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Oscars roundup: Crip Camp, Over the Moon, Sound of Metal

Does anyone remember It’s All Gone Pete Tong? The Academy didn’t, and perhaps it’s better that way.

Crip Camp: An inspirational tale in which crips became blood.
Crip Camp: An inspirational tale in which crips became blood.

Oscar-nominated movies...at home!

Crip Camp (2020)

Judy Heumann. The mere mention of her name sends shivers down the spines of all who look to cut corners at the expense of denying the disabled community equal access. A former employer cursed her name when told he would have to shell out thousands to build a lift stage-right at the head of an auditorium to accommodate guest speakers in wheelchairs, if and when the occasion arose. Heumann is still at it, and if nothing else, the history of her contributions to the creation of the Americans With Disabilities Act alone make this a must-see. But before that, let’s spend a summer at overnight camp. It started in the 1950’s, a time when the disabled had no place in public schools; their inability to walk made them fire hazards. We first catch up with Camp Jened in 1973: a haven for the physically and intellectually challenged located down the road apiece from Woodstock. (Don’t for a second think that music didn’t play an almost equally important role in its history.) For a group of teenagers used to living life on the sidelines, Camp Jened was a place where the outside world didn’t exist and no one had to pretend. Thanks to the miracle of half-inch videotape, we are able to relive a very special moment in history: the dawn of another kind of civil rights movement. What holds these characters (and the movie) together is a pitch-black sensibility when it comes to humor. (They didn’t call it Crip Camp for nothing.) Would you believe a hierarchy of disability? Future activists Neil and Denise Sherer Jacobson meet at camp. Denise has cerebral palsy, and when the couple decide to wed, Neil’s mother asks, “I understand why you want to marry a handicapped girl, but why can’t you find one with polio?” The camp empowered all who participated, so that the return to reality wasn’t quite as difficult as once again, the participants were forced to conform to a world that wasn’t designed for them. The camp’s lifespan was 26 years, just four years shy of the 30 years it took for the passage of a law to change public acceptance. Sound artist, star, and Crip Camp alum James Lebrecht and filmmaker Nicole Newnham — they first collaborated on the chilling historical doc The Rape of Europa — share director’s credit.

Over the Moon (2020)

Fei Fei (Cathy Ang) loved when Ma Ma (Ruthie Ann Miles) would undrape her hand-painted scarf and use it, as one might a cinema screen, to enrapture her young daughter with the ancient legend of Chang’e, the goddess of the moon, and her odyssey to be reunited with her soul mate, Houyi. Better hours spent spinning yarns with Fei Fei, Ma Ma, and Ba Ba (John Cho) in preparation for the annual Moon Festival than another minute in the presence of the cuddly downer clan in Minari. Alas, in the tradition of Disney, Ma Ma doesn’t make it past the 8-minute mark, and her death leaves Fei Fei quite literally mooning about all day, devising ways to reunite mythical mother figure Chang’e with the man of her dreams. Four years later, Fei Fei learns of her father’s intention to remarry from Chin, her obnoxious future step-brother. Using the brains God gave her, Fei Fei builds a rabbit-shaped rocket to the moon patterned after her pet bunny Bungee, a departing gift of sorts from Ma Ma. Better to see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars than crash-land on this looney lunar surface. When Ma Ma referred to Chang’e as “beautiful and kind,” she was only half-right. Beyond the physical elegance lurks a vainglorious mother-substitute cum pop diva whose main contribution, other than demanding that Fei Fei makes good on the gift she promised, are her contributions to the instantly unmemorable score. The color design calls to mind a bag of regurgitated Skittles. Up close, Chang’e’s computer generated minions look like refugees from a Cricket Wireless commercial, while long shots at her concert suggest an audience of Dippin’ Dots. Visual references to Disneyland and direct lifts from Angry Birds indicate that any forms of satire that once existed were pretty much shouted down by committee.

Sound of Metal (2020)

Does anyone remember It’s All Gone Pete Tong, Michael Dowse’s hilariously uplifting tale of real-life club DJ Frankie Wilde’s struggle against progressive hearing loss? The Academy didn’t, and perhaps it’s better that way, seeing how the staid voting members never have taken a shine to tragicomedy. Ruben (Riz Ahmed), a drummer who is four years clean and sober, and Lou (Olivia Cooke) accentuate the tragedy as a boyfriend-girlfriend metal band traveling in style from gig to gig in their deluxe Airstream. A pharmacist refers Ruben to a doctor, who in turn recommends he abstain from performing, but that’s not going to happen. His sponsor suggests spending time at a rustic retreat headed by Joe, a deaf veteran and recovering addict. The couple begin on firm romantic footing, which makes it all the more baffling that the script — co-written by director Darius Marder and brother Abraham Marder from a story by Darius and Derek Cianfrance — abandons Lou for the entire middle of the picture. And when she does make her return, it’s in the shadow of a new wealthy daddy (Mathieu Amalric). Clumsy and at times painfully obvious — did we really need to see Ruben awaken Lou by sticking a drumstick in her ear — the somber mood of the piece too often finds the filmmakers turning a deaf ear to originality.

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Crip Camp: An inspirational tale in which crips became blood.
Crip Camp: An inspirational tale in which crips became blood.

Oscar-nominated movies...at home!

Crip Camp (2020)

Judy Heumann. The mere mention of her name sends shivers down the spines of all who look to cut corners at the expense of denying the disabled community equal access. A former employer cursed her name when told he would have to shell out thousands to build a lift stage-right at the head of an auditorium to accommodate guest speakers in wheelchairs, if and when the occasion arose. Heumann is still at it, and if nothing else, the history of her contributions to the creation of the Americans With Disabilities Act alone make this a must-see. But before that, let’s spend a summer at overnight camp. It started in the 1950’s, a time when the disabled had no place in public schools; their inability to walk made them fire hazards. We first catch up with Camp Jened in 1973: a haven for the physically and intellectually challenged located down the road apiece from Woodstock. (Don’t for a second think that music didn’t play an almost equally important role in its history.) For a group of teenagers used to living life on the sidelines, Camp Jened was a place where the outside world didn’t exist and no one had to pretend. Thanks to the miracle of half-inch videotape, we are able to relive a very special moment in history: the dawn of another kind of civil rights movement. What holds these characters (and the movie) together is a pitch-black sensibility when it comes to humor. (They didn’t call it Crip Camp for nothing.) Would you believe a hierarchy of disability? Future activists Neil and Denise Sherer Jacobson meet at camp. Denise has cerebral palsy, and when the couple decide to wed, Neil’s mother asks, “I understand why you want to marry a handicapped girl, but why can’t you find one with polio?” The camp empowered all who participated, so that the return to reality wasn’t quite as difficult as once again, the participants were forced to conform to a world that wasn’t designed for them. The camp’s lifespan was 26 years, just four years shy of the 30 years it took for the passage of a law to change public acceptance. Sound artist, star, and Crip Camp alum James Lebrecht and filmmaker Nicole Newnham — they first collaborated on the chilling historical doc The Rape of Europa — share director’s credit.

Over the Moon (2020)

Fei Fei (Cathy Ang) loved when Ma Ma (Ruthie Ann Miles) would undrape her hand-painted scarf and use it, as one might a cinema screen, to enrapture her young daughter with the ancient legend of Chang’e, the goddess of the moon, and her odyssey to be reunited with her soul mate, Houyi. Better hours spent spinning yarns with Fei Fei, Ma Ma, and Ba Ba (John Cho) in preparation for the annual Moon Festival than another minute in the presence of the cuddly downer clan in Minari. Alas, in the tradition of Disney, Ma Ma doesn’t make it past the 8-minute mark, and her death leaves Fei Fei quite literally mooning about all day, devising ways to reunite mythical mother figure Chang’e with the man of her dreams. Four years later, Fei Fei learns of her father’s intention to remarry from Chin, her obnoxious future step-brother. Using the brains God gave her, Fei Fei builds a rabbit-shaped rocket to the moon patterned after her pet bunny Bungee, a departing gift of sorts from Ma Ma. Better to see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars than crash-land on this looney lunar surface. When Ma Ma referred to Chang’e as “beautiful and kind,” she was only half-right. Beyond the physical elegance lurks a vainglorious mother-substitute cum pop diva whose main contribution, other than demanding that Fei Fei makes good on the gift she promised, are her contributions to the instantly unmemorable score. The color design calls to mind a bag of regurgitated Skittles. Up close, Chang’e’s computer generated minions look like refugees from a Cricket Wireless commercial, while long shots at her concert suggest an audience of Dippin’ Dots. Visual references to Disneyland and direct lifts from Angry Birds indicate that any forms of satire that once existed were pretty much shouted down by committee.

Sound of Metal (2020)

Does anyone remember It’s All Gone Pete Tong, Michael Dowse’s hilariously uplifting tale of real-life club DJ Frankie Wilde’s struggle against progressive hearing loss? The Academy didn’t, and perhaps it’s better that way, seeing how the staid voting members never have taken a shine to tragicomedy. Ruben (Riz Ahmed), a drummer who is four years clean and sober, and Lou (Olivia Cooke) accentuate the tragedy as a boyfriend-girlfriend metal band traveling in style from gig to gig in their deluxe Airstream. A pharmacist refers Ruben to a doctor, who in turn recommends he abstain from performing, but that’s not going to happen. His sponsor suggests spending time at a rustic retreat headed by Joe, a deaf veteran and recovering addict. The couple begin on firm romantic footing, which makes it all the more baffling that the script — co-written by director Darius Marder and brother Abraham Marder from a story by Darius and Derek Cianfrance — abandons Lou for the entire middle of the picture. And when she does make her return, it’s in the shadow of a new wealthy daddy (Mathieu Amalric). Clumsy and at times painfully obvious — did we really need to see Ruben awaken Lou by sticking a drumstick in her ear — the somber mood of the piece too often finds the filmmakers turning a deaf ear to originality.

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