Racism at the Movies

The 2020 Oscar Nominations weren’t very racially-diverse (#OscarSoWhite) and predominately male (#OscarSoMale), but some recent Hollywood films have given us a view of America from the African American perspective. Two films focused on how racially-biased the death penalty is and how it can morally-bankrupt a person. Alfre Woodard gives a riveting performance as a prison Warden losing her soul and her marriage in Clemency. Jamie Foxx portrays an innocent black man sentenced to Death Row in Alabama in Just Mercy. In the film, Michael B. Jordan stars as Bryan Stevenson, the lawyer activist who’s crusading as a modern-day abolitionist. None of these fine actors got the vote of the 80% white, male Academy members to receive an Oscar nod.

Cynthia Erivo, nominated for Best Leading Actress and Best Song for the 2020 Oscars

The one black actress to receive a nomination this year is Cynthia Erivo for her role as Harriet Tubman in Harriet. Directed and co-written by Kasi Lemmon, the storytelling is a little conventional. It’s great that we finally have a film that honors Tubman’s abolitionist work and Erivo has a wonderful stillness and fortitude in the role. I loved the soundtrack and Janelle Monáe’s acting in the film. There’s a mystical feel to the story and you can’t help but feel deep admiration for what this woman risked time after time to free her family and then other slaves.

Drinks With Films Rating: 3 shots of corn whiskey (out of 5)

Jodie Turner Smith and Daniel Kaluuya become urban legends in this film about racism in the USA

If I had my druthers, I would’ve nominated a film that looks at racism in America today. The other four films use the racism of the past to teach a lesson about how racism is still with us today…but one film this year brought that truth home. Queen & Slim, written by Lena Waithe, directed by Melina Matsoukas, and starring Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner Smith received a November release and much critical praise, but it wasn’t widely seen. The stars give riveting performances as a young couple on the lam. Using an unconventional voice-over to reveal the couple’s feelings of intimacy and having them interact with an array of rural people across America, Queen & Slim is full of melancholy and humor and truth. Like many of the nominated Best Picture films, there’s a violent ending that is over-the-top. Did it feel realistic…maybe? Did the hero worship it elicited in the film feel realistic; absolutely! The story of how one wrong step can lead to escalating violence is a sad fact of life for many in this country and this feels like an important film to drive that message home.

Drinks with Films Rating: 4 ½ shots of whiskey at a Jive Joint (out of 5)

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