Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Overlooked by Oscar

On my way to the greenmarket on Saturday, I overheard this behind me:

She: "It's such a great movie."
He: "Yeah."
She: "Jeffrey Wright was so brilliant."
He: "Yeah."
She: "Honestly, I wasn't sure he could play Muddy Waters--"
He: "But he sure did."

I'm guessing they, like me, wondered why Cadillac Records didn't receive a single Oscar nomination.

Beside Wright as Muddy, the film was full of indelible, Oscar-worthy performances: Columbus Short as Little Walter, Eamonn Walker (Howlin' Wolf), Beyoncé Knowles (Etta James), Adrien Brody (Leonard Chess), in particular.

Granted, writer-director Darnell Martin took a few liberties with the facts--combining the two Chess brothers into one, leaving out Bo Diddley, etc.,--but no more than Hollywood films typically take with history. She brought a bygone world powerfully to life, and I left that world moved and exhilarated, feeling I'd seen one of the great movies of the year. I assumed it would be an Oscar contender in many categories, including script and direction, and was shocked when it didn't receive a single nomination.

What didn't Sony do to help this film find its audience? And why wasn't it on the Academy's radar?

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