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Jamie Lee Curtis’ Oscar Nomination Is a Win for Gay Hollywood

Collider 5 days ago Brecken Hunter Wellborn
© Provided by Collider

Like every movie fan who treats the Oscars like the Super Bowl, I set my alarm early this morning for the annual announcement of the Academy Award nominations. I also set my expectations for another year of disappointment. Though she was nominated for nearly every precursor award, I prepared myself for Jamie Lee Curtis’ name not to be called. Then, Allison Williams and Riz Ahmed began the announcement with the nominees for Actress in a Supporting Role, and to my delight, Ahmed announced Curtis as a nominee for her performance in Everything Everywhere All at Once. With her first—and long overdue—Oscar nomination, Jamie Lee Curtis finally broke the Gay Diva Oscars Curse.

Hollywood Has Snubbed Gay-Endorsed Hollywood Divas in the Past

Over the past several years, it has become a regular occurrence for the Academy to overlook performances like Curtis’ despite their prominence throughout awards season. For Your Consideration campaigns be damned, iconic gay-endorsed Hollywood divas routinely fail to garner a nod. In 2019, Toni Collette couldn’t possess a nomination for Hereditary. In 2020, Jennifer Lopez’s Hustlers hustle didn’t pay off. Last year, Lady Gaga failed to gag the Academy in House of Gucci. Year after year, the gays are left to mourn as one of their cherished divas is left unnoticed by Oscar.

The disappointment with these oversights is not just about not seeing long-supported divas reach Oscar glory. It’s also about not seeing recognition for performances that fine tune campiness to the level of prestige that, as a bonus, are crafted by women with a significant gay stanbase. Camp is, by nature, not an aesthetic of seriousness. In fact, many camp performances earn their camp status by being so serious that they circle all the way back around to being ridiculous. And yet, each of the performances listed above manage to walk the tightrope between exaggerated fantasy and empathetic realism so perfectly that they are simultaneously larger-than-life and down-to-earth.

Consider the two sides of Collette’s performance as Annie Graham in Hereditary. On one, Collette communicates the depths of spiraling grief as Annie reels from the unexpected loss of her daughter. On the other, she portrays a possessed woman who does, when extracted from their context in the film, ridiculous things like climb on ceilings and cut her own head off. Despite the over-the-topness of Annie’s possessed behavior, Collette’s performance never veers too far into exaggeration because she grounds the character with genuine emotional resonance.

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Though starring in extremely dissimilar films, Lopez and Gaga achieve a similar feat in Hustlers and House of Gucci, respectively. Both Lopez’s performance as Ramona and Gaga’s as Patrizia embody their respective characters’ guile and confidence, as well as their dimensionality. Significantly, each of these characters are also primed for camp’s aesthetic register through their costuming and hairstyling. Ramona’s stage outfits and Patrizia’s parade of wigs push their characters to the edge of fantasy, but through their emotionality, both Lopez and Gaga keep their characters feeling authentic.

Jamie Lee Curtis' Oscar Nomination Is a Win for Camp

With each of these performances being overlooked, it seemed only reasonable that this curse would continue. Enter Curtis’ performance as Deirdre Beaubierdre, an IRS inspector whose limited grasp on power has replaced her capacity for love. At the aesthetic register, Curtis is primed for camp appreciation. Deirdre’s choppy bob, mustard turtleneck, and canary vest make for an instantly iconic character design that perfectly matches Deidre’s personality. In the film’s initial universe, Curtis authentically brings Deirdre to life through punctuated line delivery, furrowed brows, and a condescending tone. Her authenticity grounds her character’s more exaggerated gestures, like when she hilariously and unexpectedly slurps down a shake and aggressively tosses it in a trash can, beautifully toeing the line between the serious and the superficial.

What makes Curtis’ performance so exceptional is that she is able to balance these facets of her performance no matter how many alternate versions of her character she plays across the film’s parallel universes. For example, in the hot dog fingers universe, Curtis manages to bring the necessary humorous touches to the scenario, while creating genuine empathy for her character. It takes a masterful performance to bring audiences to tears while a character plays the piano with her toes, and Curtis certainly hones the moment’s ridiculousness into genuine emotion. Thank the Oscar gods that the Academy finally recognized such a finely tuned camp performance.

Hopefully, the Gay Diva Oscars Curse is broken for good. Maybe this is the beginning of a new era for gays getting what they want at the Oscars, like five backdated Best Actress trophies for Neve Campbell, or an honorary award for Achievement in Hunty for M3GAN. Most important, though, is that Curtis’ well-deserved nomination signals that the Academy is recognizing the work of women who perfectly balance the fantasy and reality on screen in a way that brings fantasy to our reality.

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