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Academy Awards - 2000

     It was hetero retro at the Oscars, as the silver-haired Playboy-era gang, 60s and 70s hipsters all, Jack Nicholson huffing and preening on stage, provided the tired dominant discourse of last Sunday's 72nd Academy Awards. James Coburn drooled over which pretty starlet he would present with Best Supporting Actress. Cinematographer Conrad L. Hall, blithefully pollitically incorrect, explained his motivation for shooting American Beauty came with an epiphany that every older guy has the hots for 16-year-old girls. Then he thanked his children and grandchildren!

     And there was the mostly incoherent mother-and-the-whore ramblings of Warren Beatty, jesting about his notorious once-a-bachelor conquests and then, embarrassingly maudlin, placing his much-pregnant wife, Annette Bening, on a public pedestal. Because she's kept always in a delicate condition with a Beatty child?

     Other old-time womanizers, Michael Caine and Phil Collins, also came in from the cold and, seemingly cured, used the Academy Award platform to go off on their doting wives and bountiful kids--not only Kathie Lee tediously names names! It surely was a kamikaze antidote to this piling-on of born-again family values when John Irving used his few seconds after his screenwriting Oscar to assert that The Cider House Rules supports women's organizations and "abortion rights." Yes, he uttered the verboten-in-Hollywood "a" word, "abortion," not "pro-choice."

     Even more subversive: all that blabbering of the Hollywood near-ancients, all the genuflecting before "cool" Grinnin' Jack, couldn't keep down, or out of our TV picture, an amazing alternative, celebratory New Hollywood for the year 2000: the ascendancy at the Oscars of gay and lesbian sensibility.

     Who knows the sexual orientation of the Academy members? Right now, they are far more prone than ever before to vote for quality gay and lesbian movies beyond the mainstream. We're really post-post Philadelphia when such idiosyncratic gender-twisters as Pedro Almodovar's All About My Mother and Kimberly Peirce's Boys Don't Cry, both uncompromised projects by overtly homosexual writer-directors, garner Academy Awards.

     Hollywood 2000? By all accounts, it's more and more like Broadway. There's queerness rampant before and behind the camera and also, startlingly new, in the highest studio circles, where decisions are made, where sexually risky projects are greenlighted. Boys Don't Cry was co-produced by Killer Films, home base of the legendary lesbian indie producer, Christine Vachon. It was financed and distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures, which includes, among its key executives, Lindsay Law, who is openly gay. The three partners of DreamWorks are Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and gay powermonger David Geffen. That's the mini-studio which made American Beauty which, don't forget, combines a heterosexual male fantasy principal story with a forceful anti-gay bashing subplot.

     American Beauty's Oscar-winning screenwriter, Alan Ball, says The Village Voice, is out of the closet. I'm not going to get into guessing which is/which isn't among the other American Beauty winners – Sam Mendes for Best Direction, Kevin Spacey for Best Actor, etc. – but let's just say that it was telling, and refreshing, to hear all those mothers, fathers, sisters, and grandparents thanked, and not, for once, anyone's glorified opposite-sex spouse.

     The final celebrants of the Oscars were American Beauty's two young producers, giving quick speeches at the point of the night where its usually some blowhard veteran executive sounding off sanctimoniously, a cigar-puffer with five mistresses. Again refreshing. And again, I don't know for sure their sexual thing – but they just might swing differently from Warren and Jack.

     In Hollywood 2000, the mantle has been passed.

     Bonnie and Clyde? Why not Bobby and Clyde?

GERALD PEARY
(March, 2000)

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