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TYaS reviews

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Re: TYaS reviews

Post by Admin on Sat Sep 14, 2013 2:59 pm

http://newblackman.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/12-years-slave-film-really-about.html


Sep
9
'12 Years A Slave': A Film 'Really' About Slavery With No Apologies--review by Stephane Dunn
12 Years A Slave: A Film 'Really' About Slavery With No Apologies
by Stephane Dunn | NewBlackMan (in Exile)

There are folk who don’t [gulp] watch or like movies period [really] – a thing a movie fanatic like myself cannot comprehend. Others love movies but never, ever go out to the theatre to see them. My own Mama is one. Strangers you can’t make behave [or in Mama’s terms, people with no home training], pricey tickets, and seven dollar plus popcorn, etcetera, etcetera just doesn’t make sense in the age of the advanced remote control, 42’ plus plasma TVs, and DVR. However, every now and then a movie should come along that compels even the staunchest movies-at-home-body to drive to a movie theatre, sit with the anonymous throng, and be counted with the box office receipts. This fall, there’s a movie that should demand that exceptional status: 12 Years a Slave. It does so much right with such faithfulness to keeping it real and raw, that you will not be able to look away though you’ll want to.
The film is based on the once famous account, Twelve Years a Slave: Narrative of Solomon Northrop, a free black New Yorker, who in 1841 is kidnapped and enslaved for twelve brutal years. It’s worth reading for the first time or again before or after seeing the movie. 12 Years a Slave, directed by Steve McQueen (Shame) and penned by John Ridley, is actually one of the very few narrative films [if the claim for a few can even be made], ever made in American motion picture history that’s actually about slavery.
I don’t mean that it's simply set during the historical period of the Civil War and slavery (Cold Mountain) or about the political issue of slavery with nary a nod to black activists, the voices of the enslaved population or a glimpse of at least Frederick Douglass (Spielberg’s recent Lincoln), nor does it pretend to be a historical drama about black slaves’ struggle against slavery, but instead spends more time in a hothouse featuring morally conflicted, well-meaning white folk struggling with slavery or fighting for slaves in an exceptional situation (Amistad). It also ain’t a fantastical drama that offers an ex-slave turned cowboy killing all the white folk then doing a jig on a horse and riding off with a damsel in distress to God knows where (Django).
It is, however, a great story interpreted unflinchingly and courageously by Mr. McQueen and the cast as well, which includes Chiwetel Ejiofor as Northrop, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano, and Alfre Woodward [appearing in the too muted role of a black woman who lives in the Big House with her master-lover, waited on by other slaves]. Brad Pitt, the traveling Canadian carpenter who unsurprisingly plays Bass, the good guy key to the end of Northrop’s enslavement, will inevitably be brought up a lot in media attention on the movie despite his limited time on-screen. It’s rarely ever a bad thing to have one of earth’s biggest Hollywood actors and famous faces in a film, but 12 Years doesn't need big celebrity names or high profile faces. It can stand on the strength of its parts and the sum – a film that will not go down easily and we won’t be forgetting soon.
Quentin Tarantino proudly touted Django as a rare film about slavery that was entertaining and not a history lesson or preachy, to paraphrase him. That was his answer to why films about slavery never fare too well [thinking of Beloved perhaps]. Truthfully, slavery isn’t a popular topic in Hollywood or in American culture period. It’s messy, traumatic, invokes deep-seated racial divides, denial, defensiveness and so on. There is a stunning lack of films on the subject that have actually gotten big studio support and nation wide releases let alone helmed by black directors, written by black writers, or starring black actors. In a nation that can endure a great deal of blood and gore at the movies, the psychic and physical brutality of slavery has been the epitome of the cliché - too hot to handle despite it being the most significant, long chapter in American history. It’s not high profile racial tragedies that should inspire sustained, critical public dialogue on the realities of slavery and its continuing complex legacy in the American psyche—films like 12 Years a Slave should do that.
12 Years a Slave goes into that psychic and physical brutality with no apologies and apparently no fear that Americans won’t go there with it. We are not treated to romantic reprieves from the raw realities of human beings treated as chattel with no humanity. One of the film’s great challenges is to convey the temporal nature of those twelve years that Northrup is a slave and more - the endlessness of slave life – the 365 days-a-year-plus-another-and-another into seeming infinity from generation to generation that black slaves endured. The film moves quickly from his rather exceptional life as a respected free man of color, whose expert carpentry and music support his wife, son, and daughter (Oscar nominated Quvenzhané Wallis) to his shocking kidnapping by two well-honed white confidence men and then to his life as a slave in the deep south, trying unsuccessfully, often, to play the dumb, passive ‘nigger’ he is not and mask his real identity.
The effort at suggesting those long, long twelve years and the physical and psychological toll it takes on Northrop doesn’t succeed altogether throughout the depiction of his enslavement but does poignantly when, at the end, Northrop is ultimately reunited with a family that he can hardly recognize, including a now, grown, married daughter with a husband and a baby. The film succeeds more strongly in suggesting the unyielding, life-time kind of forever that slavery was through the other slaves, and in particular two slave women, Patsy and Eliza, played respectively by the phenomenal, Lupito Nyong’o, and Adepero Oduye.
This is where the film is most raw and unrelenting as it dares to go where few [public dialogues and certainly few motion pictures even want to go unless it’s portrayed as illicit love and sexy lust Hollywood style – the rape of black women by their white masters and the selling and separation of black enslaved families. Watching it, made me think of a song I became familiar with before Civil Rights documentaries in middle school or even church through a question I heard both from my mother and grandmother who at turns would say, shaking their heads, or sing and hum: I don’t know how we got over.
Oduye’s Eliza won’t stop crying, literally, after her children are sold from her, even after everyone, including Solomon and the other slaves, master and mistress, can’t stand the crying any longer. Allowing the crying to go on and on so it really becomes unbearable, means that the totally disempowered Eliza doesn’t have to merely go silent or disappear within herself or immediately commit suicide but to resolutely allow no one a break from her justifiable suffering, from her endless mother’s tears, is really a stunning move. While the very nature of slavery denies her humanity and maternal identity, she won’t mask to get along, to be safe, or avoid punishment or being sold yet again.
But it’s Nyong’o’s Patsy, who outworks all picking cotton, who strips bare any notion that slavery wasn’t what it was – an atrocity of epic proportions. Through the close-ups of Pasty, McQueen lays open the unyielding sexual violence that black slave women were subject too. Patsy’s body is not an object of affection or sexual desire. Her white slave master becomes more than the expected archetypal evil master, but a personification of all the nameless horror, trauma, and brutality that slavery embodied. Patsy is subjected to continuous horrific beatings and savage rapes over and over; Solomon’s twelve years and the tragic reality of the other slaves’ lifetime enslavement is etched onto Patsy’s brutalized body.
Northrop’s real life story doesn’t end when he is indeed rescued from the plantation by a northern attorney friend but extends to court battles with his kidnappers. At the end of the film, Northrup is saved from spending the rest of his life in slavery, but it’s not a moment of triumph that falls into a sentimental representation of his survival. Instead, it is those left in the fields in the hot southern sun and in the house within literal reach of the mistress’s or massa’s angry boot, and beautiful, strong, vulnerable Patsy, face, body, and spirit destroyed by unrelenting brutal violations that linger. 12 Years a Slave is decidedly not Django and not slavery light. It shouldn’t have to be. I dare you, go out and see it.
October 2013 release
133 minutes


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Re: TYaS reviews

Post by Admin on Wed Sep 18, 2013 7:49 am

http://fandomobsessed.com/upcoming-movies-you-can-watch-with-your-boyfriend-without-feeling-guilty/

September 12, 2013

Upcoming movies you can watch with your boyfriend (without feeling guilty)

This being my first article, I may very well start by confessing I’m the odd man out in this site. Literally. Having the privilege of possessing the only Y chromosome in the staff, I have a responsibility towards the female audience and, specially, towards their male companions. A moral responsibility to address and prevent the type of situation where your extreme fandom could make your boyfriend doubt about what to get you for your birthday or anniversary. Jewelry is always preferable to a straitjacket. So follow me.

You need to understand some very basic inner workings of the masculine brain. Men do not consume sex the same way women do. Believe it or not, context and purpose means a lot when it comes to movies. As modern thinker Seth MacFarlane made Lois Griffin sing “all you see is violence in movies and sex on TV”. Actually, guys do not need either of them. What do we have instead? Porn in the web. Lots of it. For free. Women instead need to have their gratuitous images of male hunks displayed on massive IMAX screens, joined by armies of drooling like-minded spectators and bottomless buckets of delicious popcorn.

channing

Women porn (above).

It goes without saying that this is great for business. Most people think that the Hollywood Star System died as long ago as Robert De Niro’s acting skills did. But going by box office numbers, you can pretty much see that most male performers have stable numbers fueled by their loyal female fanbase, unlike their female counterparts who struggle to break even. Further evidence would suggest that it is women who make up the majority of the general attendance (slightly) and of repeated viewings (by far). Women watch their favorite movies at the theaters along with their friends, sisters, mother, boyfriend and cats. Look at it this way, Brad Pitt playing connect four in a hazmat has more box office potential than Angelina Jolie doing a biopic of Sasha Grey. It is women who ultimately choose which movie they want to see. That’s star power and estrogen for you.

magimike

Guess which one made a fortune at the box office?

So don’t let your hormones get the best out of your movie night experience with your boyfriend (BTW, wait until you are out of the multiplex cause we know the floors are sticky enough as they are). And please pick a movie you can drool over without making your boyfriend want to send Zack Snyder death threats on his Twitter account.

snyder

F%ck you Zack Snyder.

So, now I present you with a list of upcoming movies you can both enjoy.



Prisoners (opening September 20)

prisoners

Starring Hugh Jackman as an everyman who takes matters into his own hands when his daughter is kidnapped and Jake Gyllenhall as the cop trying to pursue every lead, this looks like a well crafted movie where we will witness Mr Jackman once again being all moody, intense and taking names. Like the Wolverine with less claws and same facial hair. And do not worry, your boyfriend will ask you to see it. Why? Hugh Jackman gained instant male credibility portraying the Wolverine so your partner won’t feel ashamed at all about paying twenty bucks to see another Hugh Jackman thriller. I feel this because he not only can really act, but he is becoming a man’s man in Hollywood the likes of George Clooney or both Sean Connery and Clint Eastwood decades ago. Actually, I think he has screen charisma and presence to rival both of them.

jacman

He can sing and dance too. Your move Mr. Eastwood.

Who you can drool all over? Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhall & Terrence Howard. And Paul Dano. Paul Dano needs more fangirls.

Who he can drool all over? Although there are fairly attractive women in the cast (personal choice: Maria Bello), he just won’t need to.

What will he tell his friends? That he went to see a crime movie with good performances and a good plot. Enough said.



Rush (opening September 27)

rush

Retelling the real life rivalry between 1970’s Formula 1 drivers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), this is the perfect movie to take your boyfriend. Again, he will want to see it. Again, so will you. You will start to wonder if the Fast & Furious series could be more enticing with a hotter blonde as the lead. Sorry Paul Walker, but surfer boys are so 90’s.

And best of all, this movie is directed by the always talented Ron Howard and looks like a very faithful recreation of the time and events. Not that it will matter to you at all, when you have Thor on wheels looking closer than he ever will to Fabio.

fabio

Close, but no hammer.

Who you can drool all over? Chris Hemsworth. Daniel Bruhl is up for debate because makeup artists turned him into a lookalike. An he wasn’t that much of a looker. Google him. I dare you.

Who he can drool all over? Apart from the fast cars and explosions (oops, spoilers), we have the beautiful and talented Olivia Wilde and Natalie Dormer. So, when you faint from the inevitable shirtless Hemsworth scene, you won’t feel like he´s missing out.

What will he tell his friends? He will speak about the real life characters. The names of the players will not come into discussion ever. And it’s a biopic, so there’s nothing “gay” about it. Unless we are talking about “Behind the Candelabra”. That’s very “gay”.



12 Years a Slave (opening October 17)

12years

If you know anything about this movie, you should know that it has Oscar written all over it. The story about a free black man in pre-Civil War United States that is abducted and sold into slavery has a very talented director and cast. It just can not fail. Once more, this is the kind of movie where your boyfriend would be more eager to see than you. But fear not, there’s enough eye candy for you.

Who you can drool all over? Chiwetel Ejiofor, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch and Paul Dano. I repeat, Paul Dano needs more fangirls. Anyway, I think if this movie had Tatum and Hiddleston in small cameo roles the whole planet would implode. I think this actually works against the movie as I feel like this overworked actors are appearing everywhere. Specifically Fassbender and Cumberbatch. Fangirls won’t mind though.

Who he can drool all over? eh… not much. Tell him he’ll get lucky after the credits roll.

What will he tell his friends? He will try to look clever dissecting the movie, going on about being the typical white guilt story told from a slave’s POV and ranting about the preaching from liberal Hollywood. In his own mind though, he will love it. But he will not discuss it with you. He will instead demand the after credit reward you promised.

thanos

Still no better than a Marvel stringer. Actually, can I have both?

The Fifth Estate (opening October 18)

fifth

Overworked thespian (a most prolific fan casting candidate in the web) Benedict Cumberbatch shows up again. Here he portrays Julian Assange on his quest to expose the deceptions and corruptions of power that turned an Internet upstart into the 21st century’s most fiercely debated organization. Not trying to sound sexist, but this is a guy movie. Looks like a similar movie to the Social Network, only with older leads while keeping all the narcissism and immaturity.

Who you can drool all over? the Cumberbatch. Being realistic, his fanbase has it really easy. Not only is the object of their obsession a talented actor but he does not intimidate or alienate the male audience in any way whatsoever. We don’t feel threatened by him, we don’t want to be him.

cumber

- Paycheck would came in handy.

- No s$#! Sherlock!

Alike Hiddleston (founder of the cult of Hiddles), they have the power to make boyfriends around the world still feel good about themselves and not run to the gym.

Special mention goes to Daniel Bruhl (hello again) and Anthony Mackie. But let’s be clear, this is all for the Cumberbatch.

Who he can drool all over? Again, not much. The high-end PCs the used?

What will he tell his friends? He will restart his fight against the “man”, the “system” and the damn Intelligence Agency that is spying on my Candy Crush scores. About the cast, I have no idea who any in this movie is. Bunch of European actors. What? You’re telling me the albino is Khan? Khaaaaaaaaan?



The Wolf of Wall Street (opening November 15)

wolf-of

Another serious Oscar contender, tells the story of a wealth stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government. For your boyfriend this wont be a “Leonardo Di Caprio movie”. This will be a “Martin Scorcese film”. Girls have sex with the sailors of the boat, guys play pool with the captain. If you are offended by this analogy: tough luck! You still get to bang Leo and McConaughey.

wolf

Don’t deny it. You totally would.

Who you can drool all over? Leonardo Di Caprio and Matthew McConaughey. Similar to Hugh Jackman, this two actors have paid their dues with the male audience. Both of them have gained the respect of men everywhere.

Bonus track: Jean Dujardin, Kyle Chandler, Jon Bernthal (damn you Shane!), Jon Favreau and Jonah Hill. See, Scorsece fills up the whole spectrum of men, as long as your Caucasian…

Who he can drool all over? Scorcese is not known to use the female form as a draw for his films. Cursing and violence will suffice.

What will he tell his friends? Prepare yourself. He won’t actually remember the plot or the players in it one week later but he will most certainly repeat ad nausem every single line from the movie. This film is destined to became the mother of endless one liners and catchphrases in offices everywhere. Every Scorcese film is highly quotable and every single phrase coming out of the characters is pure gold, like the words of wisdom from the likes of Gordon Gecko, Patrick Bateman and Don Draper. And if you don’t know any of these guys, you probably don’t deserve a boyfriend so keep on walking.

But if you do have a boyfriend, let him choose the movie. Just make sure you make the right choice for both.

Dishonorable Mentions:

“Don Jon” (September 27): Scarlett Johanson is a big plus but the Joseph Gordon Levitt directorial debut subject and themes will make you both feel uncomfortable.

“Romeo and Juliet” (October 11): Teen movie. Ed Westwick as Tybalt. No way. Don’t even try it.

“Thor: the Dark World” (November Cool: only go with your boyfriend if he likes comic book movies. If not, he will think you are a geek or drooling over that “viking from the Avengers” (actual quote from a friend of mine).

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Re: TYaS reviews

Post by Admin on Sat Sep 28, 2013 8:48 pm

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/06/12-years-a-slave-toronto_n_3883998.html?utm_hp_ref=entertainment


'12 Years A Slave' Stuns Toronto, Compared To 'Schindler's List'

The Huffington Post | By Christopher Rosen Posted: 09/06/2013 11:54 pm EDT | Updated: 09/09/2013 12:00 pm EDT

One week after "12 Years A Slave" debuted at the Telluride Film Festival to rave reviews, Steve McQueen's film won even greater acclaim after its official premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday night.

"I am composed enough to say '12 Years A Slave' is the best, most emotionally powerful movie I have seen in a decade, at least," BuzzFeed senior film reporter Adam B. Vary wrote on Twitter in the first of two tweets about the film. "I would be afraid about overselling '12 Years a Slave,' but if you love cinema and storytelling and are human, you will understand." Vary elaborated on those thoughts in a piece for BuzzFeed called "'12 Years A Slave' Is The Must-See Movie Of The Year, And Should Win All The Oscars."

He wasn't alone in effusive praise for the film: "Suspend the betting, close the books, and notify the engraver: I've just seen what will surely be this year's Best Picture winner, and it's '12 Years a Slave,'" Vulture movies editor Kyle Buchanan wrote in his "12 Years A Slave" piece, titled "Toronto: Your Best Picture Winner Will Be '12 Years A Slave.'" "I'd put my money on a historic Best Director win for Steve McQueen, and I'd mark Chiwetel Ejiofor as the frontrunner for Best Actor. Like, what's gonna beat this movie? Freakin' 'Monuments Men'?" (The George Clooney film, about a group of soldiers hunting down lost art stolen by the Nazis, is set for release in December.)

Ejiofor, McQueen, Michael Fassbender and newcomer Lupita Nyong’o were in attendance at the Toronto premiere, along with co-star and producer Brad Pitt. "If I never get to participate in a film again, this is it for me," co-star Brad Pitt said during a Q&A after the screening (via Variety). "It was a privilege."

Ahead, a selection of post-screening tweets from critics and journalists at the Toronto International Film Festival. Fox Searchlight will release "12 Years A Slave" on Oct. 18, following its U.S. debut at the New York Film Festival on Oct. 8.

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Re: TYaS reviews

Post by Admin on Thu Oct 10, 2013 9:55 pm

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/race/new-york-film-fest-12-645579


OCT
9
1 day
New York Film Fest: '12 Years a Slave,' 'All is Lost' and 'Nebraska' Clamor for Attention on Busy Night
7:31 AM PDT 10/9/2013 by Scott Feinberg

Stars Michael Fassbender, Robert Redford and Bruce Dern were joined by the likes of Madonna and Carl Bernstein at back-to-back-to-back screenings and receptions.
12 Years a Slave NYFF Panel - H 2013
'Film Comment' editor Gavin Smith moderates a post-screening Q&A with (l-to-r) '12 Years a Slave' director Steve McQueen, stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong'o, Adepero Oduye, Alfre Woodard, Sarah Paulson and Paul Dano plus screenwriter John Ridley.

NEW YORK -- On Tuesday night, the Oscar race took over much of the Upper West Side. For whatever reason, the 51st New York Film Festival, which spans 17 days, scheduled the first New York screenings of three of its marquee attractions -- Fox Searchlight's 12 Years a Slave, Lionsgate-Roadside's All Is Lost, and Paramount's Nebraska -- all on the same evening. With each of those films' distributors also hosting pre- or post-screening receptions for their contenders, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences putting on an event of its own to capitalize on the heavy concentration of stars presently in Gotham, the night proved, oddly, to be the busiest evening of the fest.
our editor recommends
New York Film Fest: 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty' Splits Critics, Charms Festivalgoers (Analysis)
New York Film Fest: Cate Blanchett Tribute Bolsters Already Strong Oscar Case
New York Film Fest: 'Captain Phillips' Kicks Off Festivities With Standing Ovation

The Academy event, which was hosted by AMPAS president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and CEO Dawn Hudson, took place at the Stone Rose Lounge in the Time Warner Center from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Like another event that the Academy recently hosted in Los Angeles, this one was intended to welcome into the elite organization some of the 276 people that it invited to become new members back in June. I'm told by friends who were at the members-only gathering that 12 Years director Steve McQueen and actress Lucy Liu were among the newbies in attendance, and that the relative veterans who also made it out to toast them -- either as members or plus-ones of members -- included everyone from Nebraska's director Alexander Payne and star Bruce Dern to All Is Lost writer-director J.C. Chandor to actress Sylvia Miles, a two-time Oscar nominee in the '70s who, People magazine famously declared, "would attend the opening of an envelope."

PHOTOS: 13 Movies to Know at the 2013 New York Film Festival

At around 7 p.m., Payne and Dern walked across the Time Warner Center to attend a Paramount-hosted reception for Nebraska at the restaurant A Voce. Dern, the 77-year-old best actor Oscar hopeful (who was last nominated 35 years ago for Coming Home), was the center of attention, and was ultimately joined at the event by his daughter, noted actress Laura Dern. But plenty of guests also had kind words for the film's best supporting actor and best supporting actress Oscar hopefuls, Will Forte and June Squibb. I'm told that the Nebraska team is having a ball traversing the awards circuit with one another, and will be packing into their week in New York a number of other screenings, Q&As, press opportunities, dinners and parties, including one at the Monkey Bar on Thursday night that will be hosted by Forte's old SNL boss Lorne Michaels. They all eventually headed to the film's 9 p.m. premiere at Alice Tully Hall, at which the movie was very warmly received.

Alice Tully Hall was earlier the site of a 6 p.m. screening of All Is Lost, which was greeted with a standing ovation once a spotlight was shone on a box high above the theater in which Chandor and his film's sole star, screen legend Robert Redford, who is also 77, were standing and took a few bows. At the film's after-party at Lincoln Ristorante across the street from the theater, Chandor told me that nothing will ever top the massive and prolonged standing ovation that the two received following the film's world premiere at the Palais Theatre in Cannes back in May, but that Alice Tully Hall was a great venue and the New York reaction was very special. Shortly thereafter, Redford arrived and the two posed together for pics in front of the reflecting pool outside of the restaurant, where the real raft used by Redford in the movie was floating, having been flown in for the event. Among the guests inside: Connie Britton, Carla Gugino, Paul Haggis, Barry Levinson, Oliver Platt, Fred Schepisi and Patrick Wilson, plus former Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein, a friend of Redford's dating back to the making of All the President's Men (1976), in which Redford played Bob Woodward, Bernstein's collaborator on the Watergate investigation. The two greeted each other with a big hug and cheek kisses.

ANALYSIS: 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty' Splits Critics, Charms Festivalgoers at New York Premiere

Meanwhile, a little after 7:30 p.m. over at the nearby Walter Reade Theater, a highly anticipated screening of 12 Years a Slave got underway. (Among those in the audience was Madonna, who posed for pics with McQueen on her way inside.) The film, which has been the subject of tremendous buzz -- and the presumptive best picture Oscar front-runner -- since its big unveiling at the Telluride Film Festival and subsequent win of the audience award at the Toronto International Film Film Festival, was not included in the main fest lineup but was showcased as part of a special collaboration with Film Comment magazine. At the end of the screening, as the credits rolled, the somber audience broke into sustained applause. In the back of the theater, I spotted cast members Michael Fassbender and Sarah Paulson, lovely people in real-life who play horrible people in the film, trying to lighten the mood by dancing to the credits song "Roll, Jordan, Roll" while awaiting their introductions for the post-screening Q&A. When the moderator, Film Comment editor Gavin Smith, introduced McQueen, the audience rose for a standing ovation that lasted through introductions of the entire delegation that was present from the film: McQueen, Fassbender and Paulson, plus actors Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong'o, Adepero Oduye, Alfre Woodard and Paul Dano and screenwriter John Ridley. All of them, along with producers Dede Gardner (Plan B) and Bill Pohlad (River Road), then headed a couple of blocks away for a reception at Boulud Sud restaurant. There, I visited with two terrific young actresses, Oduye (who first blew me away in the two-year-old indie Pariah) and Nyong'o (this year's breakout star and the current favorite to win the best supporting actress Oscar), who, it turns out, are old friends.

It's a small world, after all. (Or at least it felt that way in New York on Tuesday night.)

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Re: TYaS reviews

Post by Admin on Thu Oct 17, 2013 3:50 pm

http://upandcomers.net/2013/10/16/review-12-years-a-slave/

Chiwetel Ejiofor Anchors Steve McQueen’s Unrelenting, Unflinching Masterpiece “12 Years a Slave”
October 16, 2013 | Posted by Linda Ge

There are no two ways about it, Steve McQueen’s unrelenting, unflinching and brutal “12 Years a Slave” is a modern masterpiece of filmmaking and the most visceral examination of slavery you are likely to ever experience. Anchored by an Oscar-worthy performance by Chiwetel Ejiofor, the journey of Solomon Northup into slavery and then back out again is not in the slightest easy to sit through, but is the sort of must-see film experience that comes along very rarely.

The film begins near the end, with Ejiofor’s always dignified Solomon working for sugar cane plantation owners, cutting down stalks and then sleeping on a crowded floor with dozens of fellow slaves. His mind flashes back to being in a comfortable bed with his wife in their home, where they are both free living in the North. Neither of them realize it yet, but it’s the last night they’ll spend together in a very, very long time. When she’s off on a long-distance cooking job, Solomon is persuaded by two men to play his violin for their traveling show. Unfortunately, they actually have much more sinister plans in store and Solomon wakes up after a night of drinking with his new friends to find himself in chains.

The horrors begin to roll out in rapid succession from there. Solomon is held in his cell and beaten severely as slave traders try to break his will and make him say that he’s a Georgia runaway rather than a free man from Washington. They are not successful, but he’s forced to go along with their plans to sell him and other kidnapped blacks to Southern masters. As he witnesses other black families fall to worse fates – Adepero Oduye’s young mother Eliza is separated from her two young children when they are sold to different masters – Solomon is sold to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Master Ford. He seems to be a kind man (he’s still a slaver, Eliza reminds Solomon), though Solomon’s stay at his plantation will prove to be short-lived, and soon he’s off to serve the Epps (Michael Fassbender and Sarah Paulson), stern and cruel masters who will making his remaining days in slavery an almost-constant living hell.

To commit to such an astonishing story full of horror and hope in equal turns, the performances have to be top-notch and McQueen certainly succeeds in wringing the very best – sometimes career best – from his actors. From Paul Dano’s over the top villainous carpenter to Paulson’s rigid ice queen to Cumberbatch’s relatively kinder master, there are no weak links here, but the standouts have to be Fassbender, with the incredible nonchalance of a deeply indoctrinated belief in his superiority over other human beings, Lupita Nyong’o's hopeless cotton picker Patsey, who draws unwanted attention from both Epps, and Ejiofor’s titular Solomon – dignified, strong, willful, never losing sight of the man he really is despite life’s attempts to strip him of it. Fassbender’s Epps is fascinating as he takes his own frustrations over his feelings for Patsey out on her, and she’s heartbreaking as she begs Solomon to end her life, calling it a kindness God would forgive him for. Meanwhile, Solomon is caught between the two’s twisted dance, trying to protect Patsey from Epps’ amorous overtures and punishments in turn, meanwhile just hoping to survive long enough to find a way to get back home to where he belongs.

Since it’s McQueen, there are deliberate, gorgeous long takes but they are very much used to elicit rage and sympathy rather than admiration this time around. Solomon’s first beating sets the tone for the brutality to come, and lasts far longer than one can reasonably stand to watch. Another long take depicts Solomon dangling for an entire day from a noose as punishment for striking an overseer while his fellow slaves are too frightened to help him, but the most heartbreaking scene may be one that comes much later in the film and in his journey. Throughout his enslavement (nearly 12 years at this point), he never sang along with the other slaves as they worked in the fields, so it seems tragic and hopeless when he finally joins in at the grave of one of their peers, signifying that at last, thoroughly broken down, he has accepted his fate as the slave called Platt.

“I don’t want to survive, I want to live,” Solomon tells some fellow newly enslaved men near the beginning of their journey, when they try to convince him keeping his head down and keeping quiet is the way to stay alive in his new life. That sense of self, of knowing exactly who he is and knowing exactly the life he will never give up trying to get back to, is the heart and soul of “12 Years a Slave,” which is not so much a judgment of America’s sordid history but a tribute to inextinguishable humanity.

A+

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Re: TYaS reviews

Post by Admin on Thu Oct 17, 2013 3:51 pm

http://cinemaassassin.com/12-years-slave-remarkabley-powerful-film/


12 Years A Slave – A REMARKABLY POWERFUL FILM
Chris Hill October 16, 2013

12 Years A Slave
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael K. Williams, Michael Fassbender
Director: Steve McQueen
Who would have thought it would take an English director to deliver the definitive film on slavery. Director Steve McQueen helms a film that is gripping, painful and at points extremely hard to watch.

This is the first film I have seen that mid screening a critic got out of his seat told the person next to me “I can’t watch this anymore” and left the room for a good fifteen minutes to pull himself together. Not since Passion of the Christ has a film been shown on screen that is so unrelenting it challenges the viewers preconceived notions on the material.

Of primary note is that this is based on a true story. Chiwetel Ejiofor stars in what is sure to be an academy nominated role as Solomon Northrup a free man from upstate New York who goes out on the town with his employers only to wake up in shackles in a dark room sold into slavery under an assumed name.

Solomon learns quickly the difference between men who have tasted freedom and those born and raised in slavery, while he longs to get back to his free life, they just don’t have any fight in them. Solomon lived a comfortable life with a wife and two children as well as prominence within the community, to see it taken away and watch him treated as a piece of property is hard to see. To see a slave who just had her two kids be taken from her and be told she will quickly forget about them as though they are not human is harder to see. Yet the hardest to see are the beatings the violent brutality of a whipping a decanter to the face the mental and verbal degradation, the aftermath of open wounds and sores. To see the culmination of this is not the easiest to watch for the faint of heart.

First time actor Lupita Nyong’o is remarkable as Patsey the focal point of Mistress Epps (Sara Paulson) jealous rage, Every chance Mistress Epps gets to take out her anger on Patsey she does. Her deep seated anger over Patsey being the focal point of her life due to her husband Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) continuous attention given to her. Patsey’s reward for being able to pick vast amount of cotton as well as not fighting off Epps unwanted advances and rape.

Fassbender is vile and despicable as Epps, a man who uses his religion as an excuse for his deplorable behavior he is as loathsome an individual as one might come across and Fassbender should get nominated for a supporting actor. It takes a true talent to deliver a person so hated on the screen.

While the supporting cast is outstanding Chiwetel Ejiofors turn as Solomon is the crowning achievement His ability to convey a decade’s worth of pain in the single look of an eye is worthy of an Oscar nomination at the minimum.

This is a film with solid performances throughout, McQueen delivers a heartbreaking and powerful film that must be seen.

Some might think that me liking this film is strictly white guilt, this couldn’t be further from the truth. If anything this film should be a reminder to the black community of what their ancestors went through and to utilize history as an excuse is embarrassing, Its almost tragic that from the horrible circumstances that Solomon experienced, if he lived in this day and age his biggest fear would be Black on Black crime and a degradation of the family structure that he strived for over a decade to get back to.

Grade – 96

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Re: TYaS reviews

Post by Admin on Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:25 pm

http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/reviews/12-years-a-slave-20131017


12 Years a Slave
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o
Directed by Steve McQueen

By Peter Travers
October 17, 2013

A musician is drugged, kidnapped and sold to a ring of human traffickers. Director Steve McQueen uses his considerable skills to chain us to that man. Then he drops him and us into a pitiless chamber of horrors that would be unimaginable if it didn't acutely define the American slave trade.

You heard me. 12 Years a Slave starts its true story in 1841 when Solomon Northup (British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor), a violin player living free in New York with his wife and children, gets tricked into a job in Washington, D.C., and then winds up as human chattel in the Deep South. Solomon's memoir was published in 1853, eight years before the Civil War. Ancient history? Only if you believe that freedom has lost its fragility in the modern world. McQueen, a conceptual artist born in London to West Indian parents, sure as hell doesn't. His cinematic gut punch looms like a colossus over the Mandingo-Mammy-fixated drivel that passes as muckraking in Hollywood. Working with African-American screenwriter John Ridley, McQueen makes it impossible to regard slavery from the safe remove of TV screens (Roots), Hollywood sugarcoating (Gone With the Wind) and Tarantino satire (Django Unchained). This prickly renegade restores your faith in the harsh power of movies. You don't just watch 12 Years a Slave. You bleed with it, share its immediacy and feel the wounds that may be beyond healing.

As Solomon, Ejiofor gives an electrifying, engulfing performance that will be talked about for years. The educated Solomon is forbidden to protest his situation or even articulate it. Not without being beaten or worse. But Ejiofor's eyes, deep pools of confusion, pain and barely repressed rage, tell us all we need to know. Want proof that acting can be an art form? Here it is.

McQueen, following the lead of his first two features, 2008's Hunger, about IRA prisoners starving themselves in protest, and 2011's Shame, about sex addiction, works in long, fluid takes that defy the trend toward smash-and-grab. The dividends are enormous. We are with Solomon every step of the way after he is renamed Platt Hamilton by a slave trader (Paul Giamatti, radiating evil charm) and sold to plantation owner Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), a Bible reader. Unfortunately, Ford's benign approach is not matched by boss Tibeats (a creepy-scary Paul Dano), who baits Platt until the slave beats him senseless. Stringing Platt up on the nearest tree, Tibeats is persuaded to halt until Ford returns. During that wait, Platt still hangs, his toes brushing the ground just enough to prevent his neck from snapping. McQueen draws out the lynching in excruciating detail, showing plantation life going on in real time as Platt struggles to stay conscious and alive. The sequence, a microcosm of the neglectful world outside, is stunningly realized as we hold our breath along with Platt.

Things only get worse when Platt is sold to cotton-plantation owner and self-proclaimed "nigger breaker" Epps (Michael Fassbender). Epps is a drunk who uses Scripture to justify his sadism with a whip. He taunts his wife (the excellent Sarah Paulson) by repeatedly raping Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o), a slave girl who movingly begs Platt to drown her. In a staggering sequence, Epps forces Platt to whip Patsey until her slender back is literally in shreds. But even here, when the script skirts melodrama, the Oscar-caliber portrayals stay fully dimensional. Nyong'o, from a Kenyan family, is a spectacular young actress who imbues Patsey with grit and radiant grace. And Fassbender, who starred in McQueen's Hunger and Shame, works miracles by revealing shards of feeling inside a monster. Fassbender is a raging bonfire who cuts to the core of a film that shows how slavery dehumanizes the oppressor as well as the oppressed.

When Platt finally meets Samuel Bass (Brad Pitt), a Canadian carpenter who helps engineer his escape, there is little relief. Tranquilizing nostalgia is not for McQueen, who sees racism still festering in so-called polite society. Proving himself a world-class director, McQueen basically makes slaves of us all. It hurts to watch it. You won't be able to tuck this powder keg in the corner of your mind and forget it. What we have here is a blistering, brilliant, straight-up classic.

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Re: TYaS reviews

Post by Admin on Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:26 pm

http://www.televisionwithoutpity.com/mwop/2013/10/12-years-a-slave-of-human-bondage/


The Moviefile
12 Years A Slave: Of Human Bondage
by Ethan Alter October 18, 2013 12:41 pm
12 Years A Slave: Of Human Bondage

12 Years a Slave may be the first time that writer/director Steve McQueen has dramatized the slave trade as it was practiced in 19th century American, but it's far from his first movie about the concept of slavery. Both of his previous films revolve around characters that are bound to metaphorical -- if not necessarily literal -- masters and suffered pain and torment in the course of their enslavement. McQueen's debut feature, Hunger, is a portrait of imprisoned Irish Republican Army volunteer Bobby Sands (played by the filmmaker's regular muse, Michael Fassbender) who starves his body in service of the higher ideals preached by his cause. The director followed that up with Shame, in which Fassbender plays a well-heeled New York businessman whose daily routine is dictated by his various addictions. Both films also depict their characters' predicaments with a bracing lack of sentimentality and overt moralizing, qualities that are similarly instrumental to the success of 12 Years, which may not be McQueen's best movie overall (I'm still a big booster of the undervalued Shame), but nevertheless remains an exceptional piece of art that brings this period in American history to life in a horrifyingly -- but necessarily so -- vivid way.

Written by the great John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave adapts the memoir of Solomon Northup (portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free African-American family man who in 1841 -- two decades before the outbreak of the Civil War -- was tricked into leaving his home in New York and sold into bondage in the Deep South. Initially purchased by what passed for a kind, Christian master (Benedict Cumberbatch) in that time and place (i.e. someone who occasionally hands out words of encouragement and pats -- rather than blows -- on the back, even as they regard the men and women in their employ as their property), Solomon is later handed over to the merciless Edwin Epps (Fassbender) who rules his plantation with harsh tongue and an iron fist.

Another, less complex movie would have kept the master/slave relationship as… well, black and white, but Ridley and McQueen (to say nothing of the actors) allow a strangely symbiotic relationship to develop between the two men, whose personalities are shaped by the peculiarities of the institution they're both a part of. Slavery forces Solomon to surrender his individuality and basic humanity, to accept that his self-worth is now dictated by how much cotton he can pick or how many lashes he can endure. An actor of tremendous reserve -- which can, when necessary, give way to volcanic emotion -- Ejiofor is a superb guide to this now-alien world, his haunted eyes acting as windows a reality that's hard to fathom for today's audiences, but was, for centuries, The Way Things Were in America. Indeed, observing his experiences will hopefully explode once and for all any lingering romantic notions there are about the Antebellum South fueled by movies like Gone with the Wind and even, to a certain extent, Django Unchained, which has an exploitation movie grandeur that's strikingly different than McQueen's stark, matter-of-fact depiction of the time period and the ugly mundanity of the slave trade.

As for Epps, it's gradually revealed that his particular madness stems from the fact that his occupation forces him to deny himself one of the most basic of all human emotions: love. Unhappily married to an equally cruel Southern belle (Sarah Paulson, who adds a remarkable amount of dimension to a character that could have been played as a straight shrew), he's obsessed with one of his female slaves, Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o), forcing himself on her at every opportunity without bothering to hide this one-sided affair from his wife. But since society dictates that their relationship can never be (and she would never accept him anyway), Patsey's presence is a constant reminder that while he possess her body -- not to mention the bodies of his other slaves including Solomon -- he doesn't own their hearts, minds or souls. As Fassbender's layered performance makes clear, it's that knowledge that fuels his frequent rages, building up to the movie's marquee sequence, a stunning long take in which Patsey becomes the physical vessel upon which both men lay their psychological wounds. (If the movie has a significant flaw, though, it's the way in which Patsey becomes a symbol in the tug of war between the male leads. Nyong'o's performance will break your heart, but the script never quite figures out who this woman is.)

As difficult as that scene is to watch, many of the movie's most affecting, upsetting moments are those without overt physical violence. Early on, for example, there's an extended scene in a slave market where Solomon watches a mother forcibly separated from her young children, who have been promised to other masters, and her shrieks and wails flood the soundtrack as the camera pans away to the auctioneer's next sale. (Her sobs continue into the next scene, where she and Solomon roll up to their new residence and the mistress of the house informs her airily that she'll forget her kids in time.) And then there's Alfre Woodard's brief, but memorable appearance as a slave woman who became her master's companion and now is waited on by the same people she once worked alongside of. In agreeing to that arrangement, though, she's trapped between two worlds -- no longer part of her previous community, but also not accepted by world her lover belongs to. As a result, she chooses to please only herself, blinding herself to the suffering around her and accepting it as business as usual. And that's perhaps the lasting value of 12 Years a Slave; it shows in unblinking, uncompromising terms how this country tolerated and even argued for injustice in the name of business -- a tradition that continued long after the Civil War into the labor battles of the early 20th century to say nothing of the often shameful treatment of illegal immigrants and overseas labor that exists today. In his typically visceral way, McQueen rips the scab off a wound that may never fully heal and dares us to look away.

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Re: TYaS reviews

Post by Admin on Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:28 pm

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/18/movies/12-years-a-slave-holds-nothing-back-in-show-of-suffering.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

The Blood and Tears, Not the Magnolias
‘12 Years a Slave’ Holds Nothing Back in Show of Suffering
NYT Critics' Pick

Anatomy of a Scene: '12 Years a Slave': Steve McQueen, the director of "12 Years a Slave," narrates a sequence from his film.
By MANOHLA DARGIS
Published: October 17, 2013

“12 Years a Slave” isn’t the first movie about slavery in the United States — but it may be the one that finally makes it impossible for American cinema to continue to sell the ugly lies it’s been hawking for more than a century. Written by John Ridley and directed by Steve McQueen, it tells the true story of Solomon Northup, an African-American freeman who, in 1841, was snatched off the streets of Washington, and sold. It’s at once a familiar, utterly strange and deeply American story in which the period trappings long beloved by Hollywood — the paternalistic gentry with their pretty plantations, their genteel manners and all the fiddle-dee-dee rest — are the backdrop for an outrage.

Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender in "12 Years a Slave."

The story opens with Solomon (Chiwetel Ejiofor) already enslaved and cutting sugar cane on a plantation. A series of flashbacks shifts the story to an earlier time, when Solomon, living in New York with his wife and children, accepts a job from a pair of white men to play violin in a circus. Soon the three are enjoying a civilized night out in Washington, sealing their camaraderie with heaping plates of food, flowing wine and the unstated conviction — if only on Solomon’s part — of a shared humanity, a fiction that evaporates when he wakes the next morning shackled and discovers that he’s been sold. Thereafter, he is passed from master to master.

It’s a desperate path and a story that seizes you almost immediately with a visceral force. But Mr. McQueen keeps everything moving so fluidly and efficiently that you’re too busy worrying about Solomon, following him as he travels from auction house to plantation, to linger long in the emotions and ideas that the movie churns up. Part of this is pragmatic — Mr. McQueen wants to keep you in your seat, not force you out of the theater, sobbing — but there’s something else at work here. This is, he insists, a story about Solomon, who may represent an entire subjugated people and, by extension, the peculiar institution, as well as the American past and present. Yet this is also, emphatically, the story of one individual.

Unlike most of the enslaved people whose fate he shared for a dozen years, the real Northup was born into freedom. (His memoir’s telegraphing subtitle is “Narrative of Solomon Northup, a Citizen of New-York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841, and Rescued in 1853, From a Cotton Plantation Near the Red River, in Louisiana.”) That made him an exceptional historical witness, because even while he was inside slavery — physically, psychologically, emotionally — part of him remained intellectually and culturally at a remove, which gives his book a powerful double perspective. In the North, he experienced some of the privileges of whiteness, and while he couldn’t vote, he could enjoy an outing with his family. Even so, he was still a black man in antebellum America.

Mr. McQueen is a British visual artist who made a rough transition to movie directing with his first two features, “Hunger” and “Shame,” both of which were embalmed in self-promoting visuals. “Hunger” is the sort of art film that makes a show of just how perfectly its protagonist, the Irish dissident Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender), smears his excrement on a prison wall. “Shame,” about a sex addict (Mr. Fassbender again), was little more than glossy surfaces, canned misery and preening directorial virtuosity. For “12 Years a Slave,” by contrast, Mr. McQueen has largely dispensed with the conventions of art cinema to make something close to a classical narrative; in this movie, the emphasis isn’t on visual style but on Solomon and his unmistakable desire for freedom.

There’s nothing ambivalent about Solomon. Mr. Ejiofor has a round, softly inviting face, and he initially plays the character with the stunned bewilderment of a man who, even chained, can’t believe what is happening to him. Not long after he’s kidnapped, Solomon sits huddled with two other prisoners on a slaver’s boat headed south. One man insists that they should fight their crew. A second disagrees, saying, “Survival’s not about certain death, it’s about keeping your head down.” Seated between them, Solomon shakes his head no. Days earlier he was home. “Now,” he says, “you tell me all is lost?” For him, mere survival cannot be enough. “I want to live.”

This is Solomon’s own declaration of independence, and an assertion of his humanity that sustains him. It’s also a seamlessly structured scene that turns a discussion about the choices facing enslaved people — fight, submit, live — into cinema. In large part, “12 Years a Slave” is an argument about American slavery that, in image after image, both reveals it as a system (signified in one scene by the sights and ominous, mechanical sounds of a boat water wheel) and demolishes its canards, myths and cherished symbols. There are no lovable masters here or cheerful slaves. There are also no messages, wagging fingers or final-act summations or sermons. Mr. McQueen’s method is more effective and subversive because of its primarily old-fashioned, Hollywood-style engagement.

It’s a brilliant strategy that recognizes the seductions of movies that draw you wholly into their narratives and that finds Mr. McQueen appropriating the very film language that has been historically used to perpetuate reassuring (to some) fabrications about American history. One of the shocks of “12 Years a Slave” is that it reminds you how infrequently stories about slavery have been told on the big screen, which is why it’s easy to name exceptions, like Richard Fleischer’s demented, at times dazzling 1975 film, “Mandingo.” The greater jolt, though, is that “12 Years a Slave” isn’t about another Scarlett O’Hara, but about a man who could be one of those anonymous, bent-over black bodies hoeing fields in the opening credits of “Gone With the Wind,” a very different “story of the Old South.”

At one point in Northup’s memoir, which was published a year after “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and eight years before the start of the Civil War, he interrupts an account of his own near-lynching to comment on the man largely to blame for the noose around his neck. “But whatever motive may have governed the cowardly and malignant tyrant,” he writes, “it is of no importance.” It doesn’t matter why Northup was strung up in a tree like a dead deer in the summer sun, bathed in sweat, with little water to drink. What matters is what has often been missing among the economic, social and cultural explanations of American slavery and in many of its representations: human suffering. “My wrists and ankles, and the cords of my legs and arms began to swell, burying the rope that bound them into the swollen flesh.”

Part of the significance of Northup’s memoir is its description of everyday life. Mr. McQueen recreates, with texture and sweep, scenes of slavery’s extreme privations and cruelties, but also its work rhythms and routines, sunup to sundown, along with the unsettling intimacies it produced among the owners and the owned. In Louisiana, Solomon is sold by a brutish trader (Paul Giamatti) to an outwardly decent plantation owner, William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), who, in turn, sells him to a madman and drunk, Edwin Epps (Mr. Fassbender). In his memoir, Northup refers to Ford charitably, doubtless for the benefit of the white readers who were the target of his abolitionist appeal. Freed from that burden, the filmmakers can instead show the hypocrisies of such paternalism.

It’s on Epps’s plantation that “12 Years a Slave” deepens, and then hardens. It’s also where the existential reality of what it meant to be enslaved, hour after hour, decade after decade, generation after generation, is laid bare, at times on the flayed backs of Epps’s human property, including that of his brutalized favorite, Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o). Mr. Fassbender, skittish and weirdly spiderlike, grabs your attention with curdled intensity. He’s so arresting that at first it seems as if the performance will soon slip out of Mr. McQueen’s control, and that the character will become just another irresistibly watchable, flamboyant heavy. Movie villainy is so easy, partly because it allows actors to showboat, but also because a lot of filmmakers can’t resist siding with power.

Mr. McQueen’s sympathies are as unqualified as his control. There is much to admire about “12 Years a Slave,” including the cleareyed, unsentimental quality of its images — this is a place where trees hang with beautiful moss and black bodies — and how Mr. Ejiofor’s restrained, open, translucent performance works as a ballast, something to cling onto, especially during the frenzies of violence. These are rightly hard to watch and bring to mind the startling moment in “Maus,” Art Spiegelman’s cartoon opus about the Holocaust, in which he asks his “shrink” to explain what it felt like to be in Auschwitz. “Boo! It felt like that. But ALWAYS!” The genius of “12 Years a Slave” is its insistence on banal evil, and on terror, that seeped into souls, bound bodies and reaped an enduring, terrible price.

“12 Years a Slave” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Slave-trade violence.

12 Years a Slave

Opens on Friday in Los Angeles and Manhattan.

Directed by Steve McQueen; written by John Ridley, based on the book by Solomon Northup; director of photography, Sean Bobbitt; edited by Joe Walker; music by Hans Zimmer; production design by Adam Stockhausen; costumes by Patricia Norris; produced by Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Bill Pohlad, Mr. McQueen, Arnon Milchan and Anthony Katagas; released by Fox Searchlight Pictures. Running time: 2 hours 14 minutes.

WITH: Chiwetel Ejiofor (Solomon Northup), Michael Fassbender (Edwin Epps), Benedict Cumberbatch (Ford), Paul Dano (Tibeats), Garret Dillahunt (Armsby), Paul Giamatti (Freeman), Scoot McNairy (Brown), Lupita Nyong’o (Patsey), Adepero Oduye (Eliza), Sarah Paulson (Mistress Epps), Brad Pitt (Bass), Michael Kenneth Williams (Robert), Alfre Woodard (Mistress Shaw), Chris Chalk (Clemens), Taran Killam (Hamilton) and Bill Camp (Radburn).

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Re: TYaS reviews

Post by Admin on Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:29 pm

http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/18/showbiz/movies/12-years-a-slave-review-ew/

Review: '12 Years A Slave' agonizingly magnificent
Entertainment Weekly
By Owen Gleiberman, EW
updated 6:47 PM EDT, Fri October 18, 2013
Watch this video
'12 Years a Slave' based on true story

(EW.com ) -- Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave is an agonizingly magnificent movie: the first great big-screen dramatization of slavery. Based on actual events, it begins in 1841 and tells the story of a free black man from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., a musician named Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who walks around in a natty gray suit, secure in the courtly modesty of his life as a husband and father of two. But then he accepts an offer to go to Washington, D.C., with a pair of traveling entertainers, and when they're out at a restaurant drinking wine, we get the queasy feeling this is too good to be true. It is. Solomon isn't being hired for his talents. He's being trafficked.

He wakes up in a cold, stark prison cell, with a spiderweb of chains shackling his arms and legs. The traffickers have drugged him and are sending him down to Louisiana, where he'll be sold into slavery. Gazing at his chains as if he were in a bad dream he simply has to wake up from, the brilliant Chiwetel Ejiofor places us right inside Solomon's skin, and instantly we're sharing the horror this man's life has become. Ejiofor may have the most eloquent eyes of any actor now working. They are orbs of pure expression, and in this movie they need to be because Solomon can rarely speak what he's feeling. What we read in his intensely private thousand-yard stare is the agony of a man robbed of freedom, but also the renunciation of despair. Whatever happens, he will persevere and survive. He will know misery, but he will not fall into the trap of madness. He will transcend.
Hollywood's black renaissance?

The scalding power of McQueen's artistry begins with this: He uses the fact that Solomon wasn't born into human bondage to draw us into the experience of slavery. Solomon has to learn to answer insults or bear whippings with silence, to pretend he's a toady who can't read or write, and the cruelty of that process becomes the film's way of dramatizing the unnaturalness of slavery. Is it just Solomon who's really a free man? No, every slave is.

12 Years a Slave is based on a book Northup wrote about his ordeal, and McQueen, working from a superb script by John Ridley, has structured the film as a diarylike series of incidents. There are no trumped-up arcs to pad out what we're watching. The crushing reality of Solomon's day-to-day existence is all the drama the film needs. Solomon's first slave owner (Benedict Cumberbatch) reveals a few humane instincts — as much as a slave owner's behavior can be called ''humane.'' But then, after showing too much pride, Solomon gets sold off to Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), a seething plantation owner who's a kind of diabolical psychologist of sadism. He can see the fire in Solomon's heart and is driven to break him. When he learns that Solomon has tried to get a white laborer to send a letter north, he holds Solomon's face close, saying he knows what's going on, and Solomon defuses the situation with an ingenious lie that he must sustain for minutes on end, without a tremor, staring his overseer right in his taunting eye. This is virtuoso filmmaking that lays bare the degraded relationships with a terrifying intimacy.

Edwin has a consuming obsession with Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o), the slave who picks more cotton each day than any other slave (500 pounds of it) and whom he regularly rapes. Their ''relationship'' becomes part of a debased triangle, since Edwin's wife (Sarah Paulson) is aware of his fixation. Due to her jealousy, and to Edwin's disgust at his own desires, Patsey is subjected to the torments of hell. Lupita Nyong'o's performance is shattering. She goes to a place of private terror and communion beyond pain. When Edwin is whipping Patsey, McQueen plays a startling trick: He holds on the image of Edwin brandishing the whip — a Hollywood cliché — and then, as we're lulled into that familiar ''it's only a movie'' mode, the camera, without a cut, spins around to show the obscene violence of the whipping. The mortification of flesh hits us in the solar plexus.

It's Ejiofor's extraordinary performance that holds 12 Years a Slave together. He gives Solomon a deep inner strength, yet he never softens the nightmare of his existence. His ultimate pain isn't the beatings or the humiliation. It's being ripped from his family, blockaded away from all he is. 12 Years a Slave lets us stare at the primal sin of America with open eyes, and at moments it's hard to watch, yet it's a film of such emotion that in telling the story of a life that gets taken away, it lets us touch what life is. Grade: A

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Re: TYaS reviews

Post by Admin on Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:33 pm

http://www.filmschoolrejects.com/reviews/12-years-a-slave-review.php

’12 Years a Slave’ Review: New Modern Masterpiece Is Worthy of All The Hype
Movie Reviews By Kate Erbland on October 18, 2013

12 Years a Slave

Editor’s note: Our review of 12 Years a Slave originally ran during this year’s TIFF, but we’re re-posting it as the film opens today in theatrical release.

In certain circles, the excellence of Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave has just been assumed for months now – after all, how could a film that features such a talented cast, a gifted director, and a dramatically ripe true life tale not be a masterpiece? It’s a dangerous business, the kind of prognostication and hype that can exist before even one frame of a film is shot, but McQueen’s latest is the rare bird that lives up to its hype (and then some).

A freeman in upstate New York in the pre-Civil War era, Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and his family live an exceedingly regular kind of life – they have jobs, their own home, plenty of friends (both black and white) – and while the looming specter of slavery is occasionally present, it’s not something that appears to impact Solomon’s individual sense of freedom on a daily basis. Which is, of course, one of the things that make his eventual enslavement so horrifying to him (and the audience). Tricked into journeying down to Washington, D.C. to play the violin for a pair of glorified circus tramps (Taran Killam and Scoot McNairy, both unsettling in totally strange ways), Solomon is drugged and sold into slavery – he literally wakes up one morning in shackles.

What follows is a journey of some twelve years (well, obviously), tracing Solomon’s (now known by his slave name, Platt) travels from plantation to plantation, owner to owner. Consistently broken down, both physically and emotionally, Solomon’s quest to hold on to his humanity (and his attempts to return to a living world, not just a surviving one) is a very moving one, even as it’s also intensely upsetting.

Some of the most disturbing horrors in the film (if you don’t have the stomach for very personal violence, prep your eyelids now) are delivered in a relentlessly unflinching manner, with the camera lingering over shots long after they’ve already done their gruesome work. And yet, even in moments of extreme pain, the craftsmanship of McQueen and director of photography Sean Bobbitt’s composition is staggering (a standout scene involves, of all things, a hanging, and even in its horror, it’s somehow also just gorgeous).

12 Years a Slave is also a film that hinges on performance, and McQueen’s stacked cast delivers in spades. As Solomon, Ejiofor continually disappears inside his role, and his performance is appropriately restrained and expertly crafted. It’s a monster of a performance, and he pulls it off with seeming ease. Co-starring as evil plantation owner Edwin Epps, Michael Fassbender handily explores new levels of skin-crawling creepiness. Serving as the human embodiment of both extreme evil and the institution that keeps Solomon enslaved, Fassbender does outstanding work here, even if audiences won’t want to even look at him for most of his screen time (he’s really that despicable). The real breakout of 12 Years a Slave, however is newcomer Lupita Nyong’o, who stuns as Patsey, a fellow slave on Epps’ farm who is a special favorite of her evil owner. A steadily rising performance, it is Patsey who will break your heart (over and over again).

Cinephiles familiar with McQueen’s previous films will not be surprised with the tones and themes of 12 Years a Slave, but his consistency is still worth marveling at, especially when he’s continually confronted with such heavy material. Perhaps the greatest triumph of 12 Years a Slave is that it never allows itself to dip into the sentimental or the maudlin – this is as plain-faced a film about slavery could possibly be, and the effect of its evenness is, oddly enough, more emotion.

The Upside: Excellent performances (especially from Ejiofor, Fassbender, and newcomer Nyong’o), beautifully shot, neatly scripted, surprisingly unsentimental and yet still intensely moving.

The Downside: Plainly speaking, some people will balk at the violence and subject matter here – but that’s the entire point of the film.

On the Side: 12 Years a Slave is the first McQueen-directed film (shorts and features!) that doesn’t feature a one word title.

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Re: TYaS reviews

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NYFF Review: 12 Years a Slave

A little honesty up front: I was not a Steve McQueen fan before witnessing 12 Years a Slave. His last film, Shame, took a look into the dark world of a sex addict in an attempt to expose how broken his understanding of true intimate relationships had become. I found that film cold and a bit lacking in depth beyond having an excellent performance from Michael Fassbender. Still, that’s not what this is review is about, and I can definitely say that I am one hundred percent a McQueen convert now.

12 Years a Slave is the brutal recounting of tragedy that occurred to Solomon Northup in 1841. Northup (played masterfully by Chiwetel Ejiofor) was a free black man living in Saratoga Springs, New York, when he was kidnapped from Washington D.C. and then sold as a slave, where he toiled in the plantations of Louisiana for twelve very long years.

This film is brutal in its portrayal of a time period that everyone is taught about, and yet is often seemingly left out of the national dialog. It would appear that for some reason, people find it uncomfortable to admit that there was an extremely long historical period in this country when the populace found it perfectly acceptable to own other humans. In fact, not just own, but abuse in a manner that is unthinkable. Slaves were treated worse than household pets. They were beaten, forced to sleep and live in inhuman conditions, and still expected to work for their “masters” without any thought of compensation or compassion from the people they were owned by.

12 Years a Slave does not pull any punches in the portrayal of such an archaic part of the United States past, and often times it became painful to watch such depravity on the part of the white characters in the film. I found myself wanting to shake them, and scream, “Have you no decency?”

Still, that honesty is important. Sugar coating only exists to cover up the bitter, and varnish is only applied to pretty up that which is not desirable. It’s odd that it has taken this long for a film to come along that seemingly portrays slavery in all its savagery without even a hint of exploitation.

As I mentioned earlier, Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Northup is a star making performance. I’ve been a big fan of Ejiofor for a long time, and never has he been better or more nuanced than in this film. He has a way of portraying pain and desperation that felt like he was reaching into my chest and squeezing my heart. There are several other impressive performances as well. Fassbender reteams with McQueen again to play and sadistic plantation owner who twists scripture to suit his needs (all the while trying to suppress his lust for one of his slaves). There’s also another impressive turn from Paul Dano (I’m actually beginning to get tired of talking about how underrated he is) as a field master who’s prone to violent outburst. Sarah Paulson also shines, playing Fassbender’s wife, whose jealousy is only topped by her wickedness.

However, the person who stole the movie for me, even more so than Ejiofor, is Lupita Nyong’o. Her portrayal of Patsey, a long-suffering slave caught between Fassbender’s affections and Paulson’s anger, ignites the screen. For all the talk of a best actor nod for Ejiofor, it will surely be a crime if Nyong’o’s finely tuned supporting performance goes unheralded by the academy.

The list of other ensemble performers is seemingly endless, but each plays their role to a T. There are some great turns from Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Michael K. Williams, Garret Dillahunt, and Tarn Killam, all who each add their own specific layers to the film without ever distracting from the realism. In the press conference following the film McQueen pointed out that there would be “no drama if no one wanted to play human beings.” He was referencing the monstrosity of some of the characters, but what he really hit on was the fact that as a modern audience it’s hard to wrap our head around such viciousness when it’s presented to us.

Speaking of McQueen, I love how he never once compromised his artistic vision. This is his largest film to date, but he’s still able to keep his style and be true to himself. The camera moved through the film with a flowing observational quality, from the opening shots passing through the sugar cane fields, to scenes that focus slightly on a foreground image as the action occurs in the back. He has no problem hanging on a scene until the impact is felt, which is especially effective during some of the more graphic torture scenes. I know of that technique can be off putting for certain people, but it completely sold me.

My only complaints would be minor ones. Brad Pitt has a small role in the film, and he’s the only one that feels like a cartoon, shining white hat that always knows exactly what to say. I also found Hans Zimmer’s score a little distracting at points. Several of the scenes were underscored by characters singing hymnals, a device I found that worked much better at pulling emotions out of me than the music cues of a sweeping orchestra. Still neither of these things hurt the film; they just stood out a little to me in a less than positive way.

12 Years a Slave is a masterful piece of cinema, and as cliché as it sounds, oh so very important. This truly is one of the best films of the year, and it is getting my highest recommendation.

Five out of five flaming skulls.

- Gavin

12 Years a Slave opens Oct. 18th in limited release, and expands on Oct. 25th.

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Re: TYaS reviews

Post by Admin on Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:38 pm

http://www.thematinee.ca/12yearsaslave/


12 YEARS A SLAVE
by Ryan McNeil on Oct 18, 2013 • 8:00 am 6 Comments
12 12 YEARS A SLAVE

What is true and right is true and right for all.

There are many words that have already been lobbed around about Steve McQueen’s 12 YEARS A SLAVE.

Raw, unflinching, brutal, unrelenting, harrowing, shattering, blistering, savage, and gruesome to name a few. However, I believe those sorts of adjectives do the film a disservice. They make it sound unpalatable; like the sort of thing one believes they should see even if they don’t necessarily want to see it. That’s why I believe it’s important to underline that while this film is every one of those things (and more) it is also tremendously moving, surprisingly intricate, and – strange as this is to say – spectacularly beautiful.

12 YEARS A SLAVE is the story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor). A free black man living in New York State, he is lured to the American Beltway with a job offering. Once there, he is drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery. Trying to explain that he is a free man does him no good, and thoughts of fighting back do even less.

As a desperate act of self-preservation, he goes along with his capture, hoping that at some stage, the key to his freedom might eventually present itself.

He is first sold to William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), a Louisiana plantation owner. While working Ford’s fields, Northup is a fast study who even sees ways to increase production. One would think this would help his cause, but one would be wrong. All it does is fly in the face of Tibbets (Paul Dano); the slave foreman who believes that his way is the only way. When an altercation between Tibbets and Northup finally arises, Ford sells Northup to another plantation for Northup’s own protection.

This is where things go from bad to worse.

Northup is sold to cotton plantation owner, Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender). Epps quotes scripture that says that a servant defiant of his master shall be beaten (Luke 12:47 fyi). He fancies himself a breaker of wills, and a man solely out for himself. This selfishness is underlined in many ways. Not only is he wary of his new purchase, but he is deeply enraptured by his prized worker Patsey (newcomer Lupita Nyong’o). Not only do Patsey’s nimble fingers allow her to bring in double the yield of her average male counterpart, but her beauty isn’t lost on Epps. To Epps, she is a prize – one that makes him money, and one he’ll happily f&#!. She’s not a person though – not a woman he could love, nor one he could marry.

That role belongs to Mary Epps (Sarah Paulson). She must stand idly by and watch as her husband lusts after someone she believes is beneath her. However, like many others on the Epps Plantation, to raise quarrel with Edwin would cost dearly. So she doesn’t. Instead, she keeps a close eye on Northup, seeing him as more than he seems but still not as an equal.

It’s here at The Epps Plantation that Northup stays for a long time…slowly getting the life ground out of him, but never enough that he stops thinking about getting out and getting home.

12 2 12 YEARS A SLAVEWe need 12 YEARS A SLAVE right now.

At this precise moment in time, we have found ourselves in a dangerous place…a place where we forget. History is beginning to get glossed over, or just accepted as common knowledge. The problem with that is the knowledge isn’t “common”. Besides the fact that the details and atrocities captured in 12 YEARS A SLAVE are beginning to fall out of the collective consciousness, they are the very opposite of common. What happened in North America was a grand failing of morals, a lack of humanity at the highest order. It wasn’t just permitted, it was accepted. We on this continent want to believe we have evolved, and that this is strictly our past. Yet the same year that we celebrate an anniversary of The March on Washington, we weep at an American Justice System that allows a young black man to be killed for his unfortunate choice of clothing.

I put it to you that we are forgetting, and because of that, we need to be reminded. But how? Well, if you’re Steve McQueen, you remind your audience with raw emotion, with visceral brutality, and with stunning elegance.

It should come as no surprise that Steve McQueen is a visual artist by trade, because so many of the images we see in 12 YEARS A SLAVE feel as though they were oil paintings come to life. Whether we are looking at huddled captives lit by captives in the galley of a ship, or the churning wake in The Mississippi River, McQueen treats his camera like a paintbrush. With that brush, he turns out canvas after canvas that move us on a purely visual level. Sometimes they move us with pure beauty, sometimes with abject horror. Amazingly, more than once, he achieves both at once.

McQueen and screenwriter John Ridley also know well enough not to stand up and say “Slavery was bad” for two hours. Instead, they create a complicated story where a man is first given a new identity, and then must shed much of his old one to survive. They tell a tale of a system so rife, that even an act of mercy can lead to great inhumanity. Perhaps most interestingly, they tell a tale where three women find themselves on the same plantation, and all three have incredibly complex roles. None are granted full purview, none are treated as equals. All hold sway over the man who owns the plantation, all understand how to work the system to their advantage. Together they will illustrate the great contradiction that serves as the staging ground for this film’s second act…and really, the great contradiction that was North American slavery.

In perhaps its most unforgettable moment, 12 YEARS A SLAVE takes dead aim at those of us that decide to mind our business. Around halfway through the film, something terrible takes place…something you would think would stop all around it in their tracks. However, that’s just not the case. Chores are carried out, conversations are had, games are even played. All of it happens in full view of a disturbing action. Yet, to stray from routine would be putting oneself at risk, so most do not. This moment makes us feel awful, and it is supposed to. It is a stunning and horrifying reminder that to mind our own business is to placate injustice. To mind our own business is downright vicious.

Keeping to ourselves leads us to forget; and we have already forgotten far too much.
Matineescore: ★ ★ ★ ★ out of ★ ★ ★ ★

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Re: TYaS reviews

Post by Admin on Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:38 pm

http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/reviews/12-years-a-slave-20131017#ixzz2i3p6jZrr


12 Years a Slave
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o
Directed by Steve McQueen
Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
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By Peter Travers
October 17, 2013

A musician is drugged, kidnapped and sold to a ring of human traffickers. Director Steve McQueen uses his considerable skills to chain us to that man. Then he drops him and us into a pitiless chamber of horrors that would be unimaginable if it didn't acutely define the American slave trade.

You heard me. 12 Years a Slave starts its true story in 1841 when Solomon Northup (British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor), a violin player living free in New York with his wife and children, gets tricked into a job in Washington, D.C., and then winds up as human chattel in the Deep South. Solomon's memoir was published in 1853, eight years before the Civil War. Ancient history? Only if you believe that freedom has lost its fragility in the modern world. McQueen, a conceptual artist born in London to West Indian parents, sure as hell doesn't. His cinematic gut punch looms like a colossus over the Mandingo-Mammy-fixated drivel that passes as muckraking in Hollywood. Working with African-American screenwriter John Ridley, McQueen makes it impossible to regard slavery from the safe remove of TV screens (Roots), Hollywood sugarcoating (Gone With the Wind) and Tarantino satire (Django Unchained). This prickly renegade restores your faith in the harsh power of movies. You don't just watch 12 Years a Slave. You bleed with it, share its immediacy and feel the wounds that may be beyond healing.

As Solomon, Ejiofor gives an electrifying, engulfing performance that will be talked about for years. The educated Solomon is forbidden to protest his situation or even articulate it. Not without being beaten or worse. But Ejiofor's eyes, deep pools of confusion, pain and barely repressed rage, tell us all we need to know. Want proof that acting can be an art form? Here it is.

McQueen, following the lead of his first two features, 2008's Hunger, about IRA prisoners starving themselves in protest, and 2011's Shame, about sex addiction, works in long, fluid takes that defy the trend toward smash-and-grab. The dividends are enormous. We are with Solomon every step of the way after he is renamed Platt Hamilton by a slave trader (Paul Giamatti, radiating evil charm) and sold to plantation owner Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), a Bible reader. Unfortunately, Ford's benign approach is not matched by boss Tibeats (a creepy-scary Paul Dano), who baits Platt until the slave beats him senseless. Stringing Platt up on the nearest tree, Tibeats is persuaded to halt until Ford returns. During that wait, Platt still hangs, his toes brushing the ground just enough to prevent his neck from snapping. McQueen draws out the lynching in excruciating detail, showing plantation life going on in real time as Platt struggles to stay conscious and alive. The sequence, a microcosm of the neglectful world outside, is stunningly realized as we hold our breath along with Platt.

Things only get worse when Platt is sold to cotton-plantation owner and self-proclaimed "nigger breaker" Epps (Michael Fassbender). Epps is a drunk who uses Scripture to justify his sadism with a whip. He taunts his wife (the excellent Sarah Paulson) by repeatedly raping Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o), a slave girl who movingly begs Platt to drown her. In a staggering sequence, Epps forces Platt to whip Patsey until her slender back is literally in shreds. But even here, when the script skirts melodrama, the Oscar-caliber portrayals stay fully dimensional. Nyong'o, from a Kenyan family, is a spectacular young actress who imbues Patsey with grit and radiant grace. And Fassbender, who starred in McQueen's Hunger and Shame, works miracles by revealing shards of feeling inside a monster. Fassbender is a raging bonfire who cuts to the core of a film that shows how slavery dehumanizes the oppressor as well as the oppressed.

When Platt finally meets Samuel Bass (Brad Pitt), a Canadian carpenter who helps engineer his escape, there is little relief. Tranquilizing nostalgia is not for McQueen, who sees racism still festering in so-called polite society. Proving himself a world-class director, McQueen basically makes slaves of us all. It hurts to watch it. You won't be able to tuck this powder keg in the corner of your mind and forget it. What we have here is a blistering, brilliant, straight-up classic.

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Re: TYaS reviews

Post by Admin on Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:54 pm

http://movies.yahoo.com/blogs/movie-talk/finally-films-slavery-day-202203353.html


Finally, Films About Slavery Have Their Day
Thelma Adams
By Thelma Adams October 16, 2013 4:22 PM Movie Talk

"12 Years a Slave" follows last year’s contenders "Django Unchained" and "Lincoln" into the Oscar race, marking a trend toward looking back at The Peculiar Institution: slavery.

Steve McQueen's taut drama adapts one of the most famed slave narratives, a staple on college syllabi, written by Solomon Northup (1808-63) and used as propaganda by the Abolitionist Movement. Native New Yorker Northrup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) was a free and literate African-American family man, hoodwinked and kidnapped in 1841 and sold and resold into slavery in the Antebellum South. He had the misfortune of landing on the plantation of Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), a tortured and sadistic man who kept his slaves in an endless state of physical and emotional terror.

That state of terror is a constant in slavery movies, but both Quentin Tarantino and Steven Spielberg treated slavery very differently than McQueen does in "12 Years a Slave." In Tarantino's double Oscar winner "Django Unchained," the slave experience fueled a profane vengeance fantasy about the titular freed slave (Jamie Foxx) who joins a white bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) to rescue Django's wife (Kerry Washington). Although it shares certain tropes with McQueen's movie – a stripped woman being whipped, sudden and extreme violence and over-the-top, misbehaving masters – it's actually closer in tone to Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds." That Oscar-winning film gave a parallel vengeance experience to the Holocaust in an exuberant and violent piece of revisionist history.

Spielberg, though more staid, also bookends slavery and the Holocaust in his "serious" films, including his 1997 slave ship mutiny drama "Amistad." Last year's "Lincoln," about the president who delivered the Emancipation Proclamation, was an urgent period biopic about slavery hooked on a white man's story. In fact, the movie's black characters, from David Oyelowo's reverential corporal down to S. Epatha Merkerson's final cameo, carry luggage in their own drama. This mirrored a flaw in "Schindler's List," a real-life Holocaust tale where Jews played subordinate positions to a fully realized gentile German savior in Liam Neeson's Oskar Schindler.

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Chiwetel Ejiofor and castmates in '12 Years a Slave' (Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight)
"12 Years a Slave" eludes the victim or avenger narrative laid down by Tarantino and Spielberg in a way that seems completely in keeping with his two previous films. In "Hunger" and "Shame," he pushed men, both played by Fassbender – one an Irishman on a hunger strike, the other a Manhattan sex addict – to their physical and emotional limits.

McQueen crawls inside the skin of Northup, who is first seen in the modest tailored clothes of a middle-class family man. As time passes, he's stripped naked, herded, and sold like cattle, and even hung by a rope. We are so deep inside this man's skin, as we were in both "Hunger" and "Shame," that McQueen forces the audience to ask a very physical question: What could it possibly be like to own one's skin and then lose it, to have it sold out from under like a foreclosure property?

In this devastating film, which leaves audiences as much shell-shocked and horrified as they are in awe, it comes down to a capitalistic question of ownership. What is it like when a person is treated like property? True, it's an indictment of brutal racism in America but it's also an exploration of the human condition in the era of slavery. McQueen forces us to stand in Northup's shoes – or atop his leathered bare soles – and it's a harsh reality.

McQueen told The New York Times: "I made this film because I wanted to visualize a time in history that hadn’t been visualized that way. I wanted to see the lash on someone's back. I wanted to see the aftermath of that, psychological and physical. I feel sometimes people take slavery very lightly, to be honest."

It’s not likely, after "12 Years a Slave," "Lincoln," and "Django Unchained," that moviegoers could possibly take slavery lightly. But the trio is not without precedent: from more antiquated takes on the institution in "Birth of a Nation" (1915), "Uncle Tom’s Cabin" (1927), and "Gone with the Wind" (1939) to more contemporary portrayals like "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman" (1974), "Beloved" (1998), and "Glory" (1989). And of course "Amistad."

While we need to address the past as it informs the future, with slavery in particular, there are pitfalls. There's a danger to the backward-looking glance presented in these three antebellum movies in an era when many viewers glean their history from movies. Make no mistake: Hollywood history is no substitute for an education.

Why? Hollywood movies are in the business of storytelling and packaging for a mass audience. They have to pluck out the heroes and the villains to tell the story – Django and Leonardo DiCaprio's Calvin Candie, Lincoln and his political adversaries, Northup and Epps. And that story, unlike the capricious passage of time, must be wrapped up in or around two hours (unlike the most definitive screen biography of slavery, the eight-part miniseries "Roots"), generally with the bad guys punished and the hero living on to enjoy another day ... or dying a martyr's death.

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Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio in "Django Unchained" (Photo Credit: Weinstein Co.)

Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio in "Django Unchained" (Photo Credit: Weinstein Co.)

McQueen actually ran into Tarantino in New Orleans just as the former was about to begin production on "12 Years" and as the latter was wrapping up "Django." The British-born McQueen, who has said his Caribbean ancestors were slaves, recalled their exchange to Indiewire: "He said to me, 'I hope there can be more than one film about slavery.' And I said, 'Of course, just like there's more than one gangster film or more than one western.' And that was it."

And like the multitude of films about World War II and the Holocaust, there's a clear need for stories about slavery in the cineplex.

"You cannot understand the United States without knowing about the history of slavery," the Columbia University historian Eric Foner told The New York Times. "Having said that, I don't think we should go too far in drawing parallels to the present. Slavery was a horrific institution, and it is not the same thing as stop and frisk. In a way, pulling it back to slavery takes the burden off the present."

While McQueen has made a movie that reminds domestic and international audiences of the horrors of slavery in a very visceral way that can never be forgotten, it's also time to embrace movies that reflect the diversity of the African-American experience – including the election of the first black president, Barack Obama.

"The world has seen African Americans as slaves (and maids and butlers)," Isaiah Washington told Yahoo Movies when discussing his role in the critically acclaimed "Blue Caprice." The long-shot Oscar contender for his portrayal of the senior partner in the Beltway Sniper attacks of 2002 expressed his desire for Hollywood to recognize the variety and complexity of the black experience on screen, even if that meant, as in his film, "two African-American killers portrayed as human beings before the incident."

Change is slow in coming, but it is coming: Alongside "12 Years a Slave" and "Django Unchained," there has been a proliferation of films driven by black characters recently. These include the box-office hits "The Help," "42," "Lee Daniels's The Butler," and Tyler Perry’s hugely profitable backlist. On the indie side, notable releases include "Fruitvale Station," "Middle of Nowhere," and Washington’s "Blue Caprice."

Films about slavery have been underrepresented in Hollywood for far too long, so it's nice to see them finally get their due, especially in the shape of prestige films that will bring home awards ("12 Years a Slave" is the early favorite to take home Best Picture at the Oscars) and demand a wide audience. And while "12 Years," "The Help," "42" and "The Butler" mostly all look back at a checkered national past, it's equally as important to start looking forward.

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Re: TYaS reviews

Post by Admin on Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:00 pm

http://badassdigest.com/2013/10/17/12-years-a-slave-movie-review-a-shattering-horror-film


Published October 17, 2013 by Devin Faraci
12 YEARS A SLAVE Movie Review: A Shattering Horror Film

Steve McQueen's latest is a masterpiece and the best film ever made about American slavery.
12 YEARS A SLAVE Movie Review: A Shattering Horror Film

Leave it to a Brit to make the greatest movie about American slavery.

12 Years A Slave is an extraordinary work, filled with transcendent performances and beautiful cinematography and yet as harrowing as the most disturbing horror movie. The film is unrelenting in its depiction of the dehumanization of people - both black and white - involved in slavery. And yet, in the middle of all that horror, there is a flicker of hope, a small flame of faith in humanity that leads to a small ending that is hugely cathartic.

In many ways 12 Years A Slave is the perfect slavery film for white people; while most slavery stories feature Africans swept away from home into an unknowable new world or people born into a crushing continuum of slavery, this true story is far more Kafkaesque. A free black man from New York is tricked into heading to the South, where he is drugged and sold into slavery. Without papers proving him free he is nothing more than livestock, instantly stripped of his personhood and even his identity, Solomon Northrup is thrust into a world that is completely mad. An educated man who has lived a comfortable life, Northrup - now known as Platt - finds that every rational reaction he has is met with cruelty and violence. He quickly learns that the only way to survive is to leave himself behind, to participate in his own dehumanization by hiding his intelligence, his literacy, his sense of justice. That, more than the vicious beatings he endures, is the horror at the center of 12 Years A Slave.

There are lots of vicious beatings, to be sure. Steve McQueen is obsessed with the degradation of the human body and soul, and how those two things go hand in hand. Just as in Hunger and Shame his camera has an unflinching gaze on moments of pain and suffering and humiliation, and some of those sequences can be hard to watch. There’s a horrific whipping sequence towards the end of the film shot in one, long, fluid, ever-moving shot that sickens you with its violence but more profoundly impacts you with the emotional suffering at the center of it all. Just as the camera never stops circling, so does the transference of hate and culpability continue in the moment.

In Hunger a man destroyed his body to save his soul, while in Shame a man destroyed his soul to pleasure his body. In 12 Years A Slave Chiwetel Ejiofor plays a man who is giving up his soul simply to save his body. Ejiofor shows us Solomon chipped away, piece by piece, giving up bits of himself just so that he can stay alive. And for what? Every thing he gives up reduces him, and by the end he holds a whip in his hand and savages another slave for his master. There’s a scene where slaves gather around the grave of one of their own and sing a beautiful spiritual; Solomon, who plays the violin in New York for dancing white crowds, is at first silent but eventually he begins to join in. This moment - he lifts his voice in song to mourn - could be gorgeous but in McQueen’s hands it is tragic, the final moment when a man becomes a slave, through and through. And so the negro spirituals and work songs that middle class white people love to hear - they have so much soul! - get recontextualized as the moans of agony they truly were.

McQueen’s usual leading man, Michael Fassbender, is also on hand and brilliant, but it’s Ejiofor who gives the film’s great performance. Ejiofor has such a likable face, with such big, expressive eyes, that you can’t help fall for him immediately. Those big eyes in the beginning of the film hold life and hope and fun, but by the end they’re coated in a sheen of sadness and exhaustion; McQueen’s casting coup was to take a man who is as naturally open and friendly as Ejiofor and, over the course of two hours, drain everything away from him.

Ejiofor has the opportunity to work against major talent, especially Fassbender. One of the many masters who subjugate Solomon, Fassbender’s Epps is a landmark movie villain. Cruel, petty, mean, he’s also complex and tortured. His soul is poisoned by the cancer of slavery and the sheer evil of the practice has left him morally adrift. He is obsessed with one slave, perhaps in love with her, but the grotesque inequality of their situation destroys any goodness that could be there. He rapes her, and his wife knows, and his wife hates her for it. Fassbender seethes, bringing Epps to the edge of cartoonishness before injecting humanity into him. He is thoroughly hateful, but he is also human. A sh*#&% human, but a human nonetheless.

Lupita Nyong’o plays Patsey, the slave who has Epps’ affections, and she is incredible. 12 Years A Slave is her first feature film role, and a debut as strong as this can only mean the introduction of a major new talent. She holds within her small, thin frame the weariness of hundreds of years of subjugation, the hopelessness that is inevitable in a situation like this. How do you deal with the manifest injustice of this life? Patsey’s answer is to try to end the life, because the injustice is inescapable.

That injustice is so huge, so all-encompassing, that it can make bad men look good. Benedict Cumberbatch is William Ford, Solomon’s first owner. A minister, he treats his slaves well, and he gifts Solomon with a fiddle. But for all his kindness he is still a slave owner - he is still treating other human beings like livestock. Solomon himself falls for it, and he must be reminded that even the best man who owns other man is a bad man. That’s the way massive injustice distorts reality - it makes smaller injustices seem like kindnesses.

Hans Zimmer’s score, when it’s not rehashing Inception, plays 12 Years A Slave exactly as the horror movie it is. This is a nightmare film, a movie where nothing makes sense and cruelty is commonplace. That McQueen makes it all so pretty, so bucolic, only makes it more terrifying. In 12 Years A Slave slavery isn’t just a historical evil, it’s as immediate as any other existential fear. Slavery is the face of the way we dehumanize each other, and ourselves. 12 Years A Slave illuminates the true ugliness of America’s most horrible period, but it also illuminates the ways we still make excuses for tolerating and ignoring and dealing with evil. And the cost of that, to our souls and to our lives.

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Re: TYaS reviews

Post by Admin on Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:07 pm

http://www.avclub.com/articles/12-years-a-slave,104329/

A-
by A.A. Dowd October 17, 2013

B+ Community Grade
Director: Steve McQueen
Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o
Rated: R
Running time: 133 minutes

To hear some tell it, perhaps hyperbolically but with real conviction, 12 Years A Slave may be the definitive cinematic treatment of American slavery. Rarely, it's true, have the cruelties of the antebellum South been so thoroughly catalogued. Steve McQueen, the British video artist who made Hunger and Shame, spares his audience little. In retelling the harrowing true story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man kidnapped and sold into the plantation system circa 1841, McQueen meets the atrocities of the era head-on. His unblinking gaze settles not only on oozing lacerations—the barbaric handiwork of the overseers—but also on the dehumanizing spectacle of people trotted out like cattle, of children torn from the arms of their screaming mothers, and of a slaver forcing himself, in the dead of terrible night, upon his “property.” Viewers who avert their eyes won’t escape, as hearing the sickening slap of leather against skin, invariably accompanied by a bellow of pain, is just as disturbing as seeing it. If there was any doubt that this is a horror movie, Hans Zimmer’s score pounds and roars with dread—the appropriate soundtrack for the madness of history.

Deeply, and unsentimentally, 12 Years A Slave delves into the unpleasant details of Northup’s 1853 memoir, taking a few dramatic liberties along the way. Yet it’s more than just a litany of sorrows, the ultimate slavery movie it’s already been dubbed. Channeling the evils of human bondage through the experiences of one weary figure, McQueen has constructed another intensely physical character study about a man trapped in his own flesh. However, while Hunger and Shame found the director looking upon his subjects from a certain remove, his interest devoted more clearly to surfaces than psychology, 12 Years A Slave erases the emotional distance between him and his protagonist. Though still enamored of long takes, McQueen no longer seems obsessed with the perfection of his images; he’s instead found a story—an episodic one, headlined by a complicated victim/hero—in which he can truly invest. That makes this wounding historical drama at once the richest, and the most conventional, of the filmmaker’s features.

Spanning a dozen hardscrabble years, with a few achingly sad flashbacks meted out along the way, the plot finds Northup—a husband, father of two, and gifted violinist, living in Saratoga, New York—falling prey to a pair of traitorous opportunists, who force him into the clutches of a Washington, D.C., slave trader. Stripped of his identity, the former free man (rechristened Platt) is soon bounced among plantations in Louisiana. His first owner, Mr. Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), seems about as upstanding as one could expect a slaver to be, lavishing compliments (and a fiddle) upon his suspiciously learned new slave. Of course, the man’s decency has limits: When Northup rebels against a petty, sniveling carpenter (Paul Dano, earning his most deserved beating since There Will Be Blood), Mr. Ford saves his slave’s life but denies him his freedom, trading him to a notoriously cruel counterpart rather than take a loss on the purchase. Through this story strand, 12 Years A Slave punctures the romantic myth, perpetuated by Gone With The Wind and its ilk, of the kindhearted slave-owner. “The plague of the Pharaohs is but a poor sample,” says Alfre Woodard’s favored slave mistress, “of what awaits the plantation class.”

There’s more eloquence where that came from: Screenwriter John Ridley, who penned the WWII-flyboy melodrama Red Tails, displays a knack here for flavorful 19th-century vernacular. His script gains a new dimension of terror and psychosexual drama once Northup ends up in the cotton fields of sadistic drunkard Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender, McQueen’s mercurial muse), who constantly yanks his slaves into the middle of bitter spats with the missus (Sarah Paulson). Proving yet again why he’s one of the most exciting actors working today, Fassbender transforms his character into a compelling human monster—a figure for whom malice and affection are intrinsically entwined, as they were for Ralph Fiennes’ terrifying Nazi commandant in Schindler’s List. There’s a subplot, the movie’s most devastating, about a young girl, Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o), forced to bear both the lecherous advances of her master and the violent jealousy of his wife. Her ordeal rivals Northup’s for sheer nightmarishness, and Nyong’o seems to carry the full weight of this national trauma on her frail shoulders.

But the true standout of the cast, peppered with fine unknowns and a few too many star cameos, is the actor at its center. In a remarkably nuanced performance, Ejiofor portrays a man at war with his very humanity. To survive, Northup must suppress traces of his past—his way with words, his fierce intelligence—and embrace his future as an anonymous field hand, lest the oppressors learn the dangerous secret of his origins. That conflict provides 12 Years A Slave with its dramatic backbone, as Ejiofor slips further and further into hopelessness (and the role of Platt) as the years blow by. There’s poetry in his struggle, enhanced by a director attuned, for once, to the emotional states of his characters. For all the hardships he starkly depicts, McQueen knows just when to slip in an image of overwhelming, metaphoric beauty—for example, the raspberry juice that streaks down the side of a bowl, pooling at the edge like leaked tears, spilled blood, or the ink that could provide Northup with his impossible freedom. 12 Years A Slave is all about sea change, and not just for its unfortunate hero. Before everyone’s eyes, a visual virtuoso has transformed into a great storyteller.

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Re: TYaS reviews

Post by Admin on Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:08 pm

http://movies.yahoo.com/blogs/movie-talk/slave-hunters-free-people-were-forced-bondage-222717261.html


'12 Years a Slave' Casts Light on the Dark History of American Slave Hunters
By Meriah Doty October 16, 2013 6:27 PM Movie Talk

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Chewetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup in '12 Years a Slave'

Chewetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup in '12 Years a Slave' (Photo: Fox Searchlight)
Solomon Northup, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor in "12 Years a Slave," was not the only free black man in America to be forced into slavery — though he happened to be one of few men, women, or children who, during the mid-1800s, regained freedom on the other end of such an appalling ordeal.

Slave capture was all too common back then, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. points out. "The further that North and South pulled apart in the antebellum years," explains Gates, "the more tempting it became for slave catchers to venture north, across state lines, to rob free blacks under the pretense of retrieving fugitive slaves." (Gates edited a new version of Northup's 1853 memoir, on which the film is based; he also served as a consultant on the film and recently wrote an essay in honor of its theatrical release.)

[Related: Finally, Films About Slavery Have Their Day]

As the United States expanded to the West, so did the demand for cheap human labor. It was difficult to meet the ever-growing demand, also because Congress banned the import of African slaves in 1807. Those elements made the hunt for free black Americans, north of the Mason-Dixon line, all the more enticing to slave hunters.

And it was profitable. "His slaves were more valuable than his land, and almost every year his human quarry increased," writes Daniel J. Sharfstein in "The Invisible Line," the story of one slave catcher from Kentucky. "When a young man named Henry disappeared one late summer night in 1858, it was as if $1,500 had fallen out of [his] coat."

[Related: Michael Fassbender: How He Mastered Terrifying Turn in '12 Years a Slave']

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Solomon Northup depicted in film, left, and in print
Yes, it was illegal, but the practice of kidnapping black Americans into slavery was rarely prosecuted. And even after a lengthy trial, Northup's own kidnappers were never found guilty.

Slave catchers regularly lied about their crime, according to Gates. They would claim that their victims were runaway slaves, the lawful property of Southern owners, and that they needed to be returned.

Since much of this activity went unchecked, there is no official figure for the number of free blacks who were kidnapped into slavery. "Abolitionists put it in the thousands a year while Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' put it in the 'hundreds… all the time,'" Gates notes. Confederate dragnets captured roughly 1,000 blacks during the Gettysburg campaign alone — largely in areas where slavery had been abolished, according to historian David G. Smith (via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).

Those are large numbers — though even one person forced into slavery, living under the constant threat of, or experiencing directly, great physical harm, even death, is too much. But even larger still are the number of slaves who were brought from Africa to the Americas during the 365-year slave trade: 11 million, experts estimate. Slavery was legal when the United States, a supposedly free country, was formed in 1776. And the oppressive, cruel institution lasted for 250 years.

"Like the Holocaust in Europe, their stories cannot be told and retold enough," Gates says. "While the United States received about 400,000 of these Africans shipped directly from the Continent, by the outbreak of the Civil War, their descendants had grown to some four million."

"12 Years a Slave," also with Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, and Lupita Nyong'o, opens in limited release on Friday and nationwide on November 1.

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Re: TYaS reviews

Post by Admin on Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:08 pm

http://www.vulture.com/2013/10/movie-review-12-years-a-slave.html


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Edelstein on 12 Years a Slave: A Stark, Smashingly Effective Melodrama

By David Edelstein

Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave, published in 1853, is an even-toned but acid account of unimaginable horror: how, in 1841, a pair of traveling showmen lured him from his home and family in Saratoga Springs, New York, with the promise of fast money in return for playing the violin; how they drugged and sold him to slavers in Washington, D.C.; and how he quickly learned that assertions of his true identity only got him beaten harder. ­Northup has a roving intelligence and curiosity. He even stops to explain what cotton picking and sugar harvesting entail. His first master, Ford, was a “kind, noble, Christian man” who nonetheless “never doubted the moral right of one man holding another in subjection.” His final one, Epps, was an alcoholic and a psychopath. “He is known,” Northup writes, “as a ­‘nigger-breaker,’ distinguished for the faculty of subduing the slave … He looked upon a colored man not as a human being … but as … mere live property, no better, except in value, than his mule or dog.”

Steve McQueen, the director of the wildly acclaimed adaptation, 12 Years a Slave, has a specialty: He likes to fix his camera on a person in extremis — starving to death in Hunger, shaming himself sexually in Shame, and now being tortured by monstrous white slavers in the South. His shots are high-toned, mythic, frieze-dried. They’re intended to induce ­claustrophobia, physical and existential. McQueen’s images have considerable power, and I’d watch his films less guardedly if I thought he were searching for something more than his characters’ reactions to extreme degradation. In this case, at least, he has found a milieu in which a feeling of entrapment should — and does — permeate every frame.

The painterly malignancy is unrelenting. Solomon (Chiwetel Ejiofor) stands in prison awaiting his sale, and his white shirt glows like the central Inquisition martyr’s in Goya’s Third of May. As each new white character is introduced, we’re apt to search his or her face for a sign of compassion or empathy, only to be walloped by the general inhumanity — as Solomon is literally walloped by a hitherto avuncular-looking Paul Giamatti. The benevolent Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) only half-rises to defend his slaves’ humanity before fearfully settling back into the status quo. But life is far worse when Solomon arrives at his final plantation: the house of Epps (Michael Fassbender) and his Gorgon of a wife (Sarah Paulson), whose overriding goal is to see her husband’s prized slave mistress, Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o), suffer.

Critics have proclaimed ­Fassbender’s Epps an incredible performance, and it is — in its way. He declaims, he barnstorms, he seizes the space. He’s a predator whose moments of friendliness elicit thoughts like Gee, Grandma, what big teeth you have. ­Fassbender leaves no doubt he’d be a superb Richard III or Macbeth — or werewolf. But his high theatricality keeps him at the level of melodrama. He doesn’t solve the riddle of this terrible man. As his spouse, Paulson does something more interesting. Mistress Epps often tries to affect a mask of kindness but is thoroughly poisoned by jealousy. Punishment of the slave on whom her husband fixates becomes an addiction.

John Ridley’s screenplay has fancy period dialogue and is generally faithful to the facts, and the acting befits the high stakes. Cumberbatch gives a finely detailed portrait of a man who cannot reconcile two contradictory ideas: that slaves are human and that they are chattel. Alfre Woodard has a startling scene as a former slave who has become a “Mistress,” the common-law wife of a white man, and luxuriates in the way she has gamed the system. The movie’s low point is the appearance of co-producer Brad Pitt, cast as a golden-locked carpenter — a savior — who listens to Solomon and says, “Your story — it is amazing and in no good way.” It would have been more interesting if he’d gone against the grain and played the ­conscienceless master.

Ejiofor has been overdue for stardom since Dirty Pretty Things, and he’ll get it now. He’s the kind of great actor who can work in pantomime, conveying terror and anguish with the angle of his shoulders and the level of his head. At times he wears his disgust too visibly for a man who has supposedly learned to keep his head down, but the struggle to remain inside himself is vivid. McQueen builds two particularly stark images around him. In one, Solomon stands in the center of the frame with a noose around his neck, saved from death for striking an overseer but left to choke for hours on tiptoe while business goes on — and slave children play — behind him. Even more unnerving is a scene in which Epps hooks his arm around the neck of Solomon—betrayed after an attempt to post a letter to New York — with demonic intimacy.

I realize there’s a danger in suggesting that McQueen is guilty of overkill: that it could be taken as an attempt to say “Slavery wasn’t as torturous as all that.” The hell it wasn’t. From a political and humanist standpoint, there are plenty of reasons to champion 12 Years a Slave. In his book, Northup directly addresses an audience that (mind-bogglingly) still exists — the one that insists that many slaves were happy in the bosoms of their masters. It should shame people with Confederate flags on their walls (“It’s about states’ rights!”) or Paula Deen types who harbor nostalgia for the elegance of the antebellum South. Epps reads Scripture to his slaves and lingers on a passage calling for them to be beaten “with many stripes” — proof that the Good Book can be employed in the service of manifold Evils. The movie nails all this, and it’s smashingly effective as melodrama. But McQueen’s directorial voice — cold, stark, deterministic — keeps it from attaining the kind of grace that marks the voice of a true film artist.

This review originally appeared in the October 21 issue of New York Magazine.

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Re: TYaS reviews

Post by Admin on Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:14 pm

http://www.complex.com/pop-culture/2013/10/armond-white-12-years-slave-review-reaction


Armond White Doesn't Get the Horror of "12 Years a Slave"
By Matt Barone | Oct 17, 2013 | 12:54 pm | Permalink

City Arts film critic Armond White is right about one thing—12 Years a Slave is indeed a horror film, just not in the traditional sense. Like Schindler's List, 12 Years a Slave is scary in how it examines mankind's darkness. There's a reason why Colonel Kurtz's final words in Apocalypse Now are, simply, "The horror... The horror." On a fundamental level, anyone who'd enslave another human being is a monster. No horns, fangs, or reanimated flesh are necessary.

You won't find 12 Years a Slave occupying Netflix's "Horror" section in years to come, since it lacks the genre-specific ingredients that are plain in, say, this weekend's Carrie remake or any supernatural, slasher, or creature feature. Still, it's the most disturbing film of 2013, a devastating portrayal of slavery handled with the in-your-face immediacy and artistic merit we've come to expect from filmmaker Steve McQueen (Hunger, 2008; Shame, 2011). 12 Years a Slave horrifies through its stark, unfettered depiction of a reality that's either been shied away from by Hollywood or played up as a crowd-pleasing cartoon, like in Quentin Tarantino's excellent but intentionally unrealistic Django Unchained.

The craziest of horror directors aren't likely to top the film's most harrowing and tough-to-watch scene this year—the seemingly endless whipping of helpless, innocent slave girl Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o) at the hands of protagonist Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who's being forced to administer the fierce lashings by sadistic plantation owner Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender). The sequence overwhelms with its brutality because, McQueen's willingness to show it all aside, Northup's more than earned our sympathies at that point. By giving the audience no choice but to act as a spectator as his resolve and soul simultaneously get destroyed (unless they decide to walk out, of course), McQueen conveys a powerful kind of emotional horror. Your heart's racing, and breaking.

The second you label a movie as "torture porn," you've made it toxic.


Armond White, though, doesn't consider 12 Years a Slave that kind of horror film. To him, it's a 19th century Saw, with Edwin Epps as Jigsaw and the whip and noose as whatever elaborate contraption would normally threaten to squash a victim's head unless he or she digs the key out of their eyeball with a butter-knife. As White states in his wildly contrarian review of 12 Years a Slave, which made the rounds yesterday, McQueen's film "belongs to the torture porn genre with Hostel, The Human Centipede, and the Saw franchise." Going a step further he prefaces that sentence with, "Depicting slavery as a horror show, McQueen has made the most unpleasant American movie since William Friedkin's 1973 The Exorcist." Everyone's entitled to his or her own opinions. Armond White, the film critic community's resident button-pusher, is certainly entitled to his typically ludicrous but often entertainingly divisive thoughts. But, respect due to White's veteran status and intelligence, his 12 Years a Slave review far surpasses his usual heights of trolldom.

As a passionate horror movie fan, I'm unable to laugh off his 12 Years a Slave review. It's that whole "torture porn" business, as well as his ridiculous allusions to The Exorcist. But first, let's focus on "torture porn," a term coined by New York Magazine critic David Edelstein in his 2006 analysis of Hostel and popularly used to describe the gluttony of sadism-first, art-last horror films that arose after Hostel and Saw exploded. I've always had an issue with the term "torture porn." The second you label a movie as such, you've made it toxic. It's a wittier way of saying, "Here's a movie so cruel and so morally repugnant that if you somehow enjoy it, you're a reprehensible creep." Imagine telling someone you've just met and hope to spark a romantic connection with, "My favorite kinds of movies are 'torture porn' ones." You'd be ostracized back to the Match.com pool in seconds.

There's no way to justify liking movies of that distinction without triggering an onslaught of red flags. Are wannabe Saw bummers like Captivity (2007) and Train (2008) loathsome? Absolutely, but James Wan's original Saw definitely isn't. Its progressively terrible sequels turned the series into Captivity's lane, but Wan's O.G. work remains crafty and intelligent, Cary Elwes' hilariously awful performance notwithstanding. But as soon as the "torture porn" tag latched onto it, Saw became a badge of poor taste amongst critics like Armond White.

However "torturous" it is to watch a movie like Saw, though, comparing McQueen's handling of violence in 12 Years a Slave to how Wan and his successors aggressively murdered their characters makes little sense. Much to the chagrin of horror fans who appreciate being able to see what's happening, the Saw filmmakers dress up the death scenes' hardcore nature with erratic editing techniques, hard-pumping electronic music, leading to choppy views of terrible carnage. Forget "torture porn"—try "torturous sensory overload." Which is the polar opposite of how Steve McQueen works. He's a director fascinated by long takes, interested in how avoiding interruptions or Saw-like edits achieves something visceral.

In the Saw movies, the filmmakers are cranked up to 11; in 12 Years a Slave, as in his previous films, McQueen's dialed in to about 7 or 8, because he's smart and confident enough to let the naturalness and, in some cases, mundaneness of violence speak for itself. The film's extended sequences are, as a result, tough to shake, namely an extended moment where the noose around Solomon's neck can't quite kill him since his feet are just barely scraping the dirt beneath him. Armond White, however, disagrees. "The very artsiness of 12 Years a Slave is part of its offense," he writes. "The clear, classical imagery embarrasses Quentin Tarantino’s attempt at visual esthetics in Django Unchained yet this 'clarity' (like Hans Zimmer’s effective percussion score) is ultimately depressing. McQueen uses that art staple 'duration' to prolong North’s lynching on tiptoe." A point that, outside of White's views on art-house cinema, directly works against his employment of the "torture porn" descriptor in his review. "Torture porn" movies aren't about duration. Why spend so much time on one over-the-top killing when you can try to top Eli Roth's Hostel bodycount by killing two people in the time it'd take McQueen to nearly kill one?

By using that reductive term to describe 12 Years a Slave, he wants whoever likes McQueen's film (i.e., 96% of the nation's movie critics) to feel bad about it, or at least question their morals. He writes, "The perversion continues among those whites and non-Blacks who need a shock fest like 12 Years a Slave to rouse them from complacency with American racism and American history. But, as with The Exorcist, there is no victory in filmmaking this merciless." And there's that Exorcist takedown again. True to his form, White uses the platform of a review he knows everyone will read to piss people off even more than a simple thrashing of McQueen's film ever could. Why not take out-of-place potshots at one of cinema's all-time classics? Rather than only agitate all of the Oscar bloggers and pundits who've christened 12 Years a Slave as this year's Academy Awards frontrunner, White feels the need to lambast horror lovers once again, just because. How he resisted the urge to pointlessly and undeservedly connect Solomon Northup to Scatman Crothers' d*** Holloran in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, we'll just never know. After all, Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) does drive that ax into d***'s chest with the same force Solomon uses to whip Patsey's back. And one would presume that McQueen has seen The Shining.

Though White probably doesn't agree, or even cares enough to, the best horror films shock and awe because of their characters just as much as their visual and sonic thrills. The Exorcist features some of the genre's creepiest and most lasting imagery, sure, but, at its heart, Friedkin's classic still resonates 40 years after its initial release for deeper reasons. Ellen Burstyn's turn as grieving and shell-shocked mother Chris MacNeil is raw and empathetic; as Father Damien Karras, Jason Miller touches nerves through his balance of professional valiance and natural scaredy-cat-ness. Once the demon Pazuzu begins its vomit-spewing, head-spinning mayhem, The Exorcist has built up so much good will via character development and sensitive storytelling that its third-act horror show isn't just startling—it hits with the force you'd feel watching a loved one suffer. Friedkin and screenwriter William Peter Blatty cared enough about both their characters and their viewers to not merely subject them to heartless eyeball attacks.

The same goes for Solomon Northup's waking nightmare in 12 Years a Slave. McQueen and 12 Years writer John Ridley aren't trying to punish modern-day viewers for pushing slavery to the background of sociological conversations—they're tackling harsh and far too often sidestepped realities with their brains intact. They care about Solomon Northup, and Patsey, and they've called upon a stacked group of brilliant actors to make the unfiltered horror stick. Chiwetel Ejiofor, one of Hollywood's best yet least appreciated actors, is a wrecking ball of sympathetic resilience throughout 12 Years a Slave, leaving no scene untapped for its deepest emotional force. Ergo, every terrible thing that happens to Solomon is an assault on the heartstrings, not just the eyes and guts.

In those Saw sequels and other one-note horror movies of their ilk, the characters who suffer and die in heinous ways are blank ciphers. Stock types walking down an assembly line and into the meat grinder. Portrayed by either some no-name and little-talent actor or a barely recognizable C-lister who's just trying to work. You don't care about their well-being, and neither do the filmmakers. The M.O. is to dream up the most outlandish death scenes possible and execute them to maximum close-your-eyes effect. The resulting films are endurance tests designed for "Ooohs!" and "Aaahs!" in crowded multiplexes, followed by boos, applause, or loudly uttered expletives. For White to try and lump a film as beautifully made and meticulously thought out as 12 Years a Slave into that same category is laughable, but also incredibly destructive for McQueen's efforts and White's own credibility. Then again, we are talking about the same transparent rabble-rouser who once compared Zero Dark Thirty and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance by writing, "[Ghost Rider directors] Neveldine-Taylor and Olivier Megaton revealed the post-9/11 zeitgeist in genre tropes, while [Zero Dark Thirty director] Bigelow reduced the zeitgeist to an enigmatic comic strip, a 'mission accomplished' delusion."

He thinks Nicolas Cage's asinine comic book sequel is a more meaningful film than Zero Dark Thirty. He also believes Eddie Murphy's A Thousand Words is superior to Ben Affleck's Argo in how the former "dared the most personal Hollywood critique since Clifford Odets’ The Big Knife." He's all about the critical shock factor, and, for the most part, I've been able to enjoy the sideshow as much as the next guy. But the horror genre and 12 Years a Slave don't deserve this. White concludes his review with, "The story in 12 Years a Slave didn’t need to be filmed this way and I wish I never saw it." To which I say, a review from such an obviously smart but misguided film critic didn't need to be written this way, but, on the contrary, I'm glad I read it. I've been meaning to slam David Edelstein's "torture porn" declaration since I first read it way back in 2006. The fact that a searing drama like 12 Years a Slave proved to be the catalyst is a big surprise.

When I watched McQueen's film in Toronto last month, during the Toronto International Film Festival, I never expected it to eventually make me revisit The Exorcist, and for that, I should thank Armond White. This Halloween, when I sit down to reacquaint myself with Pazuzu, I'll know that I'm not watching the same movie that White recently described as "merciless." As for 12 Years a Slave, the fact that I'm white and much younger than White automatically means that he and I will view Solomon Northup's cinematic ordeal through totally different perspectives. But who knew that one of those differences would revolve around a misunderstanding of the horror genre?

Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)

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Re: TYaS reviews

Post by Admin on Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:15 pm

http://cityarts.info/2013/10/16/cant-trust-it/


Can’t Trust It
by Armond White on Oct 16, 2013 • 1:50 pm
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12 Years a Slave uses sadistic art to patronize history

Brutality, violence and misery get confused with history in 12 Years a Slave, British director Steve McQueen’s adaptation of the 1853 American slave narrative by Solomon Northup, who claims that in 1841, away from his home in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., he was kidnapped and taken South where he was sold into hellish servitude and dehumanizing cruelty.

12-years-a-slave-filmFor McQueen, cruelty is the juicy-arty part; it continues the filmmaker’s interest in sado-masochistic display, highlighted in his previous features Hunger and Shame. Brutality is McQueen’s forte. As with his fine-arts background, McQueen’s films resemble museum installations: the stories are always abstracted into a series of shocking, unsettling events. With Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), McQueen chronicles the conscious sufferance of unrelenting physical and psychological pain. A methodically measured narrative slowly advances through Northup’s years of captivity, showcasing various injustices that drive home the terrors Black Africans experienced in the U.S. during what’s been called “the peculiar institution.”

Depicting slavery as a horror show, McQueen has made the most unpleasant American movie since William Friedkin’s1973 The Exorcist. That’s right, 12 Years a Slave belongs to the torture porn genre with Hostel, The Human Centipede and the Saw franchise but it is being sold (and mistaken) as part of the recent spate of movies that pretend “a conversation about race.” The only conversation this film inspires would contain howls of discomfort.

For commercial distributor Fox Searchlight, 12 Years a Slave appears at an opportune moment when film culture–five years into the Obama administration–indulges stories about Black victimization such as Precious, The Help, The Butler, Fruitvale Station and Blue Caprice. (What promoter Harvey Weinstein has called “The Obama Effect.”) This is not part of social or historical enlightenment–the too-knowing race-hustlers behind 12 Years a Slave, screenwriter John Ridley and historical advisor Henry Louis Gates, are not above profiting from the misfortunes of African-American history as part of their own career advancement.

But McQueen is a different, apolitical, art-minded animal. The sociological aspects of 12 Years a Slave have as little significance for him as the political issues behind IRA prisoner Bobby Sands’ hunger strike amidst prison brutality visualized in Hunger, or the pervy tour of urban “sexual addiction” in Shame. McQueen takes on the slave system’s depravity as proof of human depravity. This is less a drama than an inhumane analysis–like the cross-sectional cut-up of a horse in Damien Hirst’s infamous 1996 museum installation “Some Comfort Gained From the Acceptance of the Inherent Lies in Everything.”

hirst some comfort gained

Because 12 Years of Slave is such a repugnant experience, a sensible viewer might be reasonably suspicious about many of the atrocities shown–or at least scoff at the one-sided masochism: Northup talks about survival but he has no spiritual resource or political drive–the means typically revealed when slave narratives are usually recounted. From Mandingo and Roots to Sankofa, Amistad, Nightjohn and Beloved, the capacity for spiritual sustenance, inherited from the legacy of slavery and survival, was essential (as with Baby Sugg’s sermon-in-the-woods in Beloved and John Quincy Adams and Cinque’s reference to ancestors in Amistad) in order to verify and make bearable the otherwise dehumanizing tales.

It proves the ahistorical ignorance of this era that 12 Years a Slave’s constant misery is excused as an acceptable version of the slave experience. McQueen, Ridley and Gates’ cast of existential victims won’t do. Northup-renamed-Platt and especially the weeping mother Liza (Adepero Oduye) and multiply-abused Patsey (Lupita Nyong‘o), are human whipping posts–beaten, humiliated, raped for our delectation just like Hirst’s cut-up equine. Hirst knew his culture: Some will no doubt take comfort from McQueen’s inherently warped, dishonest, insensitive fiction.

These tortures might satisfy the resentment some Black people feel about slave stories (“It makes me angry”), further aggravating their sense of helplessness, grievance–and martyrdom. It’s the flipside of the aberrant warmth some Blacks claim in response to the superficial uplift of The Help and The Butler. And the perversion continues among those whites and non-Blacks who need a shock fest like 12 Years a Slave to rouse them from complacency with American racism and American history. But, as with The Exorcist, there is no victory in filmmaking this merciless. The fact that McQueen’s harshness was trending among Festivalgoers (in Toronto, Telluride and New York) suggests that denial still obscures the history of slavery: Northup’s travail merely makes it possible for some viewers to feel good about feeling bad (as wags complained about Spielberg’s Schindler’s List as an “official” Holocaust movie–which very few people wanted to see twice). McQueen’s fraudulence further accustoms moviegoers to violence and brutality.

The very artsiness of 12 Years a Slave is part of its offense. The clear, classical imagery embarrasses Quentin Tarantino’s attempt at visual poetry in Django Unchained yet this “clarity” (like Hans Zimmer’s effective percussion score) is ultimately depressing. McQueen uses that art staple “duration” to prolong North’s lynching on tiptoe and later, in endless, tearful anticipation; emphasis on a hot furnace and roiling waves adds nature’s discomfort; an ugly close-up of a cotton worm symbolizes drudgery; a slave chant (“Run, Nigger, Run,”) contrasts ineffectual Bible-reading; and a shot of North’s handwritten plea burns to embers. But good art doesn’t work this way. Art elates and edifies–one might even prefer Q.T.’s jokey ridiculousness in Django Unchained, a different kind of sadism.

Chiwetel Ejiofor in AmistadMcQueen’s art-world background recalls Peter Greenaway’s high-mindedness; he’s incapable of Q.T.’s stupid showmanship. (He may simply be blind to American ambivalence about the slave era and might do better focusing on the crimes of British imperialism.) Instead, every character here drags us into assorted sick melancholies–as Northup/Platt, Ejiofor’s sensitive manner makes a lousy protagonist; the benevolent intelligence that worked so well for him as the translator in Amistad is too passive here; he succumbs to fate, anguish and torment according to McQueen’s pre-ordained pessimism. Michael Fassbender’s Edwin Epps, a twisted slaveholder (“a nigger-breaker”) isn’t a sexy selfish lover as Lee Daniels flirtatiously showed in The Butler; Epps perverts love in his nasty miscegenation with Patsey (whose name should be Pathos).

And Alfre Woodard as a self-aware Black plantation mistress rapidly sinks into unrescuable psychosis. Ironically, Woodard’s performance is weird comic relief–a neurotic tribute to Butterfly McQueen’s frivolous Hollywood inanity but from a no-fun perspective. By denying Woodard a second appearance, director McQueen proves his insensitivity. He avoids any hopefulness, preferring to emphasize scenes devoted to annihilating Nyong’o’s body and soul. Patsey’s completely unfathomable longing for death is just art-world cynicism. McQueen’s “sympathy” lacks appropriate disgust and outrage but basks in repulsion and pity–including close-up wounds and oblivion. Patsey’s pathetic corner-of-the-screen farewell faint is a nihilistic trope. Nothing in The Exorcist was more flagrantly sadistic.

***

Some of the most racist people I know are bowled over by this movie. They may have forgotten Roots, never seen Sankofa or Nightjohn, disliked Amistad, dismissed Beloved and even decried the violence in The Passion of the Christ, yet 12 Years a Slave lets them congratulate themselves for “being aghast at slavery.” This film has become a new, easy reproof to Holocaust deniers. But remember how in Public Enemy’s “Can’t Truss It,” pop culture’s most magnificent account of the Middle Passage, Chuck D warned against the appropriation of historical catastrophe for self-aggrandizement: “The Holocaust /I’m talkin’ ‘bout the one still goin’ on!”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=am9BqZ6eA5c

The egregious inhumanity of 12 Years a Slave (featuring the most mawkish and meaningless fade-out in recent Hollywood history) only serves to perpetuate Hollywood’s disenfranchisement of Black people’s humanity. Brad Pitt, one of the film’s producers, appears in a small role as a helpful pacifist—as if to save face with his real-life multicultural adopted family. But Pitt’s good intentions (his character promises “There will be a reckoning”) contradict McQueen, Ridley and Gates’ self-serving motives. The finite numeral in the title of 12 Years a Slave compliments the fallacy that we look back from a post-racial age, that all is in ascent. But 12 Years a Slave is ultimate proof that Hollywood’s respect for Black humanity is in absurd, patronizing, Oscar-winning decline.

Steve McQueen’s post-racial art games and taste for cruelty play into cultural chaos. The story in 12 Years a Slave didn’t need to be filmed this way and I wish I never saw it.

Follow Armond White on Twitter at 3xchair

Top: Fassbender, Nyong’o and Ejiofor in 12 Years

Middle: Damien Hirst’s “Some Comfort Gained…”

Bottom: Ejiofor in Amistad
Tags: Alfre Woodard, armond white, Brad Pitt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Chuck D, Damien Hirst, harvey weinstein, Henry Louis Gates, John Ridley, Lee Daniels, Lupita Nyong'o, michael fassbender, Peter Greenaway, Public Enemy, Solomon Northup, Steve McQueen, steven spielberg, William Friedkin

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Re: TYaS reviews

Post by Admin on Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:29 pm

http://cinemaassassin.com/12-years-slave-remarkabley-powerful-film/


12 Years A Slave – A REMARKABLY POWERFUL FILM
Chris Hill October 16, 2013 0
12 Years A Slave – A REMARKABLY POWERFUL FILM

12 Years A Slave
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael K. Williams, Michael Fassbender
Director: Steve McQueen
Who would have thought it would take an English director to deliver the definitive film on slavery. Director Steve McQueen helms a film that is gripping, painful and at points extremely hard to watch.

This is the first film I have seen that mid screening a critic got out of his seat told the person next to me “I can’t watch this anymore” and left the room for a good fifteen minutes to pull himself together. Not since Passion of the Christ has a film been shown on screen that is so unrelenting it challenges the viewers preconceived notions on the material.

Of primary note is that this is based on a true story. Chiwetel Ejiofor stars in what is sure to be an academy nominated role as Solomon Northrup a free man from upstate New York who goes out on the town with his employers only to wake up in shackles in a dark room sold into slavery under an assumed name.

Solomon learns quickly the difference between men who have tasted freedom and those born and raised in slavery, while he longs to get back to his free life, they just don’t have any fight in them. Solomon lived a comfortable life with a wife and two children as well as prominence within the community, to see it taken away and watch him treated as a piece of property is hard to see. To see a slave who just had her two kids be taken from her and be told she will quickly forget about them as though they are not human is harder to see. Yet the hardest to see are the beatings the violent brutality of a whipping a decanter to the face the mental and verbal degradation, the aftermath of open wounds and sores. To see the culmination of this is not the easiest to watch for the faint of heart.

First time actor Lupita Nyong’o is remarkable as Patsey the focal point of Mistress Epps (Sara Paulson) jealous rage, Every chance Mistress Epps gets to take out her anger on Patsey she does. Her deep seated anger over Patsey being the focal point of her life due to her husband Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) continuous attention given to her. Patsey’s reward for being able to pick vast amount of cotton as well as not fighting off Epps unwanted advances and rape.

Fassbender is vile and despicable as Epps, a man who uses his religion as an excuse for his deplorable behavior he is as loathsome an individual as one might come across and Fassbender should get nominated for a supporting actor. It takes a true talent to deliver a person so hated on the screen.

While the supporting cast is outstanding Chiwetel Ejiofors turn as Solomon is the crowning achievement His ability to convey a decade’s worth of pain in the single look of an eye is worthy of an Oscar nomination at the minimum.

This is a film with solid performances throughout, McQueen delivers a heartbreaking and powerful film that must be seen.

Some might think that me liking this film is strictly white guilt, this couldn’t be further from the truth. If anything this film should be a reminder to the black community of what their ancestors went through and to utilize history as an excuse is embarrassing, Its almost tragic that from the horrible circumstances that Solomon experienced, if he lived in this day and age his biggest fear would be Black on Black crime and a degradation of the family structure that he strived for over a decade to get back to.

Grade – 96

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Re: TYaS reviews

Post by Admin on Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:33 pm

http://www.theyoungfolks.com/film/allysons-movie-review-12-years-a-slave/24653


Allyson’s Movie Review: 12 Years A Slave
By Allyson Johnson on October 16, 2013

Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave without fail is definitively a landmark film. This film paints a portrait of human depravity and the evil that can consume individuals, how that evil manifests itself throughout the years, the overwhelming compassion that can overcome a human being, and it paints a portrait of one man who sacrifices the essence of his soul so that all his body can remain intact.

2013 is turning out to be the best year in cinema since 2007’s groundbreaking cinematic success and no film expands on this idea as absolutely as Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave.

Every once in a while –not as often as I’d prefer- I enter a movie theater and the second that the opening titles slide off the screen I’m so fully immersed it’s as if time has stopped completely. I don’t lean over to converse with my movie companion, I don’t scramble around for a snack or anxiously check my phone to see if I’ve missed a call and most importantly I don’t ever take my eyes off the screen. Typically, when a film accomplishes this, it’s because of the magnetism of spectacles: the vibrancy, bombastic nature of superhero films that capture the inner kid in me still.

It’s rare that a drama to this extensive gravitas can manage the same unadulterated attention.

It’s a tonally visceral film due to its unrelenting picture of the severity and strength of the human soul.

Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a New York State citizen who was kidnapped and made to work on a plantation in New Orleans in the 1800’s. McQueen’s film, co-written with John Ridley and based on Northup’s memoir, tells his story of how he survived the cruel nature of Master Epps (Michael Fassbender) and how he did everything in his might to return once again to life he once knew.

The acting is stellar. Chiwetel Ejiofor creates a thoroughly drawn individual in Solomon and as we watch him endure horrendous tribulations, we see his character slowly slips away, with a quiet defiance always lying behind the surface. There are too many scenes to name that showcase how his desperation and logic often clash and Ejiofor plays it with the utmost ferocity and vulnerability. The quiet moments allow us a look into his severed hope, the louder ones his anguish at being forced under the hand of another man, and ones with Lupita Nyong’o and Brad Pitt’s characters show his sensitivity. It’s one of the most fully figured characters I’ve seen and Ejiofor, always seemingly on the brink of his big break, deserves every and all accolades delivered to him.

The supporting actors are also all well cast, a cast that includes Brad Pitt, Sarah Paulson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano and Paul Giamatti. But there are two in particular that stand out amongst a group of highly capable performers: Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong’o. Fassbender plays cold rage with minute care and is at this stage a likely lock for a Best Supporting Actor nomination but it’s Nyong’o as Patsey, Master Epps favorite for praise and abuse, that is the true surprise of the film. A relative unknown before the film, she lights up the screen with her painfully realized character who breaks your heart every time she appears onscreen.

None of this would be possible if it wasn’t for McQueen who, three films into his career, is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with. He’s unflinching in the way he tells his story, whether it be portraying a sex addict, a man on a prison hunger strike, or a man sold into slavery. He allows the ruthlessness of the actions of slave owners to take their time, to force the audience’s eyes from drifting away. We’re forced to witness the inhumane treatment of these individuals despite our gut reflex to close our eyes.

Above all else, this film is beautiful. McQueen and his director of photography Sean Bobbitt (whose also worked as DOP on The Place 12-years-a-slave5Beyond the Pines and Shame) have mastered how to frame a shot that allows the expanse of their locations to overflow the senses and to pull up tight to a characters face to cause discomfort: to see the sweat, the tears, the blood and the flinches that flow through the bodies of the characters or pull them taut. That undercut with a score by Hans Zimmer, which is refined yet orchestral creates a character out of the New Orleans location itself.

It’s a film about human nature: its immorality, its kindness, its fear and its astute will to live-to survive no matter what heinous crime committed against them. How Solomon forfeited his soul in return to keep his body and mind intact for that sliver of hope that managed to squeeze through that he may have the chance to return home. There is no forced sentimentality, no moments of reflection, only one pressing goal to the next obstacle and repeat.

This film manages to do everything a good movie should: it enlightens and it teaches, it makes us wring our hands with nerves, turn our face to pretend we’re not crying openly amidst a crowd, it makes us hope so exponentially for a character that we bodily react at every wrong turn and at every slight victory.

There’s nothing else quite like it, make sure to go and see it when it opens October 18th.

10/10
She is a 21 year old student studying Journalism and Film in Boston MA. She is hugely passionate about film, literature and music. Along with theyoungfolks, she also is a writer over at blastmagazine.com . You can contact her on Twitter (@AllysonAJ) or via email: allyson@theyoungfolks.com.

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Re: TYaS reviews

Post by Admin on Sat Oct 19, 2013 12:44 am

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv-movies/slavery-scars-article-1.1483980?pgno=1#ixzz2hdwibmVM


No ordinary movie, '12 Years a Slave' is a brutal and honest depiction of America's gravest mistake
Comments (56)
Sunday, October 13, 2013, 2:30 AM

With a noose looped around his neck and baking in the 108-degree Louisiana heat for agonizing minutes on each take, actor Chiwetel Ejiofor could almost feel the weight of history crushing down on him as he filmed a key lynching scene in “12 Years a Slave.”

What got him through the grueling shoot was that it was not a typical scene in an ordinary movie — rather the most brutal and honest depiction of American slavery ever put on film.

“The scene shows his tenacity, his strength of spirit and his will to live and the reflex of wanting to stay alive and for me, I wanted to feel a fraction of what he went through,” the British actor told the Daily News.

“12 Years a Slave,” opening in New York Friday, is the true story of Solomon Northup, a free New Yorker who is duped into traveling to Washington, D.C., for a violin-playing gig — only to be kidnapped, stripped of his identity and sold into slavery in a succession of plantations. His owners range from a benevolent preacher (Benedict Cumberbatch) to the cruel and vindictive Mr. Epps (Michael Fassbender).

Critics have lauded Ejiofor as an Oscar front-runner and the movie as the early Academy Award Best Picture favorite – comparing it to how “Schindler’s List” treated the Holocaust.

“We were obviously so hungry just to have the subject broached that we would think a revenge western like ‘Django Unchained’ was actually about real slavery,” said Alfre Woodard, one of the film’s stars.

“The reason we haven’t seen it to date is, first of all, white Americans have so much guilt around it, because they can’t believe that someone like them (participated). And black people have shame about it,” she told The News. “As Americans, we didn’t want to hear about it, it’s the root of so much dysfunction in our society.”

“Maybe now, with the amount of time and distance, a black President, with all these sort of anniversaries, 150 years since the abolition, 50 years since the March on Washington, people feel that there’s enough time and distance to reflect on things as well as a desire to move forward,” Ejiofor said.

Ultimately, it took a British director to tackle the ugliest chapter in American history.

Steve McQueen, whose own ancestors were taken out of West Africa during the slave trade, sees Northup’s struggles as universal. When his partner, Bianca, discovered Northup’s 1853 memoir, a best seller in its day but long faded into obscurity, he felt a calling.

“I suddenly realized that nobody I knew heard about this book,” McQueen told The News. “So then it became my passion to tell this story. For me ‘12 Years A Slave’ is like ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ and should be taught in schools.”

Brad Pitt — much like the character he plays in the movie, Canadian carpenter Samuel Bass, who ultimately aids Northup’s bid for freedom — came to the rescue with his Plan B production company to get the film made.

McQueen’s mandate: that the film be an unflinching look at the institution. That was put to the test in the case of a scene where a slave named Patsey (newcomer Lupita Nyong’o) is whipped over and over again until the skin flays off her back, while the camera doesn’t cut away.

“I had to come to terms that this was not larger than life, that this actually did happen to someone,” said Nyong’o, who beat out more than 1,000 hopefuls to land the part fresh out of Yale University’s School of Drama. “What I share with Patsey is my humanity . . . as much as it happened to her, if I had lived in that time I could have been Patsey.”

“The scene needed to be held as a pressure cooker, that scene needed to be in real time, almost like a documentary,” said McQueen, “because there was no escape for the audience. It was about keeping it in real time. It’s almost like the audience considers itself present as it is going on.”

The cast and crew spent 35 days filming on a plantation in Vacherie, La., just a few miles from where Northup endured his 12 years of hell.

“To know that we were right there in the place where these things occurred was so powerful and emotional,” said Ejiofor. “That feeling of dancing with ghosts — it’s palpable.

“You can’t have that much human occurrence, without it staying in the air, staying in the trees,” said Woodard.

Even the slave masters felt tortured making the film.

Fassbender recounted filming a scene where he physically interrogates the slaves to find out where Patsey, the object of his lascivious desires, is hiding. His screaming was so intense that a child extra broke down in tears and had to be removed from the scene.

“I went back into the slave hut, the place where I would prepare and get my head around it, and I was pacing around . . . when I looked and the girl had come through the door,” said Fassbender. “She was looking at me, so I stopped. And she said, ‘Are you okay?’

“It almost brought me down. She knew that there was something wrong with this guy.”

Once the cameras stopped rolling, Fassbender and the other actors showed just how far society has come since Northup’s day.

“It was tough to pull myself away from that despair,” said Nyong’o. “But I am free, I get to enjoy my freedom. We owed it to (Northup and Patsey) to enjoy that freedom. So we finished that scene and then we all went to lunch together. We were all in it together.”

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Re: TYaS reviews

Post by Admin on Sat Oct 26, 2013 4:57 pm

http://moviemezzanine.com/newswire/critic-speak-critics-defend-backlash-12-years-slave/


Critic Speak: Critics Defend Against the Backlash of 12 Years a Slave
October 24, 2013 | Posted by Zac Oldenburg

12 Years a Slave has been getting great reviews almost across the board, but it has also inspired some excellent writing outside the standard review format as well. Just in the past couple of days we’ve had two good ones at Movie Mezzanine, but a couple of other write ups really caught my eye today.

Wesley Morris’ write up over at Grantland and he digs into the film’s cultural relevance as eloquently as one would expect from the writer. It’s when he address the most common held complaint levied against the film, its blunt depiction of slavery, that his piece really resonates:

“12 Years a Slave is an easy landmark. It’s a rare sugarless movie about racial inequality. McQueen doesn’t even give you any orchestral elevation. …The movie is about Northup, and at several points an audience is free to remember that most movies about the Civil War and slavery have been appeals to our higher, nobler selves. They’ve been appeals to white audiences by white characters talking to other white characters about the inherent injustice of oppressing black people at any moment in this planet’s history.”

Morris goes on to list a number of films that fit the white perspective he mentions above, there are many, and in two sentences shows why 12 Years a Salve is so important:

“McQueen and Ridley turn that dynamic inside out. Their movie presents the privilege of whiteness, the systematic abuse of its powers, and black people’s struggles to get out from beneath it.”

A great read from Morris (besides the Miley comparisons to Epps), supporters and detractors of the film should not miss it.

Addressing similar issues over at Film.com is Vadim Rizov who goes to bat defending the brutality of the film. I am in the camp that focusing on that brief brutality of the film would be better spent sharing how accessible the film’s subject matter actually is, but Rizov makes a good case none the less. The violence in this film is necessary and Rizov goes after the film’s detractors who attack McQueen for objectifying said violence for art:

“If the charge is that McQueen has made history serve his own peculiar fixation, defanging it into an art project, that seems unfair: engagement with the specific subject at hand isn’t precluded by internal consistency.

I’m left to finally wonder whether McQueen’s crime wasn’t simply to keep his visual cool; the only viable alternative, it seems, would be to make a film that looks conspicuously terrible or to not make it at all.”

Both Morris and Rizov’s pieces deserve your attention and I can’t imagine this will be the last we hear about this fantastic, challenging film.

Follow Me: @ZacOldenburg

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