The 'Out' Oscars: LGBTQ+ contenders for The Academy's consideration

The Out Oscars
The Out Oscars
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SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES; SHUTTERSTOCK; KAYLA OADDAMS / GETTY IMAGES

It's our favorite season — awards! And in this spirit, Out editors have selected their favorite LGBTQ+ contenders from the 2023 awards season. Some have a real shot of obtaining Oscar gold in February. Others are long-shot candidates who also deserve consideration from members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In either case, these films, writers, directors, actors, and productions won over our hearts, and we applaud them for moving the needle for change on the big screen.

This article is part of the Out January/February issue, which hits newsstands on February 6. Support queer media and subscribe — or download the issue through Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News on January 23.

​Best Documentary Short: 'Relighting Candles: The Tim Sullivan Story'

PAULO MURILLO

Executive produced by Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone, Relighting Candles: The Tim Sullivan Story shines a needed spotlight on a West Hollywood hero whose candle-making company employs those struggling with substance abuse and homelessness. In telling the story of Tim Sullivan, directors Zeb Newman and Michiel Thomas outline the intersectional crises impacting LGBTQ+ people as well as the power of love and empathy to uplift others. Watch the film on Hulu — and buy a candle if you can at TimothyJayCandles.com.

​Best Live-Action Short: 'Strange Way of Life'

COURTESY OF SONY PICTURES CLASSICS

Brokeback Mountain, but make it fashion! Decked out in Yves Saint Laurent, Pedro Almodóvar’s Strange Way of Life is the latest entry in our favorite film genre of all time: queer westerns. Though we would have loved a full-length feature, Almodóvar’s campy, sexy, 31-minute short is the perfect, self-contained treat for fans who have been itching for some gay cowboy action. Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal are the short’s stars, but the two actors who play their younger counterparts, Jason Fernández and José Condessa, steal the show via a wine-filled romp that will have viewers saying yee-haw.

​Best Adapted Screenplay: Andrew Haigh / 'All of Us Strangers'

COURTESY OF SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES

Crafting a modern ghost story that’s also a touching family drama and a searing queer romance is a tall order, but leave it to Looking and Weekend creator Andrew Haigh to fulfill it. Adapted from Strangers, Japanese author Taichi Yamada’s 1987 novel, All of Us Strangers is a one-two punch that delivers all the emotions: the heartache, when we see London screenwriter Adam (Andrew Scott) reconnect with the spirits of his deceased Mum and Dad (Claire Foy and Jamie Bell); and the sexiness, when we see Adam slowly fall in love with his handsome younger neighbor Harry (Paul Mescal).

​Best International Feature: 'Anatomy of a Fall'

COURTESY OF LE PACTE

France sadly did not select Anatomy of a Fall as its Oscars submission. But this Palme d’Or-winning French courtroom drama, directed by Justine Triet and starring Sandra Hüller, is a nail-biting look at a legal system’s scrutiny and stigma toward a foreign bisexual woman, who is fighting to prove her innocence after her husband dies under suspicious circumstances. Whether its protagonist is innocent or not, Anatomy of a Fall has been judged by us to be a triumph.

​Best Original Song: 'Barbie's "What Was I Made For?" by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell

ALBERT L. ORTEGA / GETTY IMAGES

There is no question that Barbie: The Album was the film soundtrack of 2023. Bops abounded with Dua Lipa’s “Dance the Night” and Lizzo’s “Pink.” But Billie Eilish’s “What Was I Made For?” gave the world a soul-searching ballad that became an anthem for many LGBTQ+ listeners. Other queer favorites from the soundtrack include Brandi and Catherine Carlile’s cover of the classic Indigo Girls track “Closer to Fine” and Ryan Gosling’s new camp classic, “I’m Just Ken.”

​Best Original Screenplay: Julian Breece and Dustin Lance Black / 'Rustin'

COLTON HAYNES

It took a decade of research for Julian Breece to write Rustin, the biopic about Bayard Rustin, the Black gay architect of the 1963 March on Washington who for decades remained unsung in history for his accomplishments. Breece, who shares a screenplay credit with Milk writer Dustin Lance Black, conducted hours of interviews with loved ones and Rustin’s surviving partner, Walter Naegle, in order to restore the late activist to history’s pages and create a moving, human portrait.

​Best Documentary: 'Kokomo City'

COURTESY OF MAGNOLIA PICTURES

Out named Grammy-winning director D. Smith to the Out100 in 2023, and for good reason. Kokomo City’s portrayal of four Black trans sex workers in New York and Atlanta — Daniella Carter, Koko Da Doll, Liyah Mitchell, and Dominique Silver — allows these women to tell their own stories and directly speak out against society’s transphobia, sexism, racism, and classism. Shot in stunning black-and-white, the film is both a loving portrait and a clarion call to action

​Best Actor: Colman Domingo / 'Rustin'

SHUTTERSTOCK

Seasoned actor Colman Domingo has built an impressive Hollywood ouevre with productions like Zola, Euphoria, and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. But in 2023, the Out100 honoree delivered a career-best performance as the Black gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. Directed by George C. Wolfe, Netflix’s Rustin is a dazzling showcase for Domingo as well as a heartfelt, three-dimensional portrayal of the unsung architect of the 1963 March on Washington. And it’s been a standout year for the out actor in general, with his performance as Mister in The Color Purple also elevating his name among the Oscar contenders.

​Best Director: Todd Haynes / 'May December'

MATT WINKELMEYER/INDIEWIRE VIA GETTY IMAGES

Todd Haynes (Carol, Far From Heaven) delivers a gripping and envelope-pushing film with Netflix’s May December. The performances from Natalie Portman as Elizabeth and Julianne Moore as Gracie are only strengthened by Haynes’s directorial vision and pacing, which also bring out an absolutely breakout performance from Charles Melton as Joe. This is Haynes at his best — steering the screenwriting debut of Samy Burch and tackling an uncomfortable subject with the proper tension, warmth, and even humor.

​Best Animated Film: 'Nimona'

COURTESY NETFLIX

In a year with several other stunningly beautiful animated projects, Nimona stands above them all by delivering not just a gorgeous, fun, visually unique and lively product, but by also having one of the most important (and best delivered) messages of any movie last year. Filled with creative character designs in a wonderfully built fantasy-sci-fi world, Nimona features powerful voice acting from stars Chloë Grace Moretz, Riz Ahmed, and Eugene Lee Yang. The film is a visual and audio feast that offers a fresh breath of air from usual animated fare. But it also beautifully shows how seeing people for who they are and loving them that way can save the world.

Best Actress: Trace Lysette / 'Monica'

KAYLA OADDAMS / GETTY IMAGES

From 2011 to 2015, four cisgender actors were nominated for Oscars for playing trans roles. But to this date, no out trans actor has ever been nominated. Until this year’s Monica, starring Trace Lysette, trans actors have had very few opportunities to show off Oscar-caliber performances. When Lysette got the chance, she took full advantage of it, delving into the depths of her soul for a searingly powerful performance that shows as much strength as it does restraint. As a trans woman reconnecting with her mother and experiencing the joys of living with family, Lysette shows a humanity that everyone can relate to. It’s an Oscar-worthy performance that could open countless doors for trans performers.

​Best Supporting Actor: Noah Galvin / 'Theater Camp'

COURTESY SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES

There were plenty of stars on-screen for Theater Camp, Ben Platt and Molly Gordon’s mockumentary with a heart about AdirondACTS, a summertime training ground for aspiring Broadway darlings on the brink of being sold to a heartless corporation. But the spotlight shone brightest on Noah Galvin as Glenn, the protean stage manager with a private dream of making it on the stage. As the star of the fictional musical Joan, Still, Galvin, in drag, was the hands-down scene stealer in a movie brimming with “pick me” theater kids.

​Best Supporting Actress: Jodie Foster / 'Nyad'

ELYSE JANKOWSKI/ GETTY IMAGES

While Annette Bening is rightly receiving acclaim for her strong performance as acclaimed swimmer Diana Nyad, it was Jodie Foster, as Diana’s best friend and coach Bonnie Stoll, who gave Netflix’s Nyad its heart. This cinematic depiction of lesbian friendship is one of the best in recent memory, leaving us to encourage Foster to play gay more often.

​Best Picture: 'Barbie'

JAAP BUITENDIJK

Barbie isn’t just a movie; it’s a phenomenon. This pink-saturated, pop-culture lesson in feminism shattered box-office records while also turning conservatives red for portraying a matriarchal society and casting transgender actress Hari Nef as Doctor Barbie. The message from director Greta Gerwig to the world is clear: LGBTQ+ people belong in Barbie Land and the real world, and women should have the power to decide their own destinies. And we’ll have killer dance parties while doing it!