I was going to write about this after Behind the Candelabra made the Emmys its bitch at the technical awards last week. I waited to see how the HBO film fared at the Primetime Emmys, and it's good I did. After receiving rave reviews this past summer, Candelabra collected a boatload of awards. It was widely reported that every major studio passed on the film saying it was "too gay." Are all the executives kicking themselves now?
Candelabra was nominated for a total of 15 Emmys. At the Creative Arts Emmy Awards last week, it lost in only one category--Best Cinematography. The glitz of Liberace's lifestyle made it easy for the film to sashay away with Costume Design and Art Direction. The sequins! The rhinestones! Those Emmys would probably feel right at home in Liberace's living quarters. Last night, it won three more, bringing the total to 11 statues, including top honors with Best Made for Television Movie. Behind the Candelabra tied with 1976's Eleanor and Franklin as the most decorated made-for-television movie in Emmy history.
Would Candelabra have been a major awards player if someone gave it a show with a major studio? We must keep in mind that the Emmys and the Oscars are two completely different awards races. I also wondered if Angels in America would have reached Oscar glory if Mike Nichols was able to finance it with a film studio. That work would have probably have been deemed to ambitious or too weird or too artsy to have garnered Oscar attention. Angels was a big winner at the Emmys winning 11 including four acting prizes for Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Jeffrey Wright and Mary-Louise Parker, respectively (please note that this was considered a mini series not a made-for-television movie).
Candelabra would have undoubtedly faced battles concerning the content. The "too gay" content included graphic sex scenes between Liberace (Michael Douglas) and Scott Thorson (a superb Matt Damon). There was even a scene where Liberace and his young lover visited an adult bookstore and cruised for sex. A studio would have probably tried to tone down the sex to appeal to a bigger audience or avoid making an audience uncomfortable. The sex scenes aren't about sex obviously, but don't assume that people would misinterpret everything in the film as something else. The same way that people thought Steven Soderbergh's Magic Mike was about strippers titillating an audience. Where is that double feature, by the way?
If anything, I think Candelabra would have been successful in the technical categories. Those costumes and art direction are to die. The makeup might have also played, but that's such a fickle category. Michael Douglas would have maybe grabbed a Best Actor nomination (respected actor hasn't been nominated in quite some time with a performance unlike anything he's ever done before, etc.), but that category is always so crowded. I will reiterate that I don't think I've seen Douglas better in any movie. He's not phoning it in, and his chemistry with Damon is rather sweet and twisted at the same time.
But, you know what? It's all a moot point. What's most important is that Behind the Candelabra is an entertaining film. It features some great performances and it's a gorgeously gaudy piece of work. You should check it out if you haven't already seen it.