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The 2018 Oscar Nominations Are Kinda Gay, Trans-Inclusive, and a Step in the Right Direction

Tiffany Haddish and Andy Serkis announced the nominations for the 90th Academy Awards Tuesday morning, bringing with them much of the expected with a handful of surprise nods here and there. But from where we were sitting, it was a mixed affair for LGBTQ cinema.

We could sense the winds were changing when, in the first half of the early morning nominations announcement, Call Me By Your Name was shut out of all technical categories even ones like Best Editing and Best Cinematography that signal strength across the board. And indeed, the Andre Aciman adaptation was shut out of a few categories, including Best Supporting Actor (for both Michael Stuhlbarg and Armie Hammer) and Best Director (Luca Guadagnino).

The film ultimately scored four Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Timothée Chalamet), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Song, for Sufjan Stevens’ “Mystery of Love.” It’s a decent haul that maybe seems a bit more paltry than what we hoped for all season. Fellow queer films BPM, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, and Battle of the Sexes were shut out, as expected.

The Oscars did nominate one film with a trans lead character and performer: A Fantastic Woman, the Chilean entry for Best Foreign Language Film. The documentary branch also nominatedStrong Island, directed bytrans filmmakerYance Ford. Those nominations were clear bright spots in a morning that couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointing otherwise.

Truly, five nominations shared between two LGBTQ-inclusive films is no small thing. But after a year in which queer films broke out in a big way, across multiple levels of the industry, this is not the watershed Oscar moment we might’ve hoped for.

Look at Best Director, a truly strong lineup that includes a woman (Greta Gerwig) and a man of color (Jordan Peele). There’s little to be quibbled with regarding how the category turned out and yet it’s disappointing not to see Guadagnino in there. Unlike lead actor Chalamet, Guadagnino is himself gay (as is Best Adapted Screenplay nominee James Ivory, the film’s writer), and it’s still rare for gay directors to be nominated in their category. Just two years ago, Todd Haynes similarly failed to nab a Best Director nod for Carol, even as his straight stars, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, sailed to nominations.

If anything, Tuesday’s nomination announcement is an apt metaphor for where LGBTQ inclusion stands in cinema: There’s progress, but not enough.

Call Me By Your Name’s Best Picture nomination is a feat in and of itself Carol couldn’t get the same in 2016, though Moonlight did last year, eventually snatching the win. Similarly, Ivory’s nomination is a great one; he’s likely to ultimately take gold, too. But it’d be fun if they had some competition from other queer films in their categories.

For now, we can celebrate Call Me By Your Name and A Fantastic Woman’s recognition. Just 10 or so years ago, their success would be unfathomable. Let’s hope in 10 more years, we’ll see full Best Picture lineups of at-least-kinda gay movies. It’s what the future of the Oscars deserves.