Discussion on Oscar nominations and -prizes raised additional thoughts this year. There was the issue of racism and then the actual prizes themselves. “The Black Boycott” on Oscar gala seems to me largely an exaggerated reaction to the old state of things. I was told that Oscar votersʼ average age is 63 and that 93 percent are white. I suspect that they are also mostly male. Things have to change. But is boycotting the only way? For my part I hope that Spike Lee keeps up doing the right thing and making noise for racial equality. And keeps up making cinema which he does so well. He has a knack of making movies that are not exactly perfect, and perhaps even low-budget-limited products with understandably questionable result. But I am always drawn to them, expecting interesting viewing, original cinema. Since I first saw Spike Leeʼs Do the Right Thing direction from 1989 and realized that here we have a classic, one of the movies that show the way, I was enticed. Spike Leeʼs energy and ideas are something to acclaim for. And all that I say after having a strange road to arrive there. Listen to this: Last year (2015!), not having seen one Spike Lee-movie, I went to theatre to watch Get Hard (2014), directed by Ethan Cohen. The curious point for me was why an orthodox jew would make a movie about the black/white clichés? Get Hard is a minor movie about a rich dumb white guy, tricked by relatives to take blame and go to prison, and he hires his black car-repairman, acted by Kevin Hart, to teach him how to survive in prison, because of course (!) the blacks know how to do that. Somehow everything was done by Do the Right Thing-theme, and the black people in Get Hard knew the classic through and through while the white guy was out of the picture of things completely. The additional funny thing for me was that also I, a white woman, along with Will Ferrellʼs character didn’t know the classic! It hit me hard and I got some education for myself by watching Do the Right Thing. So the next thing for me was to watch Do the Right Thing, and at first I didn’t get it, to me it looked artificial, the way the characters threw the lines to each other, the way people lived on that street and the stage-like setting with odd colors. The script didn’t seem plausible, it was over-simplified with all low-income black population-street, and one bright, straightforward-talking though also low-income uneducated, black narrator acted by Spike Lee himself. And the white family keeping the pizza shop in the street corner. On one hot day all the racist pressure accumulated for ever so long on the blacks in the USA bursts out and it is the narrator himself, calm, intelligent man, who throws the trash-barrel through the pizza-parlorʼs window. That was a point I didn’t understand. I knew he wanted to provoke but screenplay-logic was all wrong for me. Only later it hit me: The narrator knows the story from beforehand, he is there on the stage to show us the reality. Just like Shakespeare did in England with his stories that touch the people still today. Like Quentin Tarantino who in his movies creates a stage with carefully carved narrating lines of speech pointing clearly where we go wrong. As Woody Allen also does in his way of staging inter-relational stories in society settings. Do the Right Thing thrusts the core of the racism out open with the barrel-throwing in the end. The story itself, as real as it showed the life on that street, didn’t get through to us in all its shockingness even in the horrible death of the radio-carrying boy. Though it ended the theatre-like action and brought us to harsh realities. Mookie the narrator actually had to break the white manʼs window to show everyone what it means to be black in the USA, that even the death doesn’t change it. The name Do the Right Thing is ingenious: who did the right thing and who didn’t? It challenges us to change our perception on human value. In 2014 Oscar for the best picture went to 12 Years a Slave, by a black director Steve McQueen. The horrible inhumanity shown in that movie cannot but move anyone watching it. I felt it and will remember it, one does not forget when deeply touched. That is the power of cinema. And that is the merit of 12 Years a Slave. On the other hand I refuse to be bullied into silence about the shortcomings on that movie’s cinematic qualities. Though the script received the best adapted screenplay by John Ridley, it left much to hope for: some situations looked clumsy for me and the acting was uneven by some characters. And what about those two marvelous scenery cuts which were disconnected from the rest of the movie? By the way, in this year’s Oscar-nominee The Revenant the scenery cuts were methodically inserted between each action bit, much the same way as in 12 Years a Slave those two. In both films they look like connected from two separate movies. The subject of slavery is enormous in its monstrosity. How to approach it without falling into preaching, or the opposite: disparaging? Because the high tone can turn opposite itself. How would a sensitive, quiet master direct the slave question? In the way Hirokazu Kore-eda scripts, directs and edits his films. In the way Terrence Malick does his. That is an interesting trail of thought. Quentin Tarantino directed Django Unchained in 2012. With it he created cinema like opera, staging a social statement that it depends solely on each of us, our actions that all people are equal. He was upsetting historical norms by a magic wave of hand: just like that Django was free, and sitting at the white man’s table, one of the company. The white slaver, Calvin Candie, acted superbly by Leonardo DiCaprio, was not swallowing easily a black man’s equality. And so on, the movie is packed with Tarantino’s innumerable twists and references and cinematic show. The importance of Tarantino’s cinema lies in his boldly, fearlessly laying in front of the spectators the end of the callousness of the powerful wrong-does. He doesn’t give dignity to bag guys, he doesn’t behave elegant. Just the opposite, he goes to extremes to pay the bad their dues. Here we have Spike Lee once again, throwing the barrel and breaking the window. Tarantino did it in The Inglorious Basterds (2009), in Django Unchained and in his newest, The Hateful Eight. In Kill Bill (2003, 2004) he tackled the women’s rights. The Hateful Eight (2015) is a masterly movie in many ways: good directing, great cinematography by Robert Richardson, Ennio Morricone’s original music connecting the enticing storyline together, backing the characters’ inter relational movements and dialogue, keeping the balance between the harsh outside conditions and the closed inside quarters. Good acting by all. It looks like Tarantino has fun turning out these adventure type pictures and at the same time he manages to bring up important social issues: women’s rights, abuse, equality, freedom etc. and does it all with grand scale, rising to incredible proportions. And packs it with references to all time cinema. Tarantino’s fascination with his story shows in the length of The Hateful Eight. These theatre like movies remind me of 16th century Italian Commedia dell’Arte, one of the precursors of theatre, where each of the four or five characters have the afore set part in the story. The woman, Columbine, has a determining part in the actions though each character is equally important. This happens in The Hateful Eight, too. The story intertwines around Daisy Domergue in Tarantino’s own inimitable way. Commedia dell’Arte’s feature, having the actors wear masks or paint their skin reflects uncannily in Tarantino’s westerns where the characters are not always what they look like. “Everyone makes his own kind of stew.” Though Samuel L. Jackson in The Hateful Eight was not even nominated for Oscar, his acting will stay in our collective memory, along with his lines. As will many others from 2015 cinema. Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett in Carol, Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years, Michael Caine in Youth, Benicio DelToro and Emily Blunt in Sicario to mention only some of the English language pictures. And what about Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road? When she appeared at the Oscar-feast, on TV-screening, I was suddenly surprised to see that she had both arms intact! She was so convincing in her role as Imperator Furiosa that she became that character for me, even if I was aware while watching, the hand being a trick of animation. Well, we know that the best picture Oscar in 1990 went to Driving Miss Daisy, but Do the Right Thing from the same year has proved to be the classic, instead. If the weight in Oscar-prizes was solely on the cinematic art, in 2014 the best picture winner would have been Alexander Payne’s direction Nebraska, a perfect gem of a movie, and not 12 Years a Slave, with an important subject but imperfect realization. The American society is an integral part of the Oscar institution. This year’s winner, Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight does well in its message of good media work’s importance. On the other hand, some of the greatest cinematic experiences in 2015 were created by Mad Max: Fury Road, Sicario, The Hateful Eight, Youth, Carol. Of the marginal films The Danish Girl doesn’t impress me, especially when Francois Ozon directed in 2014 in his usual impeccable manner an enticingly beautiful movie A New Girlfriend (Une nouvelle amie), along the same theme. In Oscar gala Chris Rock was great in his difficult work as a commentator, outshining by far last year’s pale Neal Patrick Harris. I was quite proud by now to recognize in audience Kevin Hart, a recipient of many jovial lines by Chris Rock. Lady Gaga made good this year and showed her real potential in performing Till It Happens to You, the song she had herself made (with Diane Warren) of a traumatic experience, for a documentary film The Hunting Ground (2015). This was quite opposite of last year’s bland performance on which I commented in PC Movie Club’s first podcast Alpha. All in all there were many happy moments in this year’s Oscar gala and also the cinema as an art form was celebrated. The happiest moment of all was maestro Ennio Morricone’s Oscar for best original score in The Hateful Eight. I can only guess the measure of happiness that Quentin Tarantino felt over the fact that his idol received the prize for Tarantino’s own western. What can top that?