Oscars Preview: 30 Movies to Watch Before the Nominations Come Out!

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Image courtesy of Netflix


What it’s about:

This documentary was named in honor of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which states, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” From that starting point, the filmmakers behind 13th examine the history of mass incarceration in America. The film explains how after slavery was abolished, the amendment was used to justify the slavery of black people, who were, and are, arrested at a disproportionately high rate. This documentary is a necessary addition to the conversation surrounding mass incarceration, particularly of black people, in America.

Major Players:

This documentary is Ava DuVernay’s passion project. The director of Selma and the forthcoming adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time has been snubbed by Oscar nominations in the past, but her turn directing, producing, and co-writing this documentary may change that. Spencer Averick, prolific editor and DuVernay’s frequent collaborator, co-wrote and co-produced 13th. A host of activists, politicians, pundits, and more appear as interviewees, including author of The New Jim Crow Michelle Alexander, CNN Correspondant Van Jones, and Republican politician Newt Gingrich.

What the Critics are Saying:

13th has a 90% on Metacritic, which essentially amounts to universal acclaim. Owen Gleiberman of Variety writes that DuVernay “has made a film that possesses a piercing relevance in the age of Black Lives Matter” and that the “narrative… is told with a nimble cinematic power that awakens your senses even as it sickens your moral center.” Manohla Dargis of The New York Times describes the documentary as “powerful, infuriating, and at times overwhelming.”

Possible Nominations:

Best Picture, Best Director (DuVernay), Best Documentary