‘12 Years A Slave’ explores the shameful stain of human bondage
There have been numerous movies over the decades that have explored the Holocaust, too many to mention. Many of those films have included scenes that show modern German citizens who ignore or deny their past.
Steve McQueen’s brutally honest depiction of slavery in America based on a true story, 12 Years A Slave, hits like a sledgehammer, in part because it suggests that films about slavery are rare because we are guilty of burying the shameful aspects of our history as well.
The remarkable British/ Nigerian actor Chiwetel Ejiofor (Choo-it-tell Edge-ee-o-for) stars as Solomon Northrup, the free man kidnapped and sold into slavery for the 12 years of the title. We first meet Northrup in his home in upstate New York, a free man and musician who is part of the community, seemingly without any racial tension.
As a man who has never felt the sting of being considered less than human because of the color of his skin, he has no defense against the men who trick him and make a fast buck by selling him into slavery.
His shock, outrage and desire for justice are soon beaten and whipped into submission on the surface. He learns that guile must be his friend, that he must hide his intelligence and especially his anger.
McQueen uses this true story, based on Northrup’s own account, to shine a floodlight on the horrifying barbarism of slavery. If you thought Quentin Tarantino showed the brutality of slavery in Django Unchained, you might find the savagery in McQueen’s film hard to watch.
McQueen wants us to truly understand the torture of slavery. We feel the agony of a woman being flayed with a whip to the point of turning away from the screen. That woman is Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o), a slave who both fascinates and repels her sadistic owner, Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender). When he isn’t whipping her to please his wife, he is praising her for her skill in picking cotton and raping her nightly.
Faced with a world where his humanity has been stolen, Northrup’s courage and determination are well hidden from those who scan his responses for any signs that he is getting uppity. His ordeal seems hopeless, but his will to live won’t let him give in to the despair. Ejiofor was introduced to art-house audiences in Steven Frears’ superb Dirty Pretty Things and has been building his resume ever since, from supporting roles in Serenity, Children of Men and Salt to starring roles in Red Belt and the flashy Lola in Kinky Boots. Now he has found the role of a lifetime and delivers an unforgettable performance, using his expressive eyes to convey the pain, agony and rage his character must keep hidden.
In a recent interview on 60 Minutes, actor Liam Neeson, now 61, admitted that he thought his action thriller Taken, released in 2008, would go directly to video, not become a hit film that turned him overnight into an action hero.
In the 1980s, Gordon Parks directed a TV version of Solomon Northrup’s story, which I’d recently viewed, but I cannot think of any other slavery-themed movie that depicts the strange and often hostile relationships between slave-holding and abolitionist white men, slave-holding and enslaved women and others who lived and/or worked on slave plantations in the Americas ...
Every nightclub in town will have some sort of celebration going on to ring in the New Year on Tuesday night, Dec. 31, as will most pubs and dining establishments. Here are a few ideas for what’s coming up.
Many of us love going to the movies. If you’re a film critic that means you most likely fell in love with movies as a child and that love affair never goes away. At least it hasn’t gone away for me.
There was some history made at the 2013 Academy Awards and if Captain Kirk comes back from the future with an Oscar headline regarding host Seth MacFarlane, it will read: He didn’t suck. This was an Oscar evening that shared the good vibrations around in an appropriate manner.
While in general the Academy Award nominations went as expected, the two exceptions were jaw dropping: No best director nomination for Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) and no best actor nod for John Hawkes (The Sessions). Both of these omissions really have me steamed.
While there are the usual stone-cold lock Oscar nominees this year, the Academy is jumping the gun with its early announcement of nominations. This was done because the Academy members were sick and tired of all the other awards like the Golden Globes watering down the Oscar excitement by announcing its winners before the Oscar nominations were even released.
I don’t like the term top movies of the year. Defining them as your favorite movies is more on point, but if you’re a film critic you are not supposed to whine about how movie taste is subjective, not objective.
Some would say being a Quentin Tarantino fan is a matter of taste, or perhaps in some minds, it’s a matter of being swayed by his utter tastelessness. Put me in Camp Tarantino every day and twice on Sunday.
“I have a group of the funniest comedians in the world. I’m going to host it and keep it moving along, but the comedians are absolutely fantastic. Come out and get your laugh on; if you’re just feeling okay, we’ll make you feel great.”
Although I didn’t like the original Thor movie, I became a bigger fan of the character and Chris Hemsworth thanks to the delightful superhero team adventure The Avengers. Superhero movies certainly earn more gravitas when they go for a darker element and Thor: The Dark World puts its bid for displaying a more serious side right in the title.
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