Gay Gold: In 2002, the Oscars Loved Queer Directors

Plus, a good portion of the nominated films pulsed with a queer sensibility. The Hours, Far From Heaven, and Chicago? Will we ever be so blessed again?

Welcome to Gay Gold, our regular look at gay characters, storylines, and performers that were (or weren’t) embraced by the Oscars.

You’d be forgiven for thinking the 2002 Oscars were trying to turn America gay. That’s less because several of the nominees featured gay characters and more because so many of them had a queer sensibility. If you watch Far From Heaven, for instance, you will be suffused with the emotional power of a lilac headscarf, tied just so. (And of hunky pool boys.) A night spent with Y tu mamá también will teach you that teenage boys will always make out with each other if given the opportunity. And if you study About a Boy, then you will learn that men bond best when they sing a duet of “Killing Me Softly With His Song.”

The gayest category that year was absolutely Best Director. For the first time in Oscar history, three of the nominees were openly queer: Stephen Daldry (for The Hours), Pedro Almodovar (for Talk to Her), and Rob Marshall (for Chicago). And all three of them made films that positively vibrate with homosexual energy.

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That’s obviously true of The Hours, whose three interrelated plot lines all hinge on lesbian kisses and whose gay character Richard quotes Virginia Woolf to Meryl Streep before hurling himself out a window. (That’s high on my list of the best ways to die.)

And while Talk to Her doesn’t have any major gay characters — which is shocking for an Almodovar movie — it still has the filmmaker’s wild, campy imagination, especially in a scene where two men fantasize they are climbing inside a giant vagina. As for Chicago… come on. From Queen Latifah delivering butch queen realness to the fact the film is a musical about women unrepentantly killing shifty men, this is one of the gayest goddamned movies of all time.

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Granted, none of these directors actually won the Oscar. That year’s prize went to Roman Polanski for The Pianist, and he couldn’t accept it because he knew that returning to America would mean facing arrest for sexual abuses against a minor. I’ll let those facts speak for themselves.

But still: Chicago won Best Picture that year; Talk to Her won Original Screenplay; and The Hours delivered Best Actress to Nicole Kidman. That equals a big gay victory for a slate of films I’d happily watch at any time.

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