As the Academy Awards final voting closes in two days, there might still be enough time to change history right here. Well, let’s not get too carried away. Have a look at a few more little snippets of some of those at Filmotomy urge the AMPAS members to vote for. Make it happen.
BlacKkKlansman for Best Adapted Screenplay
Spike Lee is not the most widely accepted director, with Do The Right Thing being such a radical film for 1988 that The Academy looked over it entirely for Driving Miss Daisy. Flash forward 30 years later and we’re not much different. At least The Academy recognized Lee this time around. BlacKkKlansman is a smartly compelling deconstruction of racial relations in modern and retro America.
Based off of Ron Stallworths memoir, the film follows Stallworth as he teams up with other officers to infiltrate the Klu Klux Klan and it’s connections to people in higher places. Lee writes the film with his usual spunk, the film opens up with the phrase “This joint is based on some fo’ real fo’ real shit.” It’s unsubtle, in your face, and gets straight to the point. And it works. The film handles the relationships between characters in the film with a firm hand, delicately painting a portrait of good vs evil, racism vs justice, privilege vs power. BlacKkKlansman isn’t a film for everyone.
BlacKkKlansman isn’t your normal tale of racism. But BlacKkKlansman is certainly one of the most loud, one of the most moving, and certainly the most angering film Lee has made thus far. And it sure as hell deserves that Oscar for it. – – – Adam Sullivan
Minding the Gap for Best Documentary Feature (Bing Liu and Diane Quon)
The greatest thing a documentary can do is find the human condition in all its imperfect messiness, and capture it on film in real time. That’s why Hoop Dreams is so revered as, arguably, the greatest documentary film ever made, and that’s why Minding the Gap deserves your vote this year.
The competition is fierce and the allure of voting for films like RBG and Free Solo is understandable. Who among us does not love Ruth Bader Ginsburg and doesn’t want to honor her life? And who can resist the adrenaline rush of seeing Alex Honnold actually get to the top of El Capitan in one piece? These are both great stories about incredible people, and either would be a fine winner. But in both cases, the most impressive thing is the person in the film, not the film itself.
For Minding the Gap, the impressiveness comes not from documentation, but from discovery. The camera is not merely showing us who its subjects are, but rather it is finding them, and helping them find themselves. And, in turn, Minding the Gap helps us find ourselves. – – – Daniel Joyaux
First Reformed for Best Original Screenplay
Paul Schrader knows how to do one thing, and pretty much only one thing, extremely well. And that’s mental breakdowns of broken characters. Start with a Vietnam War vet, an unstable boxer, or in this case, a scarred Pastor, add a traumatizing situation, and let the rest go off. Reverend Toller is no different. A dead son behind him, a mental crisis in front of him, Schrader plays the game like he always has. And after the Dog Eat Dog disappointment, it’s nice to see him return to his familiar territory.
First Reformed does go into territory untouched by Schrader though, and that’s loss of faith. Using religion as a backdrop, he explores loss of faith in religion, loss of faith in business, and loss of faith in the earth. We explore the total mental loss of identity of Toller, as he slowly realizes the system that he put faith in don’t support him as they thought he did, and he quickly realizes how screwed we really all are. It’s something many of us can relate to, something that deeply impacts all of us.
First Reformed is quite possibly the most intently layered film of the year, the writing flourishing through the beautiful filmmaking, the filmmaking flourishing through the writing. Truly and astonishingly beautiful. – – – Adam Sullivan
“When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” for Best Original Song
The nominees for best original song have always tended to be on the serious side. This year we have a song about dead mothers, a song about female empowerment, and a song about a true connection between lovers. A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings is about a quirky cowboys death and his trip to heaven. It’s hilarious, it’s subversive, and it’s not typical awards stuff. But it’s darkly comedic draw and it’s incredible singing from Tim Blake Nelson really brings it to life.
When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings is a perfect representation of The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs. Quirky, off-beat, and strangely charming. It’s pretty much what it appears to be on the surface, a cowboy riding up into the great beyond, his spurs gone and his wings anew. And in the film, it’s a warm send off to Buster, a character who we had only known for less than half an hour. It’s a warm and welcoming send off to a new alpha, the man in the black coat, who sings off to the former Buster as he floats away. Despite its comedic effect, it’s quite a beautiful song. And we can hope The Academy recognizes that. – – – Adam Sullivan
BlacKkKlansman for Best Film Editing
One of the nominees for ‘Best Film Editing’ this Oscars season is Barry Alexander Brown, nominated for his rhythmic and delicate work on the Spike Lee directed BlacKkKlansman. This film is a wonderful instance of when an editor and director are working in impeccable tandem, with a relationship built after decades of working together and now influencing each other’s work. To the point that the editing style becomes integral to the full cinematic experience Lee is providing.
For example, any of those who have seen the film will know of its highly memorable ending sequence that takes a rather unexpected approach to the previous period narrative. For which when describing its affect Brown said “It’s got under [audience’s] skin. That’s what we want to do, to make you feel something.” That last sentence is in itself a great summary of cinema, and without the decision to use such a sequence and the decision to cut it so differently to film’s initial story I believe none of that concluding feeling would exist. And frankly that evolving editing style is somewhat consistent to the whole film.
Obviously it is without as much affect, otherwise that ending may not have been so special, but it evidently has still been cut with such a rhythm that it allowed the film to play with multiple tones and emotional impacts – switching seamlessly from drama of horrific KKK plots to vibrant comedy of quirky cop characters. It is for this reason I hope Brown wins the award this season, as his acute attention to pace and narrative created perhaps the most electric and impactful film amongst the nominees and in Lee’s entire filmography. – – – Jon Bridges
Nicholas Britell, Best Original Score for If Beale Street Could Talk
Down the streets of Harlem, love hangs in the air. The people’s affection is equally expressed through the unspoken bond that ties everyone together. And what better way to express this love than through music. If Beale Street Could Talk is the definition of love, the very feeling of it. And this in large part due to Nicholas Britells wonderful score. Jazzy synths that softly pile on top of one another to create chords that smoothly flow in the background of the film. It’s magical, blessed, and beautiful.
Britells score does not attempt for memorable and loud choruses that overpower scenes, but rather soft and small themes that create moods. If often meshes into the rest of the world of the film, almost as if the streets sing the scores themselves. Almost as if walking down Harlem is the definition of this music. It’s stuff that challenges the work of Britells previous, Moonlight. It’s this work that puts Britells above everyone else. Work that puts the Beale Street OST in the stuff of masters. If only The Academy would give it the stuff it deserves. – – – Adam Sullivan