| Best actress Reese Witherspoon (right) and best supporting actress Rachel Weisz pose with their Oscars in Hollywood. Reese won the Oscar for her role in Walk the Line and Rachel for The Constant Gardener. (AFP)
Los Angeles, March 6 (Reuters): The Oscars opened the closet door to gay-themed films but shut it almost as quickly.
Brokeback Mountain, the much-ballyhooed favourite about two gay cowboys, won best director for Ang Lee but stunningly lost the best picture prize to race drama Crash. Additionally, Philip Seymour Hoffman won best actor for playing gay novelist Truman Capote in Capote.
The victory for Crash suggested Oscar voters were more comfortable with a tale that exploited the seamy underbelly of racial conflict in contemporary Los Angeles than with a heartbreaking tale of love between two married men.
“Perhaps the truth really is, Americans don’t want cowboys to be gay,” said Larry McMurtry, 69, who shared an Oscar for best adapted screenplay with Diana Ossana for Brokeback.
No overtly gay love story has ever won a best picture award and, as of Monday morning, none has. Midnight Cowboy became the only adult movie to win the best picture Oscar in 1970 but homosexual love was not the theme of the buddy movie.
The big question going into the Oscars was whether Hollywood, often in the forefront of social issues, would break another taboo.
“Film buffs and the politically minded will be arguing this morning about whether the best picture Oscar to Crash was really for the film’s merit or just a cop-out by the Motion Picture Academy so it wouldn’t have to give the prize to Brokeback Mountain,” said Washington Post critic Tom Shales.
Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan saw Brokeback’s failure as a sign that Hollywood was not yet ready to grant the topic of homosexual love mainstream respectability.
“Despite all the magazine covers it graced, despite all the red-state theatres it made good money in, despite (or maybe because of) all the jokes late-night talk show hosts made about it, you could not take the pulse of the industry without realising that Brokeback Mountain made a number of people distinctly uncomfortable,” he said.
“So for people who were discomfited by Brokeback Mountain but wanted to be able to look themselves in the mirror and feel like they were good, productive liberals, Crash provided the perfect safe harbour.”
Brokeback led the field with eight nominations and ended up with three prizes, also winning for original score. Lee, who also directed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, is the first Asian to win the best director Oscar.
Hoffman won for playing Truman Capote in Capote, a story of the archly gay writer going to Kansas to report on the murder of a family of four for his classic book, In Cold Blood.