When it comes to playing queer on film, more and more the Academy Awards have taken notice ... but only, it seems, if certain rules are adhered to, as elaborated upon in Edward Copeland's list of "Oscar Rules for GLBT Characters".
It is a pretty thorough list, although there are a few Academy Award nominated lesbian roles (Judi Dench in Notes on a Scandal, Vanessa Redgrave in The Bostonians, Estelle Parsons in Rachel, Rachel, Grayson Hall in The Night of the Iguana) missing.
Then of course, there are always the characters that "read" gay but are never expressly called that, like Tom Courtney in The Dresser, Clifton Webb in Laura and Sal Mineo in Rebel Without a Cause (in the great book Live Fast, Die Young: The Wild Ride of Making Rebel Without a Cause,it states that director Nicholas Ray instructed Mineo to play Plato as in love with James Dean's Jim Stark -- the results are pretty obvious), not to mention speculated relationships between, say, Midnight Cowboy's Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman and even Casablanca's Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains (that whole "beginning of a beautiful friendship" thing).
Furthermore, where do such gender-bending performances as Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot, Julie Andrews in Victor/Victoria and Hoffman in Tootsie fit in, let alone the cross-dressed actresses playing male characters (winner Linda Hunt for The Year of Living Dangerously and this year's nominee Cate Blanchett in I'm Not There)?
And let's not forget the historical figures whose sexuality has always been a matter of dispute, such as T.E. Lawrence (played by Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia), John Nash (Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind) and even Abraham Lincoln (Raymond Massey in Abe Lincoln in Illinois).
It all goes to show that even in the movies, actors (and the characters they portray) are reticent to stay in the celluloid closet. On the other hand, one can look at the diversity on display in the performances and characters that were nominated.
See the comments section below for a list of the Oscar nominated and winning performances pictured above.