The Creative Epiphany – Film Review, 12 YEARS A SLAVE

 poster image courtesy of linduslist.com

This film, directed by Steve McQueen, was difficult to watch in spite of the fact that I thought I was prepared. I had heard that it was brutal. It is beyond brutal – it is periodically and consistently horrific for almost the entire two hours and fifteen minutes. The story is beautifully filmed, gorgeously depicted, stunning in its impact – but beware the  pastoral southern scenery, moss hanging low over big oak branches and humidity you can almost taste, because something shockingly wicked this way comes.

I am a person who reads, and I read and I read. So I thought I was educated about slavery in the south. I have lived in the south, traveled through the south, toured historic plantations and seen slave cabins, and I have studied the Civil War. All that and more is what took me to see this film. For me it was a question of respect, and the fact that the film is well made. But still, I learned from this film things I had never known and I was given witness to atrocities I had never imagined.

The story is simple – Pre-Civil War, a prosperous and educated gentleman named Solomon Northrup ( played by the brilliant Chiwetel Ejiofor ) from upstate New York, once a slave, who has a family and has risen above his own early history, is re-captured, sold and enslaved again, for 12 long years, enduring and enduring, with the excuse that the papers granting his freedom do not exist. He experiences some kindness from strangers but then is sold to a slave owner ( Michael Fassbender ) who has slipped from pure and wicked malevolence into sick depravity, and who rules a plantation where even his wife, who has learned from a master, is sadistic and cruel.

Do we really need to see all the ways that a human being can be tortured in films today, returning now to even the old and basic, tried and true methods of cruelty? Is each new film – whether it is portraying battles, war, espionage, man to man conflict – attempting to one-up the ones before in regard to guts and gore? This historically accurate film is based upon a true story – and we learn in text updates at the end what happened to Solomon Northrup after he was eventually freed. Nevertheless, for me, it was a horror story. I could not watch at times, reminding myself that it is a FILM.

The acting is spectacular, the women as well as the men; and the children too. It is a Brad Pitt film, from his company PLAN B productions, and he has a cameo appearance portraying a character who sees slavery as wrong. I read that he is choosing responsible roles these days as his children grow old enough to see his work. Do his children have to see this kind of torture, I wonder? Still, there is Oscar buzz about it and I must say that I think it is an important film – a monumental film perhaps.

I saw the Oprah Winfrey film titled The Butler, in 2013, and I would place this 12 Years a Slave film about slavery, in spite of my shock in watching it, ahead of The Butler. I understand that The Butler, also based upon a true story, was so loosely based that it took liberties and exaggerated the plot to such an extent that the story was greatly altered from the truth. I do not like that, do you?

Should you see 12 Years a Slave? If you know you are lacking in information about this most disgusting period of our American history and you are responsible enough to want to learn what happened, then by all means see it. Please do not take your children who are under the age of 16 or so…and be prepared to answer their many questions in an educated way if you do invite them to see it with you. Be knowledgeable and have books to recommend, because our public school systems are lacking in time and resources to due this subject justice.

For Your Viewing Pleasure,

JABS

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The Creative Epiphany – My Film Review for “American Hustle”

 Photo courtesy of getwhatsbuzzing.com

“American Hustle” is a film I really wanted to see so I took myself out last night about dinner time in the bitter cold, since the hype has been enormous and quite frankly, I am a sucker for hype if it is well done. I liked the posters and the previews. I like the people in it. You can do your own research for more details about it on FANDANGO.

This is one of those “loosely” based-upon-truth flicks, as is stated in text at the beginning in a catchy sort of way, about the Abscam financial scandal of the 70’s and the legendary con artist – played by Christian Bale and his hilarious and pathetic hair comb-over – who perpetrated the scheme. I do think it is pretty loosely based, but in a TV interview I heard one of the stars of the film say that it is the most unbelievable crazy incidents in the film that are actually the true parts.  And it is funny. it is one of those convoluted plots that keeps you thinking…keeps you going…keeps you engaged and yet is confusing to follow at times. And of course in the end all becomes crystal clear and you are supposed to be amazed.
I was not amazed, but I was entertained after we got past its slow-ish start, during which my mind wandered a bit (what am I going to have for dinner after this is over, did I remember to do that thing in my Christmas preparations, uh-oh I’m getting sleepy…).
When it picked up speed, the show was consistently stolen by the boobs of Amy Adams who plays the female lead – not because they are huge, bulbous and fake, but because they are oh so real, perky and right there in practically every scene via deep plunging necklines that go to the waist with no bra. I wondered if that part – those parts – and her clothing choices were some of the “true” scenes in the movie or not. Who dresses like that in real life? The girlfriends of con artists I guess, so now we know what to look for. She happens to be a good actress too, as a bonus. But your mind is wondering if somewhere along the way one of those boobs is going to be set free out of its proper place. And the other babe in the film is played by Jennifer Lawrence – she was brilliant too, as were most of the guys. I love gangster characters, and those guys were so deliciously authentic looking. Oh and by the way, there is another hair thing going on with Bradley Cooper, who plays an FBI agent, and if you are old enough it will remind you of the 70’s. That hair was a true phenom back in the day. You cannot do the 70’s without the hair.
The movie, much anticipated, did not blow me away – I’d give it a B. It is clever and the characters are fascinating. I say go to a movie and maybe see this one when you are in the right mood. Its plot is, well, outrageously and unbelievably true-ish.
For Your Viewing Pleasure,
JABS