|Scene from Tangerine|
As I have stated many times throughout this past year, things are looking to be far more interesting for LGBT culture in the mainstream. As silly as it may sound, the culture has shifted quite impressively in ways that are being impacted in media. The Amazon Prime series Transparent has continually racked up awards and nominations. Likewise, gay marriage is now legal in America, and Caitlin Jenner became a highly influential transgender woman. With a lot of gay-themed movies either out (Stonewall, Freeheld) or coming very soon (Carol, The Danish Girl), it looks to be at least a more noteworthy time. This will also be a very interesting time for another reason. Thanks to new Academy members Mark and Jay Duplass, this is going to be the first year that a transgender actress is campaigning for an Oscar nomination.
Performances depicting transgender stories aren't uncommon. The most recent example is that of Jared Leto, who won Best Supporting Actor for Dallas Buyers Club. This year marks another promising turn by Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl; a story about the first trans woman to undergo surgery. However, this is different from awarding a performance by a transgender performer, male or female. In every case in the past, all of the Oscar-nominated/winning performers have been cis-gendered, or straight. While TV awards shows have been quicker to recognize actual transgender performers like Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black), it does feel like The Academy is behind on the subject. In comes The Duplass Brothers.
One of the acclaimed indies of the summer was director Sean Baker's Tangerine. The film focused on two transgender women travelling through Los Angeles, California on Christmas Eve. On top of the acclaim, the film received a lot of credit for being shot entirely on iPhone 5s. However, the performances went well beyond the gimmick with excellent performances by Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor. Even if the film failed to break $1 million at the box office, it quickly gained traction and The Duplass Brothers are looking to help it get into the Oscars conversation.
In general, The Duplass Brothers are associated with indie comedies and dramas such as Jeff Who Lives at Home. Even if they don't necessarily strike you as influential awards figures, they're looking to make Tangerine's Rodriguez get some awards recognition with consideration of sending screeners out to the acting branch of The Academy. The studio Magnolia will help in any way it can to make this a reality. For now, it's mostly about spreading the word and hopefully gaining a buzz.
While dozens of films per year have similar campaigns that inevitably fail (see: Cake), this one feels like more than just looking ugly or self-effacing. While Tangerine remains relatively unknown to audiences, there's small chances that it can gain traction through awards season thanks to video on demand and whatever other awards The Duplass Brothers are aiming for. While I am one of the many who unfortunately haven't seen the film yet, I do hope that this leads to change and that performers of all sexuality can compete. Hopefully this will pan out, though I am just as skeptical of its chances. Still, it's an exciting day when there's a new way to spice up awards season. Now the trick is to see if it works.