Slavery is an evil that should befall none (by BackFire83)
12 Years a Slave tells the true story of Solomon Northup, an educated and free black man living in New York during the 1840's who gets abducted, shipped to the south, and sold into slavery. It is a film that stimulates at both an emotional level and an intellectual one. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Solomon Northup. He's been a "that guy" actor for sometime – film-goers may know his face but not his name. After this film his name will be known. He gives, quite simply, the best performance from a leading actor since Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood. Because of his <more>
character's position as a slave he is usually unable to speak his mind unless he is prepared to be beaten. As a result Ejiofor is forced to utilize body language and his eyes, which become enormous pools of emotion to express himself to the audience. He's forced to endure terrible things, but he always maintains a certain dignity and nobility that makes his plight even more affecting. It's a performance of incredible subtlety that may leave you speechless and in complete awe.Micheal Fassbender gives the best performance of his already extremely impressive career, even besting his previous high marks from the films Shame and Hunger both directed by Steve McQueen, who also directed 12 Years a Slave . He plays Edwynn Epps, a vicious and demonic slaver and perhaps the most loathsome and disgusting character ever put on screen. If alive today, he'd likely be a drunk with severe anger management issues. By turns pathetic and terrifying, he embodies the ultimate nightmare of a deeply flawed man given absolute power over other human beings, and through that absolute power finds only madness, which drives him to deeper cruelty. He's always a menacing and malignant presence even when not on screen, as his slaves must always be aware and prepared for his seemingly random bouts of sadism. Other actors give excellent performances as well. Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sarah Paulson, Alfre Woodard are all great in relatively small roles. But in this film of titans it's the one you've probably never heard of who perhaps stands above them all. In her first role in a feature film, Lupita Nyong'o, playing the pretty young slave Patsey - the object of Edwynn Epps demented and horrifying affections and the emotional epicenter of the entire picture, gives one of the most devastating performances I have ever seen. A portrait of unbearable sadness, her character is a mirror image of Solomon. While Solomon is a man who refuses to break and give up the dignity which he's known since birth, she is one who has long since been broken, and who never knew dignity in the first place. Her life is a living hell, forced to endure the "love" of Edwyn Epps and the brutal jealousy of his wife, she's trapped in a terrible triangle that she can't escape. Despite that, she retains a level of innocence that only heightens the tragedy of her character. It actually gets to the point where simply looking at this character might be enough to bring you to tears. It's a shattering performance.Starting his career as a video artist before making full length films, Steve McQueen has an uncanny eye for imagery and contrast. He's also a very patient film maker, utilizing long, steady single shots to emphasize various things. In his prior films this has felt like a purely stylistic choice, here, it's a choice aimed directly at our heart. When the events on screen become their most horrifying and ugly is when his camera becomes the most unflinching. At times feeling perhaps like we're seeing out of the solemn eyes of the ghost of some murdered slave, watching in sorrow and rage. This is both McQueen's most accessible and artistically searing film yet. There are also moments of stunning natural beauty that would make Terrence Malick proud. Alone, these shots would inspire wonder, but in the context of this film they make us feel more forlorn, as if the ugliness of man is encroaching on the natural beauty of the world.Perhaps the most noteworthy thing about 12 Years a Slave is the way that it portrays slavery itself. Instead of taking the easy way out and limiting his exploration of the topic solely to the slaves, Steve McQueen increases the scope and we see how it affects those who profited by it. Take Benedict Cumberbatch's character. A seemingly decent and caring man who treats his slaves with some semblance of respect and kindness. He comes off as a relatively good man who is trapped within the powerful confines of the institution of slavery. In 12 Years a Slave, slavery is shown as a horrifying and destructive social construct that drains the humanity from everyone it touches, turning good men into moral quandaries, turning flawed men into monsters, and turning an entire race of people into livestock and tools. To watch 12 Years a Slave is to be confronted with the grim reality of slavery in a way that's never been done before. To say this is the best film ever made about slavery feels trivial, as slavery is a subject in film that has been shown with naive romanticism from films like Gone With the Wind or silly exploitation from something like Django Unchained. Both of which serve to make the topic digestible. To watch 12 Years a Slave is to experience a level of despair and misery that can become overwhelming. It's a film of such ugliness, such blunt emotional trauma, that it may haunt you for hours if not days after seeing it. So why should you watch a film that could leave you reeling and devastated? Because, it's also one of the greatest cinematic achievements of our time.
And the Oscar goes to... (by thamanidelgardo-822-410218)
chitchens fan 2 hours ago △ ▽ − Well, to begin, I cannot remember the last time I could not get up at the end of a movie. I literally could not rise up from my seat. My body felt as though it were being weighed down by something considerably larger and heavier than myself... History had it's way with me I am an African American woman . Thank you Mr. McQueen, Mr. Ejiofor, Ms. Nyong'o, Ms. Paulson and others, and yes, even Mr. Fassbender. I am not a film critic nor a movie hobbyist, although I try to stay current, but what I am is a human being trying to understand the various <more>
problems and issues within our country. This movie is a potent reminder of why we are where we are as a society today. How man can be so unflinchingly cruel to his fellow man, especially if he looks, speaks or behaves differently, I will never understand.
McQueen's epic is beautiful and tragic anchored by sensational performances... (by ClaytonDavis)
Read More @ The Awards Circuit http://www.awardscircuit.com One of the things that have been thrown around for months now is the notion that awards season voting bodies won't respond to it because it's too "difficult" to sit through. Let's define difficult, shall we? Is it difficult to see the first openly gay politician gunned down by his closeted colleague? Is it difficult to see a reformed convict put to death by our country for his crimes? Is it difficult to see a mother choose which one of her children dies during the Holocaust? I'd argue that these answers add <more>
up to a resounding yes. Yet, no one threw those phrases of "too difficult" around.I've watched hundreds of films throughout my short 29-year history and I've seen some difficult cinema. Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List" can make anyone quiver in shame as it shows the despicable reality of the Holocaust. Paul Greengrass' "United 93", which is almost an emotional biopic of America's darkest hour, makes me want to crawl up into a ball and cry. And finally, Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ", one of the highest grossing films of all-time, shows the labor of our sins fleshed out into the beaten skin of an honest man. And still, no one threw these hyperbolic terms out saying, "it's too hard watch." Is it because this is an American tragedy, done by Americans? Is it the guilt of someone's ancestors manifesting it in your tear ducts? I can't answer that. Only the person who says it can. The structure of this country is built on the backs and blood of slaves. But slavery didn't just exist in America, it was everywhere. It was horrifying what occurred for over 200 years and believe it or not, still exists in some parts of the world TODAY.Now when approaching the powerful film by McQueen and distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures, there is a resounding honesty that McQueen and screenwriter John Ridley inhabit. There are no tricks or gimmicks, no cheap takes on a side story or character that is put there for time filling or a life-lesson for Solomon to learn. Everything is genuine. Is the film heartbreaking? Oh my God yes. Did I cry for several minutes after the screening? Embarrassingly so. I was enamored the entire time, head to toe, moment to moment.I have long admired the talent that's been evident in the works of Chiwetel Ejiofor. I've known he was capable of what he has accomplished as Solomon Northup and he hits it out of the park. He has the urgency, worry, and drive to get home to his family and executes every emotion flawlessly even when all hope seems to be lost. Where he shines incredibly are the small nuances that he takes as the story slows down, you notice aspects of Solomon that make him even more believable.As Edwin Epps, Solomon's last owner, Michael Fassbender digs down deep into some evil territory. Acts as the "Amon Goeth" of our tale, he is exactly what you'd expect a person who believes this should be a way of life to behave. He's vile and strikes fear into not only the people he interacts with but with the viewers who watch. As Mrs. Epps, Sarah Paulson is just as wretched. Abusive, conniving, entitled, and I loved every second of her.Mark my words; Lupita Nyong'o is the emotional epicenter of the entire film. The heartache, tears, and anger that will grow inside during the feature will have our beautiful "Patsey" at the core. She is the great find of our film year and will surely go on to more dynamic and passionate projects in the future. You're watching the birth of a star.Hans Zimmer puts forth a very pronounced score, enriched with all the subtle ticks that strike the chords of tone. One thing that cannot be denied is the exquisite camera work of Sean Bobbit. Weaving through the parts of boat and then through the grassroots of a cotton field, he puts himself in the leagues of Roger Deakins and Seamus McGarvey as one of the most innovative and exciting DP's in the business. Especially following his work in "The Place Beyond the Pines" earlier this year. Simply marvelous.Oscar chances, since I know many of you are wondering. Put the Oscar's in my hands, you have a dozen nominations reap for the taking. Best Picture, Director, Lead Actor, Supporting Actor, dual Supporting Actresses, Adapted Screenplay, Production Design, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Original Score. There's also a strong and rich sound scope that is present. The sounds of nature as the slaves walk or as Solomon approaches his master's house is noticed. The big question is, can it win? I haven't seen everything yet so I cannot yet if it deserves it or not. I can say, if critics and audiences can get off this "difficult" watch nonsense and accept the cinematic endeavor as a look into our own history as told from a great auteur, there's no reason it can't top the night. I'm very aware that seeing this film along with Steve McQueen crowned by Oscar is nearly erasing 85 years of history in the Academy. Are they willing and ready to begin looking into new realms and allowing someone not necessarily in their inner circles to make a bold statement as McQueen and Ridley take in "12 Years a Slave?" I remain hopeful.
A random and encounter has led Solomon Northup from living freely in New York to being kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana, getting handed over to various slave owners. There, Solomon witnesses numerous acts of cruelty that no man should ever face.As I stared at the movie screen with full dread, I was reeling back at certain scenes I had just witnessed. There were good films and television shows about slavery before, and they had various nuances at how to tackle slavery. This film is part of said resurgence of the sub- genre, hot on the heels of "Django Unchained" and <more>
"The Butler". But while the former relinquishes on Spaghetti Western entertainment more than attempting to address the issue in a political light as the latter, Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" shuts those two up, and perhaps the entire sub-genre, for good. I doubt any future slavery-themed film will be as harrowing as this one was.Steve McQueen is a fearless filmmaker, continuing his streak of unfiltered brutality within human depths. He frames his actors' faces in extreme close-up, the eyes staring into despair, the nostrils fuming in aggression. Naked flesh are shown not because of erotic content, but rather because of desperation and futility. Long takes and wide shots are not uncommon in his films, and here they showcase a plethora of fantastic scenes and performances that work to discomfort the viewer as much as possible. McQueen doesn't just allow the audience to tackle slavery, he guts the audience and leaves them for the consequences. This is an extremely uncomfortable film to watch. Beautifully shot locations are placeholders for unsettling sequences before and after, contemplated by Hans Zimmer's poignant and at times horrifying score. This all works to create a nightmarish time and place where hell walks on Earth.Central to all of this is the performance of Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon. Ejiofor showcases that he is a natural force to be reckoned with in this film, after a decade of mostly supporting characters. He spaces out in despair as the camera lingers onto him for solid minutes, not a word spoken. Another sequence shows him mourning the death of a fellow worker, in which the singing of the surrounding group compels him and shakes him down to tears. These scenes follow earlier ones where he is a classy, free man in the upper states, mingling happily with the crowd and partaking in fanciful music sessions. It is a tour-de-force performance.A fine ensemble of established and up-and-coming actors surround Ejiofor in his limelight - Paul Dano, Paul Giammati, Alfre Woodard, Sarah Paulson, even Brad Pitt and Benedict Cumberbatch, but none so ferociously as McQueen regular Michael Fassbender as the despicable, sadistic plantation owner Edwin Epps. So excellent and terrifying is Fassbender's portrayal of such a merciless and barbaric person, that the mere sight of him will either cause audience members unfamiliar to him to flinch.I was left speechless as the credits rolled. A lesser film would have added tacked-on sentimentality/exaggeration and politically influenced claptrap. Not this one. This is a movie to watch as a reminder of how powerful the human spirit can endeavor, and how lucky all of us have grown past that dreadful time in history. The full effect of it has not been felt in movies before, until now.
Considering the social and economic importance of slavery in America's history, the scarcity of serious films depicting the daily life of slaves in the Confederate States is significant - especially since the after-effects from this shameful episode still echo through the culture. '12 Years a Slave' is based upon the memoirs of Solomon Northup, who endured a hellish period of enslavement in Louisiana, which is backed up by legal records.The story begins with him living with wife and children in upstate New York as a free man and respected member of his community. After being lured <more>
to Washington by a couple of con-artists who promised him work, he was subsequently drugged, locked in chains, viciously beaten, stripped of his identity and shipped to New Orleans to be sold into slavery. Over the next twelve years, he was owned by two men who treated him in contrasting ways. The first was a relatively civilized fellow, but the plantation's half-witted manager was threatened by Northup's superior intelligence. Their mutual dislike produced a dangerously volatile situation, and unwilling to lose his investment, Northup's owner re-sold him to a neighbor. This unbalanced individual regarded his slaves as property to be used for pleasure and profit, which caused them to live in perpetual fear that his capricious moods would flare into sadistic lust or rage at any moment.It's noteworthy that a British director has become one of the few filmmakers to delve deeply into this subject, and the combination of John Ridley's powerful script and McQueen's directorial skills has inspired exceptional performances from the entire cast. Their dramatization of Northup's experiences is both riveting and uncomfortable to watch, as the film depicts the perverse nature of a society that permitted such a barbaric system. Hopefully it will reach a large US audience, who will learn how a privileged Southern elite cruelly exploited their fellow humans in order to acquire greater wealth for themselves.
One of our partners was invited to TIFF for the premiere of Life of Crime so I was lucky to be able to tag along with him and watch these two great films along with The Lunchbox. I didn't initially even think of writing a review because I would hate to discuss something that the majority of the public hasn't seen yet because public opinion would be limited. But, seeing the reviews that some have published has pushed me to write a review of my own.In the beginning, the movie moves semi fast as far as getting into the central plot but not too fast that you don't get the opportunity <more>
to assess the characters. In fact, by the time Solomon Ejiofor is sold into slavery, in my opinion, his demeanor, education, and his family are established enough for you to invest enough emotion into him that by the end of the film you care enough about him to wonder if he and his family will ever be reunited.I don't understand how someone can say that they were bored because they are desensitized by the beatings and tortures that African American slaves endured during that dark time. Odd analogy but, I cried at the end the movie Titanic not because I was unaware of the fact that the ship would sink and eventually be the demise of thousands of people but because the story telling grasped my attention and pulled at my heart strings. Same case with 12 Years. Yes, you know Solomon along with the other unfortunate souls will endure physical and emotional pain and you might be well familiar with the tools and methods they accomplished this with but it makes it no less shocking, sad, or important. I wonder if this person saw the same movie that I saw, if at all, because without spoiling too much of the movie, there is a torture scene in which the camera not only zooms into what's occurring but it also seems to last forever to the point where I was so uncomfortable that I wanted the scene to end. McQueen does this throughout this film along with many of his other films , his scenes make you uncomfortable mostly because his camera lingers on scenes that are very hard to watch.Surprisingly, the only time I got teary eyed was in a funeral scene where Ejiofor's acting shines and mostly with facial expressions and some singing you realize that he's finally succumbed to his situation versus how in the beginning he emotionally fought his sudden twist of fate. As far as the other actors, much has been said about Fassbander and Nyong'o's superior acting, rightly so, but I found myself being really impressed with Benedict Cumberbatch and Paul Dano's performances. Hopefully, we can all agree that Fassbander's character, Edwin Epps, is that of a tyrant and just an awful human being. Someone like that is easy to assess but Cumberbatch's William Ford is more complex. He's a slave owner yet he treats his slaves humanely, to an extent he cares about them but he definitely puts his and his families' interest above all, and although he doesn't partake in the beatings he sure doesn't interfere with the process. He makes you ask yourself if neutral people like him are good or bad for progress. I still don't know the answer to that. Paul Dano plays John Tibeats and his character is cruel and has horrible mood swings. The way he was played, I wondered if the person the character was based on had a mental disorder. He's uneducated almost slow , not even respected within his peers, and overall just a loser. Not to make excuses for him but how could someone with those defects possibly be kind to another human being let alone a human who was considered inferior throughout that time. He too makes me question the hardships that other people, other than slaves, were going through during that time.Overall, this film had a great narrative, strong performances from the entire cast, and I would definitely recommend this film. I do have two complaints, though. I too felt that the ending was a bit abrupt. In all fairness, I'm not sure what kind of closure I was expecting but I felt like much was left unsaid. My biggest gripe of all has to be the torture scene I mentioned above in which Patsey Nyong'o yells something to Solomon and it just had John Ridley's over the top style written all over it. According to Solomon Northup's biography this exchange did not happen so why did Ridley feel the need to add such a dramatic statement? What was the need to create sexual ? tension between Patsey and Solomon's character? The same could be said about a speech Solomon gives in the film. That too was fiction and not realistic but I guess they did that to emphasize on their message on hope.
A direct telling of the horrors, but not quite the complexities, of a man kidnapped into slavery (by secondtake)
12 Years a Slave 2013 Who can possibly argue against the power of this kind of movie, and the injustice that it waves as a welcome reminder? Superbly directed and acted especially leading man Chiwetel Ejofor playing Solomon Northup , and set with high levels of realism in pre-Civil War America, there is little to separate what the filmmakers intended and what they achieved. A work of excellence.It is not, however, quite the masterpiece it might have been. I don't mean the story or the level of competence here at all. I mean the way the story is told, the choice to simply tell it like it <more>
was.That means that the presentation is quite linear excepting a few gratuitous flashbacks that seem like a last minute editing decision . And uncomplicated. This is the biggest surprise. I mean, the basics might seem enough—a free black man in Saratoga goes to Washington and is kidnapped and made a slave, and he remains a slave until his recovery 12 years later. But that is actually the entire movie.Oh, I know, the details are missing in that sentence. But it is these details where the movie succeeds too well. We are shown the horrors of slavery and made to experience them. It isn't that this is ignoble or unimportant. On the contrary, this is an "important" film and should be seen. But in some weirdly surreal way, we already know everything that happens in these details. Do we need to see a woman, naked and tied to a post, whipped and whipped and whipped, with screaming in our ears? Many will say yes. We need to feel that horror even a little bit through a movie to understand how utterly unbelievably horrible slavery was. I would just argue back that I don't really want to be tortured directly to confirm what I already fully agree with. It's just a choice you want to make as a moviegoer. It's similar to watching a kidnapping movie—do you want to experience the inner and outer torments of the kidnapped, or see some larger view of a kidnapping situation and the complexities of that kind of plot?For me, then the movie was excellent at being literal, but that's not enough. For example, there is absolutely no hint at what the family did when Solomon didn't return home after his trip to Washington. Did they search? Worry? How? Who helped, who ignored them? Etc. That's just one of many complexities the movie avoids for the sake of a direct experience of the protagonist. I hope that gives a sense of where this unpleasant, terrific movie leaves you, and whether to watch it.
Going into a film like this you somewhat know what to expect. You ready yourself for callous suffering without end for no other reason than a system was just set that way, hope snuffed by despair. You know the injustice and stupidity will revolt, because it is just so blatantly wrong it baffles that it would be allowed to go on for even a day in plain sight.We can't avoid the bluntness if we are to confront that world. Slaves are casually stabbed and thrown overboard on the journey south, a mother is separated by her kids in a slave sale, down at the bayous they are beaten, a girl flogged <more>
for wanting a piece of soap, treated at best as mischievous kids or at worst as animals. We see how our man is over the years beaten or numbly retreats to protect himself into a hollow shell. But what good does it do if it merely blunts you to cleanse? Serious question here. Most films work in this way, from the Greek model demanding catharsis, a cleansing from evil so that we can go on about our lives. But if we just go on about our lives merely relieved of a burden, has any actual change taken place? If I shed a few tears at a film like this and the next day take out my work stress on my kids, am I really cleansed of the same root ignorance that at one time supported slavery? Southerners were not in support of an apparent evil after all from their pov, but of what they saw as a right or a tradition or a natural necessity.So I'm glad the film does these two things right, it's the only way it can truly be an eye-opener on the subject. It runs the gamut of people who exist today with the same ignorance: among them the young overseer scorned because he was outsmarted, the jealous and neglected wife, the white worker who betrays the letter to jump ahead in his career, the plantation owner who is thoughtful yet won't buy the kid with his mother because of the cost.And offers no catharsis. The exasperation is sweated out with a stoic capacity for having to be in the world, sentimental music doesn't try to waste all the pent-up energy into simple spine-tingling, the world itself is full of texture and sound because past the imposed confines there was still a world that extended in the distance and went on.I would only have the first segment of normal life much longer so that we'd be more deeply torn from our safet. All that staring into a clump of sunset trees in the distance much more intense because somewhere beyond that is still home and a wife, and this is the greatest visual education I could wish for anyone: not giving up into suffering as not losing sight of the horizon where loved ones are. The notion of persistence solely visual in the arduous field work itself. And only a whole separate film could do justice to the richness of slave songs, their call and response, their hidden narrative and spontaneous order.But a film that already calls up these intuitions has worked more than most, and any future film on the subject will have to build on this.No cleansing because there's nothing to so easily pretend like we can cleanse ourselves of and leave behind in the theater, all the evil in the film does not arise from intrinsic evil itself otherwise we'd never be able to become better persons but conditional ego and ignorance and we live every day with these things. If you relieve us with catharsis all that energy goes away. If you don't, it becomes a ball of lead that we have swallowed and have to carry with us back home to our kids, so that maybe it can work its own answer in this life.
Greetings again from the darkness. Should this be labeled a historical drama? Is it one man's extraordinary tale of strength and survival? Does this fall into the "art film" category that so divides the movie-going public? The answer to all is YES, and I would add that it's a masterfully crafted film with exquisite story telling, stunning photography and top notch acting throughout.The movie is based on the real life and writings of Solomon Northrup, a free man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery from 1841-53. Northrup's story provides us a look inside the despicable <more>
institution of slavery. Needless to say, it's a painful and sad process made even more emotional by the work of director Steve McQueen Hunger, Shame . McQueen takes a very direct approach. Not much is left to the imagination. Torture, abuse, cruelty and misery take up the full screen. The only subtlety comes from the terrific work of Chiwetel Ejiofor as Northrup. His facial expressions and eyes are more powerful and telling than any lines of dialogue could be.You will not find many details from the movie here. This is one to experience for yourself. It lacks the typical Hollywood agenda when it comes to American history. Instead this era is presented through the eyes of a single wronged man and his quest to return to his wife and kids, no matter the inhumane obstacles. We see Paul Giamatti as an emotionless, all-business slave trader. Benedict Cumberbatch is a plantation owner who has a heart, but lacks business savvy. And finally we enter the world of cotton farmer Michael Fassbender, who twists Bible scripture into threats directed at the slaves - his "property".Fassbender dives deep into evil to find his character, and along with Ejiofor, Sarah Paulsen who plays Fassbender's icy wife , and Lupita Nyong'o who plays slave Patsey, the center of the two most incredible scenes in the film , provide more Oscar worthy performances than any one movie can expect. You will also note Quvenzhane Wallis as Northrup's daughter and Dwight Henry as a slave in their first appearances since Beasts of the Southern Wild. Other strong support comes from Scoot McNairy, Taran Killam SNL , Michael K Williams, Alfre Woodward, a nasty Paul Dano, Garret Dillahunt and Adepero Oduye.Steven Spielberg gave us a taste of the holocaust with Schindler's List, but not since the TV mini-series "Roots" has any project come so close to examining the realities of slavery. Northrup's story seems to be from a different universe than the charming slaves of Gone with the Wind. I would argue that what makes this watchable though very difficult is the focus on Northrup's story. While tragic, his ending actually deflects from the ongoing plight of those not so fortunate. It's a story of a man who states he doesn't wish to merely survive, he wants to live a life worth living.McQueen's direction will certainly be front and center come awards season, as will many of the actors, John Ridley the screenwriter , Sean Bobbitt cinematographer and Hans Zimmer score . The only question is whether the subject matter is too tough for Oscar voters, who traditionally lean towards projects a bit more mainstream.