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This week for “Close-Up with Camenker”,  Zach reviews . . . THE MAN WHO SOLD HIS SKIN! (April 23, 2021)

Click here for the blurb and viewing link of THE MAN WHO SOLD HIS SKIN!

“If you’re anything like me and try to see as much as you can in each category prior to Oscar night, then the ability to watch Tunisia’s official submission for Best International Feature Film at this year’s Oscars, THE MAN WHO SOLD HIS SKIN, in Red River’s Virtual Cinema likely made you very happy. 

Inspired by an actual event that occurred in 2008, the film traces Syrian refugee Sam Ali as he flees prison and allows a renowned artist to use his back for a tattoo that will let him move around the world in a much freer way than most Syrians. What ultimately develops over the tight storyline is a fascinating commentary on immigration, war, and the theme of objectifying that is at times satirical but at the end, quite sobering.

The focus that the filmmaker places on Sam as an object is of the utmost importance to the plot, but it also creates a great deal of intrigue. As he travels through art exhibits and enjoys luxury that he never dreamed of, he realizes that he actually has less value as a human artwork than he did back home in Syria. This commentary gives the audience pause as it makes you question if much in his life has changed aside from where he lives.

Yahya Mahayni’s portrayal of Sam is superb and layered with the right amount of emotional depth and downright cynicism for the world around him. The relationships that his character develops with others, both from his home country and the posh world of art dealing, allow for some insightful dynamics. A particular standout performance comes from Monica Bellucci, who plays Soraya, one of the art dealers who, of all the characters in that circle, seems to see Sam for what he is as a person.

Ultimately, the film is unique and entertaining, filled with fascinating examinations of thematic material and equally harrowing thoughts on what the crisis in Syria has done to so many. It certainly belongs at the table among the final five international films nominated for the Oscar and is worth the 104 minute running time.

Speaking of the Oscars, allow me to offer my insights into who I think will win (and who should) at this year’s ceremony.

Best Picture: The Father, Judas and the Black Messiah, Mank, Minari, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal, and The Trial of the Chicago 7


Will Win: Nomadland

Should Win: Minari

Should Have Been Nominated: Da 5 Bloods

Shouldn’t Be Here: Mank


Unlike several of the past years where there has been a faceoff for Best Picture (1917 vs. PARASITE; GREEN BOOK vs. ROMA), this year belongs to NOMADLAND. While it was not my favorite of the bunch, it certainly has a lot to offer and is a film that I feel many people have understandably gravitated toward in the pandemic. My vote is with the delightful MINARI, which I reviewed about a month ago and though I’m a fan of David Fincher, MANK is not nearly as good as Spike Lee’s DA 5 BLOODS, overlooked almost all season.


Best Director: Thomas Vinterberg (“Another Round”), David Fincher (“Mank”), Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”), Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”), and Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”)


Will/Should Win: Chloe Zhao, Nomadland

Should Have Been Nominated: Regina King, One Night in Miami

Shouldn’t Be Here: David Fincher, Mank


While I feel NOMADLAND has Best Picture in the bag, this is an even bigger guarantee for Chloe Zhao, whose brilliant filmmaking is on full display in the film. She elevates the “nothingness” of the piece to a beautiful level and deserves every bit of this in a year where female directors are again at the table. If only Regina King made it there, too!


Best Actor: Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”), Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”), Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”), Gary Oldman (“Mank”), and Steven Yeun (“Minari”)


Will/Should Win: Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Should Have Been Nominated: Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods

Shouldn’t Be Here: Gary Oldman, Mank


What a stacked category! By now, you probably think I wasn’t that fond of MANK. While I enjoyed pieces of it, it’s far too much of a “let’s show how much we love Hollywood” movie for my taste and Oldman doesn’t belong among these outstanding performances. It’s Chadwick Boseman’s to lose and although he has stiff competition among Ahmed, Hopkins, and Yuen, all equally brilliant in their films, this is a shining example of his own excellence and even if he were still with us, I think he’d be winning big this season. 


Best Actress: Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”), Andra Day (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”), Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”), Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”), and Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”)


Will Win: Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Should Win: Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

Should Have Been Nominated: Sidney Flanigan, Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Shouldn’t Be Here: Frances McDormand, Nomadland


After last year’s full sweep of the same folks winning acting prizes at all major awards shows, it’s refreshing to have one that is unpredictable, but man… this one takes the cake for most unpredictable in recent memory! Any of the five ladies here could win and they all give great performances. Davis and McDormand have both won before and Kirby’s film is not a favorite among critics, which leaves me between Day and Mulligan. Knowing how much the Academy loves honoring performers who play legends, Day is my “will win” pick here, though Mulligan is my favorite and could easily upset. And while I would kick McDormand out and replace her with the young Sidney Flanigan, her understated work this year is great, too.


Best Supporting Actor: Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”), Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”), Leslie Odom Jr. (“One Night in Miami”), Paul Raci (“Sound of Metal”), and Lakeith Stanfield (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)


Will Win: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

Should Win: Paul Raci, Sound of Metal

Should Have Been Nominated: Mark Rylance, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Shouldn’t Be Here: Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah


The biggest guarantee among the acting categories, especially given the Academy’s flair for honoring supporting actor performances that are really co-leads in recent years (case in point, Mahershala Ali in GREEN BOOK)! I’m a Kaluuya fan, but Paul Raci is the epitome of outstanding supporting acting for SOUND OF METAL. It would be a welcome surprise for him to win if ever there was one! I would start a lot of this category over to be honest, but Stanfield is the one who belongs the least of all for a role that is definitely a lead.


Best Supporting Actress: Maria Bakalova (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”), Glenn Close (“Hillbilly Elegy”), Olivia Colman (“The Father”), Amanda Seyfried (“Mank”), and Yuh-jung Youn (“Minari”)


Will/Should Win: Yuh-jung Youn, Minari

Should Have Been Nominated: Ellen Burstyn, Pieces of a Woman

Shouldn’t Be Here: Amanda Seyfried, Mank


Go, Yuh-jung Youn! This had shaped up to be a tight race before Best Actress turned into a major battlefield. At this point, I see this as a big moment for Youn and rightfully so. Seeing Asian representation at this year’s Oscars is quite refreshing and though Youn has got some great competitors who all give really awesome performances, it belongs to her. But really… I get liking Amanda Seyfried in MANK as she did a nice job, but how about the legendary Ellen Burstyn, who was overlooked almost all season?!?!


My predicted winners in the other categories are…


Best Adapted Screenplay: The Father

Best Original Screenplay: Promising Young Woman

Best Animated Feature: Soul

Best International Film: Another Round

Best Documentary Feature: Crip Camp 

Best Cinematography: Nomadland

Best Costume Design: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Best Film Editing: The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Best Original Score: Soul

Best Original Song: “Seen” from The Life Ahead

Best Production Design: Tenet

Best Sound: Sound of Metal

Best Visual Effects: Tenet

Best Animated Short: If Anything Happens, I Love You

Best Documentary Short: A Love Song for Latasha

Best Live Action Short: Two Distant Strangers


Stay tuned for Volume XI, which will appear on Friday, May 7. I will review a film and also debrief Oscar night and how I stacked up in my odds!”

Click here to learn more about Zach Camenker!

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