leto are the most obvious examples, each of them winning Oscars for their performances in “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Dallas Buyers Club,” respectively. But the latter’s win in particular brought with it a loud call for more trans actors and actresses being cast in trans roles. Wouldn’t it be nice if an actual transperson was up their winning an Oscar, people dreamed.
The primary reason why that has never been the case is not really the fault of Oscar voters. The amount of trans performers that have been given the material to warrant Oscar consideration is pretty much zero. Until now, at least. Sean Baker’s extraordinarily raw and affecting “Tangerine” is gearing up an Oscar campaign for actresses Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez — and they are just as worthy as sure-fire nominee Eddie Redmayne, who plays a transwoman in “The Danish Girl.”
The scrappy campaign — which is forgoing traditional “For Your Consideration” advertising — will officially kick off on Tuesday night, during an Academy conversation with the Duplass brothers, where Jay and Mark will show a clip from the film. Magnolia plans on sending “Tangerine” screeners to the actors branch of the Academy, as well as cinematographers (the movie was shot on an iPhone 5s) and screenwriters, in a bid to gain heat for the script, which Baker developed with his actresses and co-writer Chris Bergoch.
“Tangerine” will surely be mentioned in a lot of year-end stories about the best films and performances of 2015. But for that to translate into an Oscar nomination is a tall order. “Tangerine” is a tiny film and it’s not going to have the money behind it for a Eddie Redmayne-sized campaign, which is why folks need to a) see it, b) bang the drums for it in every which way possible and c) spend the next few months talking about why Rodriguez and aylor should be in the Oscar conversation. Oscar voters will finally no longer have the excuse that there’s “no great performances by trans actors to nominate,” they just need to become well aware of that fact between now and January.
“This is the time for it,” Duplass told Vatiety of the Academy nominating a transgender actor for playing a transgender part. “We’re in the middle of a civil rights movement.”