2023 Oscar nominations: The queer winners and losers

Gays who have to choose either Michelle Yeoh or Cate Blanchett in the Best Actress race are among the losers

The 2023 Academy Awards return on March 12, and nominations for the annual awards dropped Tuesday morning to plenty of fanfare. 

Actors Riz Ahmed and Allison Williams (the latter, who just “boots the house down, slayed” us in M3GAN), announced the nominees across 23 categories. Everything Everywhere All At Once led the pack with 11 nominations, including acting nods for Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu and Jamie Lee Curtis. All Quiet on the Western Front and The Banshees of Inisherin followed with nine nominations each.

While the “Michelle Yeoh vs. Cate Blanchett” Best Actress race is the title fight, there are plenty of supporting storylines the queers are bound to be invested in on Oscars night, from people we will reluctantly root for to mourning the snubs that could’ve been.

Here are some big queer winners and losers from the 2023 Oscar nominations.

WINNER: Over-the-top excess 

Credit: Credit: Allyson Riggs/A24

The absolute domination of Everything Everywhere All at Once, an objectively queer film however you look at it, could be a sign that Oscar voters are more willing to embrace a little bit of fun—good news for the gays in general. EEAAO is the most-nominated film of 2023, with 11 nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and a double hit in Best Supporting Actress (including the openly queer Stephanie Hsu!). The fact that a movie with multiple dildos, a lesbian daughter, Sapphic hot-dog-finger romance and Chekhov’s buttplug is the most-nominated film of 2023 is a good sign for all of us and the future of movie-making. Awards don’t just have to go to painfully restrained “serious” movies—sometimes we can have a little bit of fun. And whether EEAAO wins it all or not, we’ll likely see its influence on Hollywood in the years to come. More buttplugs, please!

LOSER: The Janelle Monáe hive

Credit: Courtesy Netflix

When Monáe won the Critics’ Choice “SeeHer” Award earlier this month, she took the stage with a declarative tone.

“I’m Janelle Monáe and my pronouns are she/her, they/them and free-ass motherfucker,” they said, before later using their speech to address issues of identity and representation.

“I’ve tried to make an effort in my work—whether it’s storytelling through music, through film, through TV, through fashion, through literature—to highlight the ones who have been pushed to the margins of society, who’ve been outcast or relegated to the other,” she said. “I am non-binary, I am queer and my identity influences my decisions in my work.”

 

Monáe’s mind-bending performance in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery was viewed as a potential contender in a stacked Best Supporting Actress field, and just missed out on a nomination. With no Monáe in the mix, we miss out the chance for a similarly powerful statement on Hollywood’s biggest stage. 

WINNER: Documentary lovers

Credit: Courtesy TIFF

For many years, the Best Documentary Feature category skated by for most viewers (unless you have a My Octopus Teacher-esque situation). But this year, there are several worth rooting for and diving into—including for the queers. 

Navalny, about the Russian opposition leader, is the obvious frontrunner, as is the strikingly contained volcano love story Fire of Love. But if you’re looking for a film that dives into a vital chapter of queer history AND has a good chance of winning, check out All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, which follows the life and career of photographer Nan Goldin. Goldin was well known for documenting LGBTQ2S+ communities during the AIDS crisis, and later became an advocate against big pharma companies for their role in the opioid crisis. 

LOSER: Brendan Fraser stans who feel like we have to root for The Whale now

Credit: Courtesy A24

The Whale is not a good movie. And yet, it is probably the movie that will win Brendan Fraser his Oscar. From its unforgivably fatphobic premise and execution to its clunky direction and strained supporting performances, the film itself is a mess. Director Darren Aronofsky has crafted an emotionally manipulative, leering and grossly framed adaptation of the stage play of the same name. And yet at its centre is a tender and emotive performance from Fraser. 

Considering what he’s gone through in the industry after coming forward in 2018 with accusations about being sexually assaulted by then Hollywood Foreign Press Association member Philip Berk in 2003, we’re all rooting for Brendan Fraser. For queers who remember him in Gods and Monsters or The Mummy, he’s many of our queer roots. It’s just a shame his big moment in the spotlight is going to come in such an unfortunate context.

Sure, Austin Butler or Colin Farrell may also win. But if I were a betting them, I’d put my money on Fraser to take it—and for a legion of queers, myself included, to try and block the film that won him the statue from our minds forever.

WINNER: Little Monsters and The Navy 

Is “Hold My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick Lady Gaga’s best song ever? No! Is she going to win? Maybe not! Is an Oscars with Gaga in attendance always better? You better believe it!!

After striking out with her House of Gucci Best Actress campaign last year, Gaga returns to the Oscars stage for the first time since the iconic A Star Is Born year as a nominee for Best Original Song. Whether she performs her ’80s-style power ballad live or simply makes an appearance on the red carpet, we all know Little Monsters will be feasting. 

Meanwhile, a nomination for Rihanna’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever snoozer “Lift Me Up” means the star has a chance to kick off her 2023 return year with a double feature of the Super Bowl in February and the Oscars in March. Sure, the song itself was underwhelming for fans. But RiRi on the red carpet? That we can all agree on.

And if you are neither a Little Monster or a member of The Navy, but are instead a sad bisexual, I’ve got good news! Mitski scored a surprise nomination in the category for her song “This Is A Life” with Son Lux and David Byrne from Everything Everywhere All At Once. So get ready to feel some feelings!

LOSER but also WINNER: Queer folks trying to pick a favourite in the Best Actress race

Credit: Courtesy Universal Pictures

I mean, this is just painful. Instead of having to pick between our two favourite children, this feels like having to choose your favourite mother. Both Cate Blanchett and Michelle Yeoh are known faves for the queers (and everyone, frankly), but only one of them can win Best Actress this year. Sure, Ana de Armas, Andrea Riseborough, and Michelle Williams are also there. But we know it’s coming down to the big two. 

In one corner is Blanchett with a career-defining performance as the problematic lesbian maestro Lydia Tár. While some critics are polarized about the film itself’s perfection (for the record, I am firmly in the “pro-Tár camp”), Blanchett’s performance has been universally praised for its depth, breadth and pure embodiment. From tight-lipped tension to frenetic conducting to pompous takedowns of university students, the Australian actress lives in the skin of Lydia Tár the entire run-time of Todd Fields’s film. For an actor with two Oscars already—plus five more nominations—many critics agree that this is her best performance yet. And in any other year she would win.

Credit: Allyson Riggs/A24

But this is no other year, and you have to feel like the entire lead-up to these Oscars has centred on Michelle Yeoh. Unlike Blanchett, Yeoh hasn’t had the string of Oscars-bait performances. But her turn in Everything Everywhere All at Once, as a mother navigating the multiverse, is nothing short of extraordinary. She is literally everything everywhere all at once, from a laundromat owner to a chef to a rock in an empty canyon. And Yeoh, an industry veteran who hasn’t yet had the chance to sink her teeth into a meaty role like this, is among the most deserving there is. 

Whoever your mother of choice may be, I know some intense battles will play out at queer Oscars viewing parties around the world come March 12. And while I joke about us being losers for it, let’s be real: in a year like this for Best Actress, the gays all win. 

Senior editor Mel Woods is an English-speaking Vancouver-based writer and audio producer and a former associate editor with HuffPost Canada. A proud prairie queer and ranch dressing expert, their work has also appeared in Vice, Slate, the Tyee, the CBC, the Globe and Mail and the Walrus.

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