Sunday, August 27, 2023

'IS THAT BLACK ENOUGH FOR YOU?!?' likely favorite to win Outstanding Arts and Culture Documentary after 'Roadrunner' removed

I have reached the last outstanding documentary category at this year's News & Doc Emmy Awards, Outstanding Arts and Culture Documentary. When the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences first announced this category exactly one month ago, it had a clear leader, Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, which was also nominated for Best Documentary and Outstanding Editing: Documentary for a total of three nominations. The rest of the nominees had only the one nomination in this category. That made for an easy choice; Roadrunner would almost certainly win Outstanding Arts and Culture Documentary — that was until it was removed from all three categories. When I began writing this entry, I had no idea which nominee would win. Watch the trailers for the remaining five nominees with me to see which one stood out as the favorite, beginning with The Conductor | Official Preview | Great Performances | PBS.

Follow Marin Alsop’s journey to become the first female music director of a major American symphony despite repeated rejection by the classical music industry. Features archival footage with her mentor Leonard Bernstein and is set to a soundtrack of her performances.
That's a serviceable ad that encapsulates the story of an important person in the history of music, but it doesn't make the nominee jump out at me. The trailer also has only 3,281 views. Next!

In alphabetical order, that's a nominee that asks IS THAT BLACK ENOUGH FOR YOU?!? | Official Trailer | Netflix.

How did one decade change American cinema - and culture - forever? Elvis Mitchell explores the history of Black representation and the cultural impact of witnessing unapologetic Blackness.
From celebrated writer and film historian Elvis Mitchell, IS THAT BLACK ENOUGH FOR YOU?!? is both a documentary and deeply personal essay. The film examines the craft and power of cinema from a perspective often overlooked: the African American contribution to films released from the landmark era of the 70s. It is a deep dive into the impact that point of view had on movies, as well as popular culture, and serves as a love letter to film, posing questions that have never been asked, let alone answered. Crucial artistic voices, including director Charles Burnett, Samuel L. Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg, Laurence Fishburne, Zendaya and others, offer their distinctive prism on the creators and films that dazzled and inspired. The film provides insight into the history of Black representation going back to the earliest days of cinema, and the cultural impact of witnessing unapologetic Blackness. Produced by Steven Soderbergh, David Fincher, Angus Wall and Ciara Lacy, IS THAT BLACK ENOUGH FOR YOU?!? marks Mitchell’s directorial debut.
Not only is this subject important, the trailer makes the movie look like fun. It also has 391,690 views, which counts for something. At least people are watching, which means they recognize it.

Continuing in alphabetical order, I come to Let Me Be Me | Official Trailer from Greenwich Entertainment.

When the Westphal family learned that their 6-year-old Kyle was on the Autism spectrum, they feared they might never develop a real connection to their child. Withdrawn and constantly wrapping himself in fabric and blankets, Kyle was retreating from the world around him. Determined to find a way to connect, his parents embarked on an intense and radical journey which involved compassionately joining Kyle in his unique behaviors. Twenty years later, the entire family looks back at Kyle's journey with candor and humor. Let Me Be Me reveals what happens when a boy who used fabric as his shield to hide himself grows up to become a fashion designer, forging connections with friends and family along the way.
This trailer reminds me of a previous Arts and Culture Documentary winner, Life, Animated, which is also about how an autistic person and his family used art to connect. That's a good precedent for Let Me Be Me, but I don't know if that will be enough. This trailer has 13,523 views, so a lot fewer people have seen it than IS THAT BLACK ENOUGH FOR YOU?!?

Art & Krimes by Krimes | Official Trailer from MTV Documentary Films is another nominee whose trailer has a modest amount of views, 15,305.

While locked up for six years in federal prison, artist Jesse Krimes secretly creates monumental works of art—including an astonishing 40-foot mural made with prison bed sheets, hair gel, and newspaper. He smuggles out each panel piece-by-piece with the help of fellow artists, only seeing the mural in totality upon coming home. As Jesse’s work captures the art world’s attention, he struggles to adjust to life outside, living with the threat that any misstep will trigger a life sentence.
MTV Documentary Films has earned my respect over the past two years, so I had high expectations for Art & Krimes by Krimes. The trailer, at least, met them. This could also have been a Crime and Justice nominee, but this is more about the artist than his crimes. The same is true of Master of Light, but hold that thought until after the trailer for the final nominee, Queer for Fear: The History of Queer Horror - Official Trailer [HD] | A Shudder Original Series, which is justifiably age-restricted so can only be watched on YouTube. Click on the link.
From Executive Producers Bryan Fuller (Hannibal) and Steak House (The Mustang), Queer for Fear is a four-part documentary series about the history of the LGBTQ+ community in the horror and thriller genres. From its literary origins with queer authors Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, and Oscar Wilde to the pansy craze of the 1920s that influenced Universal Monsters and Hitchcock; from the “lavender scare” alien invasion films of the mid-20th century to the AIDS obsessed bloodletting of 80s vampire films; through genre-bending horrors from a new generation of queer creators; Queer for Fear re-examines genre stories through a queer lens, seeing them not as violent, murderous narratives, but as tales of survival that resonate thematically with queer audiences everywhere.
That looks like gory, campy fun but I think IS THAT BLACK ENOUGH FOR YOU?!? does nostalgia better even as it takes its subject just a little more seriously while still keeping it fun. Based on that, along with the trailer views being an order of magnitude higher than for the other trailers (two orders of magnitude higher than for The Conductor), IS THAT BLACK ENOUGH FOR YOU?!? is my favorite to win this category in the absence of Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain. I hope the voters for this category agree. Remember, electorates matter.

Follow over the jump for a discussion of Master of Light.

First, watch Master of Light | Official Trailer | HBO.

An intimate portrait of artist George Anthony Morton’s journey to face his past and defy art world expectations.
As I wrote above, Master of Light and Art & Krimes by Krimes share a lot of similarities, particularly the story of a prisoner who is also an artist. Master of Light looks like a better crafted movie, earning nominations for Outstanding Direction: Documentary, hence the Twitter graphic above, Outstanding Cinematography: Documentary, and Outstanding Editing: Documentary. That makes it the most nominated documentary at these awards not also nominated in an outstanding documentary category. Unfortunately, it's competing against Retrograde in every one of those categories. It's also contending with other top nominees in each category, such as Best Documentary nominee The Janes for Outstanding Direction: Documentary. Based on the competition, I think it will walk away from the ceremony empty-handed. Too bad.

That concludes this week's Sunday entertainment feature. Stay tuned for a short video post tomorrow, as the fall semester begins.

Previous posts about the 2023 News & Documentary Emmy Awards

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