Guest blogger Todd Camp is the Artistic Director of Q Cinema, Fort Worth’s Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival.
Hand-wringing over the annual popularity pageant know as the Academy Awards will steadily ramp up over the weeks as we count down to the big broadcast on Feb. 22. Danny Boyle’s endearing indie Slumdog Millionaire (10 nominations) might be the early best-picture favorite, but the Oscar ovation wasn’t too much out of the blue after the film’s sweep at the Golden Globes this month.
But the reassuring recognition of Gus Van Sant’s Milk, which picked up eight noms, has me breathing easier, especially after it was virtually ignored by the Globes’ foreign press lot. Granted, it’s decidedly American, and many countries still aren’t that cool with the gays.
But Van Sant, who earns his second best director nod here (after Good Will Hunting), has delivered a powerhouse of a film that comes along at just the right time. As the country rallies around a historic political figure whose message of hope offers promise anew, Sean Penn’s stellar performance (the best of his career) as California’s first openly gay elected political official resonates with surprising (bordering on eerie) relevance.
Whether or not the film has the traction with Academy voters to hold its own against the Slumdog juggernaut or the much-ballyhooed sheen of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (itself earning 13 noms) remains to be seen. Penn is certainly in the running for best actor, and after Hollywood’s nearly unforgiveable anointing of Crash over Brokeback Mountain in 2006, the red carpet could be (and should be) rainbow colored this year.