From Daily Mail Online, September 8th:
…director Steve McQueen…is dividing viewers with a new film about the horrors of slavery….The movie, 12 Years a Slave, caused a sensation at the Toronto Film Festival this weekend….Critics expect the bold film to score Oscar nominations in multiple categories, including Best Picture.
I’ve been seeking out other movies that I believe will be award-worthy when the Oscar ceremonies come around next March. Here are a few of my favorites, with plot summaries.
Afratar. A group of African Americans, weary of groaning under the heel of white privilege and fearful for the lives of their children at the hands of trigger-happy racist cops, have built a starship and fled to a distant solar system. There they have colonized a planet, which they have named Sha’Quaynelle, and established a peaceful and prosperous society.
Just as the Sha’Quaynellians are engrossed in the annual planet-wide chamber music competition, a fleet of ships from a large mining corporation arrives, crewed entirely by white men chewing tobacco and speaking with Southern accents. They want to plunder Sha’Quaynelle for its mineral wealth. The Sha’Quaynellians are forced to flee the clean, beautiful cities they have built and take to guerilla warfare in the forests.
A heroic Sha’Quaynellian physicist discovers a way to nullify the invaders’ technology and cut off their communication with Earth, defeating them at last. In the closing scenes we see the evil white invaders being used by the Sha’Quaynellians as beasts of burden while they rebuild their cities.
“A searing indictment of American racism.” —Christian Science Monitor
The Bling Side. Wealthy white Aaron, who owns a chain of jewelry stores, and his wife Sharon take in Henry, an African American orphan they find sleeping in the street. Soon Henry is living permanently in their house. Inquiring into his school records, they find that while Henry has failed all his courses, Henry’s teachers have remarked on his wonderful sense of rhythm. Sharon thereupon embarks on a project to turn Henry into a rap star.
There are many setbacks. Sharon’s wealthy white girlfriends mock her for taking in Henry. When one of them calls her a “n*****-lover,” she breaks off the friendship. Aaron is wounded by gunfire when masked men rob one of his stores. Police suspect Henry is involved, but Aaron’s brother Jake, a lawyer, is able to show that the criminals are a white Baptist gang from a nearby trailer park. At last Henry achieves worldwide fame as rap artist Wa Za Banga, showcasing Aaron’s jewelry in his stage performances.
The Kelp. Set in the American South during the Civil Rights era, the movie, from a best-selling novel of the same name, shows the tensions between privileged white women and their African American domestic servants. When it is discovered that the servants have been putting first seaweed, then their own saliva into the food they prepare for their white mistresses, the servants are all dismissed. Illegal Mexican immigrants are hired to do their work at even lower wages, with one day off a month.
Enraged by the injustice of this, the dismissed servants collaborate with sensitive, sympathetic young college graduate Bonnie to write a book about their bitter experiences at the hands of their employers. After a favorable review in The New York Times, the book becomes a bestseller. The former servants are now rich from the royalties. They hire away the white ladies’ Mexican help, promising them two days off a month. Thirty years later Bonnie has her own show on MSNBC.
“The spitting scenes are tastefully done.” —Ladies Home Journal
The Trayvon Martin Story. Rushed to screen in time for the fall movie season, here is director Michael Moore’s keenly awaited documentary on the short, tragic life of Trayvon Martin. We first see Trayvon as a mischievous child getting into scrapes with his little friends and developing a passion for Skittles. Then we see him as a troubled teen deeply affected by his parents’ divorce, his struggles to achieve academic distinction thwarted by a racist white school cop trying to frame him as a juvenile delinquent.
Emerging from this tortured adolescence, Trayvon wins the heart of pretty, vivacious Rachel. Then, just as his life is turning a corner, the fatal encounter occurs. On a mission to try once more to bring his parents back together, Trayvon is spotted by sinister, wife-beating, mostly white psychopath George Zimmerman. In a climactic scene worthy of Hitchcock, a terrified Trayvon is hunted through the rain-slicked nighttime alleyways of Sanford, Florida, before being cornered and shot by Zimmerman as grinning white police officers look on approvingly.
“The truth at last about a grievous miscarriage of justice.” —New York Magazine
Godzilla v. Martin Luther King. In this latest adaptation of a comic-book superhero saga, the great Civil Rights leader is pitted against a colossal reptile with radioactive breath that white scientists cloned from fragments of dinosaur DNA. Godzilla rampages through Detroit, Baltimore, and Chicago, destroying houses and driving away businesses. White commentators ignore the monster, blaming the destruction on black social dysfunction.
Thus challenged, black scientists bring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. back to life. By sheer moral force, Dr. King turns Godzilla against his white handlers. The monster tracks them down to their secret control room beneath the Talladega infield. In a controversial scene, he then spit-roasts them alive and eats them, along with their wives, children, and pets.
“A lighthearted tribute to a great American.” —National Review
Lee Daniels’ The Cutler. After a traumatic childhood in the Jim Crow South during which his mother and sisters are raped by an evil white overseer and his father and brothers are all lynched by the Klan, young Clarence establishes himself in the catering-supply business, rising eventually to become sole vendor of flatware to the White House.
(To be continued…maybe…)