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15 Gay Performances Overlooked by Oscar

Every year the Golden Globes, Spirit Awards, and Screen Actors Guild Awards offer up a sneak peek at who's likely to be nominated for Oscars -- and, by that indication, this year Colin Firth will likely join the many stellar actors and actresses before him who have gone gay and delivered truly fine performances.

But just as often, Oscar gets it wrong and overlooks a performance that is truly worthy of note. The Advocate has selected 15 actors and actresses who have gone gay, gotten the raves, and still come up short when the nominees were revealed. Take a look at some of the performances we think are important, and let us know who got the Oscar shaft for playing gay that you think deserved to make the cut.

Matt Damon: Best Actor for his work as Tom Ripley in The Talented Mr. Ripley -- Matt Damon has only been nominated for one Oscar for acting, which is a shame, because his performance in The Talented Mr. Ripley is the finest work this character actor in a leading man's body has ever done. Damon becomes Ripley -- every last obsessed, neurotic, overbearing, and intense tic. Jude Law was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for his work here, which, while good, didn't even register in the same league as Damon's deeply nuanced performance.

Sharon Stone: Best Actress for her work as Catherine Trammell in Basic Instinct -- Gay audiences were livid over the bisexual seductress turned murderer Sharon Stone played to the hilt in Basic Instinct. But 17 years after the film was first released in theaters, her Catherine Trammell is every inch as chilling. Plus, the anger fades with time -- and with Stone's nearly two decades of dedication to gay rights and AIDS charities. Besides, had Stone been nominated for an Oscar here, one can't help but wonder if we'd have been spared her appalling one-two-three follow-up of Sliver (horny book editor), The Specialist (horny mob wife), and The Quick and the Dead (horny gunslinger).

Nathan Lane: Best Supporting Actor for his work as Albert Goldman in The Birdcage -- Nathan Lane's performance in The Birdcage is too often dismissed as a two-hour stereotype or just an over-the-top retread of Dustin Hoffman's turn in Tootsie. But Lane's was a star-making performance, and he managed to steal the film right out from under another comic genius playing gay -- Robin Williams. Lane scored an American Comedy Award and a Screen Actors Guild ensemble award for The Birdcage, but as is too often the case, come Oscar time his comedic efforts were ignored.

Annette Bening: Best Actress for her work as Deirdre Burroughs in Running With Scissors -- The movie may have been one colossal mess, but Annette Bening is at the top of her game as Deirdre Burroughs, the mentally unbalanced, free-loving mom to Augusten in this adaptation of his memoir. Here Bening shacks up with both Kristin Chenoweth and Gabrielle Union before going off the deep end, and thanks to some truly cutting one-liners, she gives a performance to remember.

Tim Curry: Best Actor for his work as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show -- Amid all the shameless hedonism, outlandish costumes, referential song lyrics, and spoofs of horror and sci-fi genre tropes, Curry owns the screen as sweet transvestite Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Curry's indelible performance -- moving with ease from outrageous camp to relatable melancholy -- is the reason Rocky Horror remains the cult film against which all others are measured.

Queen Latifah: Best Supporting Actress for her work as Cleo in Set It Off -- It's interesting considering all the attention that's paid to Queen Latifah's is-she-or-isn't-she sexual orientation that the actress would admit this is her favorite role. Cleo is a rough, in-your-face, down-and-dirty lesbian who robs banks and takes no prisoners. It's Latifah's breakout role -- the one that got casting directors to stop treating her like a rapper who acts and start treating her like the actress who would go on to be Oscar-nominated for playing another woman with questionable sexual tendencies -- prison warden Mama Morton in Chicago.

Patricia Clarkson: Best Supporting Actress for her work as Greta in High Art -- The actress couldn't be more different from her character, a German lesbian heroin addict. While Patricia is sweet and focused, Greta is toxic and incoherent. Staggering, slurring, but still smart enough to hurl caustic barbs, Clarkson beautifully possesses Greta, who symbolizes the dead-end life of drugs that holds a powerful sway over Ally Sheedy's Lucy.

Leonard Frey: Best Supporting Actor for his work as Harold in The Boys in the Band -- Call Frey's portrayal of the annihilating, venomous birthday boy Harold a stereotype of the self-loathing homosexual from a bygone era (1970) if you must, but, hey, the guy sure knows how to make an entrance. Frey burns a hole through the screen when he first appears as the self-described "32-year-old, ugly, pockmarked Jew fairy," and none of the guests at his party will emerge unscathed.

Meryl Streep: Best Actress for her work as Clarissa Vaughan in The Hours -- It seems odd to suggest that Streep has ever been overlooked -- with two wins and 13 other nods she's Oscar's all-time favorite actor, and her career is now hotter than ever. Yet she was the only principal cast member in this haunting film adaptation of Michael Cunningham's best seller who didn't get recognized by the Academy. As the patient, put-upon Clarissa Vaughan (a present-day version of Mrs. Dalloway) Streep sheds the calculated technique for which she's noted and delivers her most natural performance. Made to feel her life is trivial by her dying friend Richard (Ed Harris), the always composed Clarissa eventually breaks down in a scene that is as fine a piece of acting as Streep has ever committed to celluloid.

Terence Stamp: Best Actor for his work as Bernadette in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert -- Stamp's role as Bernadette, a transgender woman rolling through the Australian backcountry with a couple of drag queens, was a history-making tour de force that paved the way for other three-dimensional trans roles (think Felicity Huffman in Transamerica). Strong, mannered, and even beautiful, Bernadette was a revelation at the time -- and Stamp's brave and thoughtful performance made her possible.

River Phoenix: Best Actor for his work as Mike in My Own Private Idaho -- In Gus Van Sant's dreamlike film, which transports Shakespeare's Henry IV to the streets of Portland, Ore., the gone-too-soon Phoenix (as Mike, a young narcoleptic hustler searching for his mother) vividly conveys pathos and wistful longing with the assurance of the consummate actor he would surely have become. Mike's fireside confession of love for his best friend, Scott (Keanu Reeves), still retains its heartbreaking power regardless of how many times you've seen it.

Christina Ricci: Best Supporting Actress for her work as Selby in Monster -- So much attention was paid to Charlize Theron's chameleon-like turn in Monster that Christina Ricci's subtle but every inch as powerful performance was sadly overlooked. As Selby, Ricci once and for all shed the stigma so many child stars face when transitioning to adult roles and paved the way for stellar turns in mediocre films like Black Snake Moan and Penelope. With any luck, Oscar will find Ricci in the right role one day.

Stephen Fry: Best Actor for his work as Oscar Wilde in Wilde -- A beloved household name in the U.K., the gay Fry was widely acclaimed for evoking every nuance of the legendary flamboyant writer and raconteur Oscar Wilde. Fry tosses off Wilde's bons mots with flair to spare, yet also effortlessly conveys such tender yearning for his younger, aristocratic lover Bosie (Jude Law) that his inevitable downfall is rendered painful to witness.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman: Best Supporting Actor for his work as Rusty in Flawless -- Here's an actor who commits so fully to his roles, even in the most outlandish of characters, you almost forget you're watching a performance. In Flawless, Hoffman plays Rusty, a drag queen who offers voice lessons to a homophobic security guard (Robert De Niro) who has just suffered a stroke. The movie is awkward at times, and De Niro lays it on thick, but you never tire of watching Hoffman in action. In fact, he won the gold later for going gay again in the title role in Capote.

Daniel Day-Lewis: Best Supporting Actor for his work as Johnny in My Beautiful Laundrette -- Daniel Day-Lewis became a huge star in 1985 because of two films -- the far better remembered A Room With a View and this, in which he played a young gay man who, with his Pakistani lover, opens a laundry. It's a beautiful though often difficult love story, and Day-Lewis once again proves he is one of film's finest living actors.

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