“The Last Black Man in San Francisco” and the Oscars?

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The best movie that has yet to break into any of the mainstream lists of Oscar contenders is “The Last Black Man In San Francisco,” which took home multiple honors at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Critics and moviegoers have sung its praises in publications, social media, street corners… you get our drift.

Expect to see long odds on this movie as a Best Picture nominee and winner on any of SBR’s betting sites and seriously consider laying down a few dollars.

Like a horse coming from the back of the pack, the movie about urban gentrification, longtime male friendship, race plus a healthy dose of walking down memory lane, has legs and just enough wonder to win.

And wouldn’t it be nice to be surprised at the Oscars? Wait, check that, pleasantly surprised?

It was certainly a surprise to many last year when “Green Book” won Best Picture. The flawed story of a black classical musician and his white driver in the ‘60s Jim Crow South wasn’t the best movie nominated last year.

It will have steep competition such as:

  • “Once Upon A Time … in Hollywood” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt set in LaLa Land about the time Charles Manson was wreaking havoc.
  • “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” starring Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers, everyone’s favorite TV guy next door.
  • “The Farewell” has “Crazy Rich Asians” breakout Awkwafina in a story of a family keeping its matriarch in the dark about her cancer diagnosis.
  • “The Irishman” gets together director Martin Scorsese and a few of his besties (Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci) in a film about a mob hitman who alleges to have killed Jimmy Hoffa.
  • “Ad Astra” stars Brad Pitt heading to space too look for his dad who went missing looking for extra-terrestrial life.

First-time director Joe Talbot took home the Best Director prize and the film won a Special Jury Prize for telling an almost fairytale story of a Jimmie Falls (played, by the way by Jimmie Falls) trying to reclaim his childhood home, a Victorian house in the Filmore District that was built by his grandfather (Danny Glover).

Layered on that is the story of black people in America attempting to preserve their history. At its heart is a movie about two friends making peace with the past told almost lyrically as if it was poem or a song.

Of course, the issue with “smaller” films that they don’t get wide distribution or make a lot of money.

Last Black Man in San Francisco” was in theaters for 59 days, at one point in 207 movie theaters and made $4.27 million.

In contrast, “Green Book” was in more than 2,600 theaters for 168 days making $85 million.

“Last Black Man” will certainly be a contender, if not a big winner, at the annual Spirit Awards which celebrates independent films.

But can it crack the Academy Awards? “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” should be a contender for Oscar with consideration for Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and a Best Supporting Actor for Jonathan Majors. But it may be too small to make a splash.

In an industry where every other movie coming out seems to be about superheroes or a Disney remake, independent films with smaller budgets can make their mark but maybe don’t hold your breath.

Recent indies that garnered Best Picture Oscar nominations are:

  • If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) A woman out to prove her lover is innocent of a crime. It earned three Oscar nominations for Original Score, Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actress winner Regina King.
  • “Whiplash” (2014) A young drummer with a relentless teacher played by J.K. Simmons, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
  • “Boyhood” (2014) Filmed over 12 years showing the life of Mason from childhood to his arrival at college. The film received six Oscar nominations (Best Picture, Supporting Actor, Director, Original Screenplay, and Film Editing), winning a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Patricia Arquette.
  • “Juno” (2007) A pregnant teen and the unusual decision she made regarding her baby. It received four Oscar nominations with Diablo Cody winning for Best Screenplay.

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