Can ‘Moonlight’ make the Oscar history ‘Brokeback Mountain’ should have made 11 years ago?
If Moonlight is able to pull an upset and beat front-runner La La Land for Best Picture at Sunday’s Academy Awards, it will make history.
It would mark the first time that a gay-themed film has won the evening’s top prize.
‘Movies that feature characters like this they don’t arise very often. When they do, these characters are marginalized and not centered,’ Moonlight writer-director Barry Jenkins told me earlier this month.
Moonlight chronicles the life of a young black man from childhood to adulthood as he struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.
The film is up for eight Oscars overall.
‘It was a lot to expect this widespread an audience to take the journey with our main character,’ Jenkins says.
‘It’s been a pleasant surprise. The performances are very truthful. I think people enter the cinema, they see and hear things that defy their expectations.’
If Moonlight were to win, the victory would be coming 11 long years after the honor was widely expected to happen for Brokeback Mountain, a gay-themed drama about two ranch hands who fall in love.
While Brokeback is considered a classic and won Oscars for director, screenplay and score, Best Picture went to the now mostly forgotten ensemble drama Crash.
No matter what happens with Best Picture, it’s a certainty that Oscars’ perfect record of never having an openly gay winner in the four acting categories will remain intact.
None of the 20 actors or actresses nominated in lead or supporting categories are known to be gay or bisexual.
In fact, since the Oscars were first presented in 1929, less than a handful of acting nominees now known to be gay were out publicly when they won.
Jodie Foster, best actress winner for The Accused and The Silence of the Lambs came out more than 20 years after her wins.
Joel Grey, winner of the 1972 supporting actor for Cabaret, came out more than 40 years after his win.
The late John Gielgud, winner of the 1982 supporting actor Oscar for Arthur, was known to be gay in his personal life but he did not ever discuss it publicly.
But there have been plenty of openly gay winners in other categories.
They include screenplay winners Dustin Lance Black (Milk), Bill Condon (Gods & Monsters), Alan Ball (American Beauty) and Pedro Almodóvar (Talk to Her).
Out artists have also been well-represented in the Best Original Song category with two wins by Howard Ashman (The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast) whose second Oscar was accepted posthumously by his partner Bill Rauch. It was the first Academy Award given to someone who lost their life to AIDS.
Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim won for his song from Dick Tracy, Elton John for one of his songs in The Lion King and Melissa Etheridge for a song in the documentary An Inconvenient Truth.
Then last year Sam Smith won for the theme from the James Bond film Spectre and mistakenly claimed to be the first openly gay Oscar winner.
He wasn’t the first and hopefully won’t be the last.