My Favorite Moments in the Best Picture Nominees: Jojo Rabbit

So my favorite Oscars tradition, aside from getting hammered and eating Chinese food during the ceremony, is, the day before the ceremony, presenting my favorite moments in each of the Best Picture nominees. I originally started it in 2011, when I felt like there was a lot of anger over certain things that were nominated (The Artist, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help), and I just wanted to take that step back and remind myself and everyone else what it’s all about — this is because we love movies. We’re just giving out awards to the movies we liked best. It’s not about the damn awards. It’s about good movies and love of the art form. And it’s something I think we need to be reminded of, which is why I now do it before every Oscar ceremony. It doesn’t matter what wins and what doesn’t, it’s all about celebrating the great movies that came out this year.

Our next nominee is Jojo Rabbit.

5. “Komm, gib mir deine Hand”

As soon as I heard that song, I was in. Because I understood it immediately. Partially because I have this crazy library of music and have the German version of that song on there. So I’ve come across it and it’s amused me over the years. So as soon as the chords started playing, I knew exactly what song choice Taika had made, thought it was brilliant and then saw the full scope of why he chose it — because the opening credits do give you an idea. Hitler’s popularity in Germany at that time was like Beatlemania. So it was a perfect choice two-fold.

4. Adolf

Taika had written the script for someone else to play Hitler, but then the studio said, “We really want you to do it.” And it was truly the best possible choice. Because he brings the perfect attitude for the character. At first it’s ridiculous because it’s Taika playing Hitler. And it’s meant to be funny at first. Because it gets you to not immediately reject the concept. And at first he’s basically an imaginary friend, but then as the movie goes on, and as Jojo starts to lose his fanaticism, Adolf actually starts to become like the real Hitler, and you start to realize, “Oh yeah, this isn’t all fun and games. This dude is fucking Hitler.” He starts to get scary and scream and yell, and he becomes the villain in the movie by the end. It’s wonderfully done.

3. “Dance” / “Helden”

Another needle drop I was thrilled for, because it’s another German version I have/have listened to, and one I had in my head while watching the movie. Because, after the first one, I went, “What else could he use?” And this one immediately came to mind. And once I heard it come up at the end, the biggest smile came on my face. Plus, I knew how he was ending his movie, which also made me smile pretty widely.

It’s a nice moment earlier in the film, when Jojo asks Elsa what she’ll do when the war ends, and she says “Dance.” And so now, she has her moment to dance. And it’s such a beautiful, brilliant way to end the movie. And, I say this all the time — I’m a fan of anything that ends with people dancing (stemming from the greatest Simpsons ending of all time). So it was a really perfect ending for me.

2. Jojo / Elsa

I love the relationship between the two of them. It’s the crux of the movie, more so than Jojo and his mother, more so than Jojo and Adolf. It’s Thomasin McKenzie’s character who is the most important in the film. If her entire situation doesn’t work, the film doesn’t work. I just love every moment between the two of them, the way they become a brother and sister, and the way it’s played for comedy, tragedy, and everything in between. Here’s a kid that needs the guidance of an older sister to knock the sense into him that adults can’t, and here’s a girl whose entire family has been taken from her and needs a sense of normalcy and a sign that maybe not everything is all bad. The moment in the film where Jojo breaks down and she comforts him is, to me, the most emotional moment in the entire film. I cry every time I see it. Which, probably make this a good time to get to…

1. This moment

Oh my god, this moment. I live for these moments in a film. I so rarely get something that achieves what this does. I’ve spent an entire decade-plus talking about that one moment in the movie Rachel Getting Married, where they set up this scene of the father challenging his son-in-law to see who can load a dishwasher faster. And it starts as this indie type of scene, but then it becomes like a sporting event. He’s gonna win, and then he’s like, “I can do better, give me more dishes!” And everyone’s happy and they’re cheering, and then instantaneously, everyone falls silent, because the one dish they pulled belonged to his dead son, and immediately you’re pulled back to the reality of the situation and what the main character is in rehab for in the first place. Not every movie can really pull off a moment like that. It’s literally blowing up a balloon without realizing you’re blowing it up and immediately popping it. That’s what this movie does.

You have this moment right after Elsa pretends to be Jojo’s dead sister, and he realizes she did it to protect him, at her own peril. He says she can just pretend to be her. We’ve already established he has feelings for her and we further establish that he’s starting to be broken out of his fervor for Nazism. And then he’s outside, sees a butterfly flying around — we’ve already established butterflies as a metaphor for innocence and love (we saw one at the beginning and then metaphorical ones in his stomach during the montage) — and here it’s just this moment of respite from all the terrible shit going on, that now Jojo is starting to understand the full horrors of. And then bam. Everyone in the theater I saw this with openly gasped at this moment. The entire wind was knocked out of a collective theater at the exact same moment. It was really powerful, and I’d be remiss not to call it the best moment in this film, which is full of a lot of great moments.

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