Patti Cake$ is a $1m dollar indie movie about the titular Patti’s dreams of becoming a rap star. It’s a charming indie flick, with its warmly conventional plotting lifted by some excellent performances and truly amazing songs. The film doesn’t hit its stride until midway through, when the songs ‘PBNJ’ and ‘Hunger Gamez’ are performed as Patti and her band begin to make progress. The standout song is the finale’s ‘Tuff Love’, which blends rap with big-hair rock music to give the movie an uplifting and emotional conclusion.
While we are still months out from Oscar season and the festival circuit is only just offering its glimpses of the top contenders, here’s why Patti Cake$ should be a lock for the 2018 Best Original Song Academy Award.
It is truly original
The original songs in Patti Cake$ are penned by director Geremy Jasper. They are captivatingly performed and executed on screen, but from a musical perspective they are outstanding. Aided in no small part by Danielle Macdonald’s performance as Patti, the raps are delivered with an energy and passion which lift the scenes they feature in, and are backed up with some outstanding music.
The songs are integral to its storytelling
If you look at the winners of this award in just this decade alone, two are James Bond songs that play over the opening credits, two others are songs that play over the film’s end credits and another is a typical Disney ballad. Among what’s left, you have the outstanding ‘Man or Muppet’ from The Muppets and La La Land‘s ‘City of Stars’, which struggled to actually be one of the three best songs in its own movie. Broadly, this award goes to good songs stuck on to movies. They are all good movies, but the songs aren’t that important.
All of the big musical numbers in Patti Cake$ are not only performed organically in the film, but they are essential in cataloguing the journey of the central characters. The lyrics aren’t just words, but an autobiography for Patti, setting out the journey she has been on and where she wants to go in a way that feels legitimate and uses the rap genre to its full potential.
It fits what the Academy wants to do
The Academy has taken steps in recent years to try to appeal to viewers outside of its usual demographic of white old men and critics – the latter of whom are mainly white men with blogs and a small podcast. (Editor’s Note: Shade duly noted. Thanks Luke.) Through this lens, a movie featuring rap music performed by a woman, an Asian man and an African-American man would be another positive step following the success of Moonlight this year. From a younger audience perspective, it’s not hard to imagine this appealing more broadly than La La Land’s homages to classic musicals and Old Hollywood cinema.
It also fits the awards profile
What are movie awards for if they aren’t for
shamelessly promoting movies in a quiet part of the year so they can keep making money celebrating films that would otherwise go unseen? Patti Cake$ was made for a million dollars and had a small release but, with its memorable original music, it has the ingredients to be this decade’s Once if the Academy were to raise its profile with a nomination in this category. Re-releases would follow and a great movie would get the airing it deserves.
Just picture the reaction to the performance
The songs in Patti Cake$ are excellent, but also feature some choice lyrics that I think would be quite outstanding to watch people react to in the Dolby Theater. Sure, in 2017, we had Justin Timberlake performing, which is what I imagine an 80-year-old-man would consider fun for younger viewers, but imagine a grimy rap number with the lyrics “like impotent dads, we some bad motherfuckers” being yelled at the crowd. Imagine how Meryl Streep would dance to that. The whole endeavour would be worth it just for that one, glorious moment. We would be looking at the GIFs forever.
Do you think Patti Cake$ deserves to be recognised at the Oscars? What’s your favourite track from the film? Let me know in the comments section.