Uncut Gems’ John Amos Cameo Is So Much More Than That

Uncut Gems opened wide on Christmas Day and has already amassed over $13.7 million so far at the Domestic Box Office. It’s clearly on its way to being a great success for indie darling A24 and we’ve even written a bit on the movie and Adam Sandler’s focused campaign to net awards come Oscars time.

But what we’d really like to talk about is that John Amos cameo in the final third of the film.

For those who haven’t seen this daring, exhilarating film from the Safdie Brothers, we’ll keep spoilers to a minimum. What we can say is this: Adam Sandler plays Howard Ratner, a jeweler who gets himself in and out of a lot of challenging (and potentially nail biting) situations with the hope of finally netting that big score. However, things don’t always go as planned, and he spends the majority of the movie trying to make right where things went wrong.

But yes, let’s talk about Good Times and Coming to America‘s John Amos.

At one point in the movie, Howard is taking his son up to his city apartment to pick up some things, and as they walk down the hall he tells his son that his next door neighbor is none other than John Amos. In fact, his son has to go to the bathroom and Howard knocks on Amos’ door to see if he’ll let his son use the bathroom. Amos opens up the door, disheveled and surprised, only to deny Howard’s son the use of his bathroom in what amounts to a fifteen second cameo.

And that would be all anyone would write about this cameo, if this cameo was just that…a cameo. The term cameo often refers to a “brief moment” in a movie played by a celebrity. But John Amos’ moment in Uncut Gems is, in actuality, only one of eight moments where the classically trained thespian appears in the film. We’re surprised no one has watched the movie close enough to find all the John Amos moments, but then again most outlets are writing the stories you’d expect to read about the film.

And most sites are not The Story is Not The Story.

We combed through the film via the official trailer and pulled seven other instances of John Amos’ moments from Uncut Gems. In an attempt to not ruin the film, we’ve only gone through the trailer to keep the visual moments limited to what the Safdie’s and A24 chose to release to the public versus posting almost another dozen moments from the feature film that picture John Amos in hidden cameos and Easter egg moments throughout the film. We’d like to add more here, but for now, until the film has been out for some time, we’ll keep it limited to just trailer moments.

So take a look at these other John Amos moments, which are all non-speaking moments from the film, but which place Amos in much of the Uncut Gems universe that the Safdie’s have created.

As Howard Ratner is filmed in a tracking shot down the New York streets, a far off John Amos leans against a building in the background. (Fig 1.1)
The Safdie Brothers dress up John Amos in a suit and place him in the background of a sequence where a long shot tracks Howard Ratner in a competitor’s jewelry store. (Fig 1.2)
Howard Ratner tracks down girlfriend Julia as she’s going to see The Weeknd perform. In a dark, smoky club, John Amos stands with a clear drink on the right side of the frame of the moment. (Fig 1.3)
Howard Ratner in yet another street-wide tracking shot. John Amos walks away from the camera, supposedly towards the apartment building he shares with Ratner. (Fig 1.4)
As Howard Ratner gets beat up by thugs, John Amos walks away from the camera in a quilted hoodie that you can see in the background of his apartment building when he opens up the door to Ratner later in the movie. The Safdie’s have placed Amos here by using the quilted hoodie as an Easter egg. (Fig 1.5)
In the final act of the film, Ratner throws a bag of money to Julia out the window of his jewelry store. Down on the street, wearing the same hoodie again, is John Amos. (Fig 1.6)
Julia goes to bet everything on a basketball game, and although she goes to a different window, the clerk at window 6 is none other than John Amos. (Fig 1.7)
In a bit of amazing choreography, the Safdies place John Amos in the crowd, in the bg of a television interview with Kevin Garnett, which can only be an homage to the famous baseball TV cameo sequence that John Hughes used in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. (Fig 1.8)

What exactly are the Safdies doing here with John Amos? Is there a second narrative storyline happening with John Amos throughout New York City during the same time horizon that Howard Ratner is trying to win big for his family and his girlfriend? Is there something bigger happening in the Uncut Gems Universe or the UGCU as we’re now calling it? Will we find Howard Ratner showing up in the background of Coming to America 2, which shot after Uncut Gems finished principal photography?

It’s possible. It would be absolutely crazy cool if that was the case.

But until we can confirm that, we’re going to seize on the current marvel of this film and the John Amos of it all and call out the Safdies as not only amazing, visual filmmakers, but jokesters of the highest regard. The significance of Amos placed throughout their story is a unique and compelling secret we can’t wait to learn more about.

Good Times, indeed.


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