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'Everything Everywhere,' 'Tár' and 'The Whale' are among the Oscars' queer contenders

Queer creators and films with LGBTQ themes have plenty of potential to sweep and earn history-making wins at the 95th Academy Awards ceremony.
Brendan Fraser in "The Whale", Cate Blanchett in "Tar", and Stephanie Hsu in "Everything Everywhere All at Once".
Brendan Fraser in "The Whale," Cate Blanchett in "Tár" and Stephanie Hsu in "Everything Everywhere All At Once."A24; Focus Features

After winning the hearts of audiences and critics in 2022, big-hearted sci-fi dramedy “Everything Everywhere All At Once” lived up to expectations on Tuesday by securing 11 Oscar nominations — and beating out international favorite “The Banshees of Inisherin,” sleeper hit “All Quiet on the Western Front” and Baz Luhrmann extravaganza “Elvis.” It was by far the biggest showing for queer cinema as the nominees for this year’s ceremony were announced in an early-morning livestream, hosted by Allison Williams (“M3GAN”) and Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”).

In addition to spots in most of the craft categories, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” earned nominations for directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, as well as first-time nominations for all of its central cast members. As with castmates Michelle Yeoh, nominated for best actress, and Ke Huy Quan, nominated for best supporting actor, Stephanie Hsu’s name drew particular applause during her category’s announcement. In the film, Hsu — who will face off against fellow cast member Jamie Lee Curtis for best supporting actress — gives a particularly moving performance as a daughter who will go to the ends of the multiverse to win her traditional mother’s approval and no longer feel like an outsider because of her queerness.

Although the film earned the same number of nominations as 2021’s queer favorite, “The Power of the Dog,” it is expected to take home many more awards in the end. The visually stunning film about a sexually repressed Montana rancher only managed to earn one award, for director Jane Campion. Notably, after Campion became just the third woman to ever win best director at last year’s ceremony, not a single female director was nominated this time around.  

Todd Field, the director of one of 2022’s critical favorites, “Tár,” did however make the cut. Overall, the lesbian power-trip flick made a lesser showing than the Daniels’ queer kung-fu film. But its six nominations included spots in the evening’s biggest categories, including best picture, best cinematography, best original screenplay and, predictably, best actress.

With her spot in the best actress category confirmed, Cate Blanchett, who has already won a Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award for playing the film’s world-famous, womanizing composer, Lydia Tár, joins an elite group of stars to be nominated for eight acting Oscars. While she faces tough competition in Yeoh, Blanchett stands a good chance of taking home a win for her undeniable tour de force as a woman pushed to the brink — and perhaps beyond — by her whirlwind fall from grace. If Blanchett manages to pull it off, it will be a redemption of sorts for legions of queer fans who watched heartbroken as the lesbian icon lost to Brie Larson (“Room”) in 2016, the year she was nominated for “Carol.” 

To the disappointment of “Tár” fans, Blanchett is the film’s only cast member with a chance of taking home a golden statue at the evening’s awards in March, despite impressive performances by co-stars Noémie Merlant (“Portrait of a Lady on Fire”), who plays the composer’s disillusioned assistant and former lover, and Nina Hoss (“Phoenix”), who plays the composer’s much put-upon wife and first violin.

One actor who didn’t get snubbed for his turn as a queer character is Brendan Fraser, who plays the 600-pound protagonist of director Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale.” Fraser has already won multiple prestigious awards — including, most recently, the Critics Choice Award for best actor — for the role of Charlie, a gay, homebound English teacher who tries to reconnect with his daughter before he essentially eats himself to death. But an Oscar for best actor would be the ultimate prize in what has been a victorious comeback tour for the former heartthrob following his decadelong virtual exodus from Hollywood.

In addition to Fraser’s first best actor nomination, Aronofsky’s controversial tearjerker earned a spot for first-time nominee Hong Chau, who plays Charlie’s best friend and caretaker, in the best supporting actress category, as well as a best makeup and hairstyling nod. 

As expected, two other LGBTQ-themed films received nominations in major categories: Laura Poitras’ “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” and Lukas Dhont’s “Close.” If Poitras’ film about the artist and activist Nan Goldin takes home the award for best documentary feature category, it will be the second Oscar for the filmmaker, who won for her 2014 Edward Snowden documentary, “Citizenfour.” A win in best international feature would be the first for Dhont, whose sophomore feature about two 13-year-old boys torn apart by peer pressure is Belgium’s official entry this year.

All in all, queer creators and films with LGBTQ themes have plenty of potential to sweep and earn history-making wins at the 95th Academy Awards ceremony, which will take place on March 12 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Although, no one can ever predict what will happen on Hollywood’s biggest night.