Sunday, September 21, 2014

12 Years A Slave: McQueen...*My New Story Telling Crush*

This Review is Rated: "S" For Spoilers

After watching Shame and discovering who is the mastermind behind that piece of awesomeness, I rushed to review 12 Years a Slave, a movie I wanted to see last year, but never got around to do so. Steve McQueen is brilliant and is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors among others such as Darren Aronofsky, Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, J.J. Abrams, Josh Whedon and Guillermo del Toro

Take that slavery. I'm writing a book!
The fact is, I have known about this story for a while now due to some extensive research into slavery for a novel I was working on. Its a really interesting story about a black man who was born a free man and was forced into slavery. Because apparently white men still couldn't comprehend an educated, free black man walking on the same streets as them. The only way he was able to get out of it was managing to beg/convince a sailor to deliver a letter to his wife that he was still alive and needed help.

From there she was able to start the process of trying to locate him. However locating Solomon was impossible and they could not go any further until 12 years down the road, Solomon was fortunate to run into Mr. Bass, a Canadian who was an abolitionist and agree to write letters on his behalf to his wife in New York to help locate Solomon and bring him back home. The stakes were so high, Mr. Bass could not reveal his identity nor the location of where the letters came from so Master Epps would never find out who sent the letters. Master Epps fought with the court over his property claims, but in the end lost his right to keep owning Solomon.

Solomon's life as a slave was mainly up and down and was totally dependent on which master he served. This biography is interesting since slavery is always portrayed as "evil white person hitting black people the entire movie." Instead it reveals an interesting truth that not all slave owners were massive dickheads and some treated their workers with care. These owners were still in the wrong for owning slaves in the first place, but treatment and conditions go a long way if you are stuck in such a shit situation. At the time, it was a common place acceptable practice and we have to realize objectively that if one must own slaves/servants, one should at least not be a terror to them if they want their workers to be productive at all [which is and always was the end goal].

The preacher, Mr. William Ford [Benedict Cumberbatch]
His first master was not a bad guy. He was a preacher and a kind man. Solomon Northrup described him as one of the good ones, but he was caught up in the practices of the time and therefore owned slaves but didn't understand it was wrong. His second master was an angry twit, but Solomon was then sold to a third master after a while who was a complete shit. Its amazing what this man had to go through. This is a truly heroic tale about a man that is fighting to get back to his family against all odds of ever being found [and during those days, if you disappeared because you were kidnapped back into the slave trade, your chances were zilch of ever being found again].

Down and Dirty [Just How You Like It]:

The whole movie was downright close to perfect and straight forward. You get the jist of his story and how lucky he was to get out of his situation alive. The feels were real. Even though there were some parts that were zany and ironic in how they were portrayed, this movie is going to make you cry. You can't help but to feel for Solomon who is desperate to leave the horrible situation he found himself in. You will love every minute of this movie, its beautiful in so many ways and I am glad it was made justifiably by a great director and a group of outstanding actors.

Story Accuracy:

The rescue team has arrived, carriage style
I have read into this story before. For the most part, is played true to Solomon's tale. However there are differences. Solomon first wrote a letter and handed it to a sympathetic sailor before he was sold to his first master, alerting his wife to his situation in New York. So while the movie focuses on only Solomon's journey, his wife was in the works trying to get her husband back.

The person who really brings him back is Mr. Henry Northrup, the son of the man who freed Solomon's father in the past and his childhood friend. He also happens to be an attorney, which can't hurt. So its good they skipped all the court proceedings and nonsense involved after the fact. But I wish they showed more of his escape attempts. Even though Solomon was in a rather good position with his first master, he still attempted to escape multiple times. Because, yeah, this shit sucks.


Great performances from the entire cast. I was superbly impressed by everyones skill level and capability.

This incredible man lived to escape ^
Chiwetel Ejiofor - Freaken amazing. His portrayal of Solomon was top notch. Even within the absence of dialogue you could feel his pain and the struggle behind trying to live through the ordeal. The ending where he finally was reunited with his family brought tears to my eyes. It was such a powerful, perfect ending because so much was portrayed in that one scene. The feeling that he was robbed on watching his kids grow up, watching his daughter marry, being there for her first born and of course not being there for his wife. You could tell that was all surmounted into one scene of remorse for missing out and relief for finally seeing them once again, alive and well.

This looks like an episode of cheaters
Lupita Nyong'o  - A stunning actress. She is fairly new to the scene, but her portrayal of Patsy was well done. My heart broke when all she wanted was a bar of soap so she could wash herself with and how she was beaten for leaving the property. I could see the relief in her eyes when she asked Solomon to kill her so she could find some type of release from the hell she was living in. She had done an amazing job and was a great memorable character that left a lasting impression on me as I'm sure the rest of the audience.

Getting a little close there, aren't we Mr. Epps?
Michael Fassbender - This dude seems to have a bromance going on with the director as I found out he has participated in all 3 of McQueen's films. The man is stunningly versatile, but he seems to be cornered in sexualized roles at times. He plays the ruthless Master Epps and seems to have a rapey vibe for Patsy. Master Epps is a controlling, ruthless, violent, drunk who tortures his workers as much as he can to make them fear him and pick more cotton [because they got to pick that cotton and pick it now!]. Even Brad Pitt's character Bass had to be cautious of how he discussed the condition of his workers around him. He sometimes is unintentionally hilarious as brutal as he was. He plays the part well with great intensity and viciousness. And that red beard, oh my. Can I love an evil man's facial hair and still hate his personality at the same time? Why yes, yes I can.

The Underground Railroad of Sins:

1. Was She Taking Advantage of Him?

First five minutes of this film, some woman grabs our hero and has silent sex with him. Then cries about it. My mind is confoosed! Woman, you forced yourself on him, and now you are crying in shame? Pick a side damn it!

The mad hatters are taking Solomon to the dark world
2. Do You Want to Get Roofied? Because This is How You Get Roofied.

So Solomon gets courted by some circus gentlemen that wine and dine him and the scene is set up in a way where you feel like this dude is about to get roofied, thrown in a sack and taken to banjo land at any moment. Seriously, stop with the wine.

3. Run N***** Run 

Worst song ever. I sort of chuckled at this part because of how ridiculously horrible this song was and the irony of the message involved. Like seriously? Do we need to sing that song and make everyone clap to it while every ones working? What kind of asshole sings this song? A super asshole, that's what. Paul Dano as Master Tibaut is a horrible jerk, but a funny horrible jerk.

4. So...Just Let Him Hang There?

Seriously? Hes just hanging there and everyone's just going about business as usual? Rough, man. Rough. Kids are playing in the background, people are looking, but nobody is helping. Except a woman who quickly gives him water and bolts away before she is seen. He literally hangs there the whole day so Master Ford can cut him down. Holy crap..why didnt they just cut him down right then and there?

5. Midnight Dance

So Master Epps is an absurd prick. He decides to wake everyone up to have a dance in his house and you could tell everyone was seriously annoyed at this. Their faces were lifeless and tired. Like seriously what's wrong with this guy..and hes totally got the creepers boner for Patsy [all of that cotton picking power in one tiny body just makes him super hard I guess. Watch out guys, if you pick more cotton he may go after you too]. Eww. I like you Fassbender but you got the creepy stare going on in this movie too. You are also a psycho...a funny psycho, but a psycho none the less.

Paul Dano asks if the man is an engineer or a you know what..
6. He Totally Schooled Him

Paul Dano's southern asshole character argues with Solomon about pushing the logs through the river to save money with the owner and wins out, making Paul's character look like a dumb ass. That was awesome. The owner was impressed and let him do it. haha. He schooled him a second time in the movie too..Paul Dano is such a good coward archetype actor.

7. What a Sissy

Epps can't strike his own favorite girl in the slave bunch so he makes Solomon strike her instead and threatens his life and everyone else's if he doesn't strike her harder. What a shit. Of course he is egged on by his super jealous wife that tortures Patsy every turn she gets.

8. Is That His Child?

At one point Fassbender is holding a little black girl and treating her to candy. Was that his kid that he had with Patsy or was that just a kid in general? I mean, is this what the wife was P'Od about? Because I can't imagine him being with Patsy that many times without her getting pregnant at some point.

9. Benedict's Accent

I have to admit, he is terrible at the southern accent. I love his voice, but you could tell he was struggling to get it right. Sometimes it was just his regular voice that came out and sometimes he just barely grasped it. Its not a huge deal since his role was limited, but I am not familiar how southern Mr. Ford was or was he a possible immigrant. My assumption was his family was established if he had property.

A free family is a dapper family
Overall 12 Years a Slave was a great movie and deserved the recognition it got. Its really not about "Hey guys, slavery is bad! Look at this!" like a lot of these kind of stories are. It was really a different kind of story about a man who was kidnapped and lost his freedom. A freedom he always had and knew no other way. It would be very similar to the underground sex trafficking that happens. You just can't comprehend the abuse, the injustice and how nobody seems to give a shit how you feel about the situation. This situation was real even though there were free black men/women during that time, it was still uncommon and despised in plenty of circles. People might ask about why the slaves didn't escape? Or rise up and kill their master?

Well slave masters then WERE afraid of these things possibly happening and that is why they beat their slaves down physically and morally to make it difficult to leave. The threat of escaping and getting caught, then executed was very real. People were afraid, illiterate and kept in the dark. Because a smart black person was a dangerous black person to a slave owner. Its really the same nonsense that goes on even in todays culture. The more you keep people stupid, the easier they are to control. Its an age old theme that never seems to die. The educated will always be more bitchy and yammering about their rights than those who don't know them at all.

And when you have generations upon generations that are stuck in that cycle of life, your children don't understand what freedom is. So even if they were given it, they wouldn't know what to do with it. This is what happened in the slave colonies today that organizations are working to eliminate [yes some colonies do exist even though slavery is outlawed everywhere]. They have no skills, no education, no understanding of the world. They become fearful because they don't know how to survive in a world free of an oppressive master. Its very easy to run back and just let the master take care of you instead of try to figure it out on your own. Not everyone is designed to walk out of slavery with the capability to live a regular life. And this is incredibly sad. Luckily the men/women who figured it out before hand and became part of the abolitionist movement helped slaves escape and gave them the support they needed. And ex-slaves need a lot of support to transition into a world free of boundaries.

The Happy Dance...this all star cast won 213 awards total
Solomon was exceptionally lucky that he knew what freedom looked like and therefore he faught for it the entire 12 years he was caught up in the slave driven plantations of Louisiana. He was educated, had skills, and was beyond the level of everyone there. He had the capability to escape, the others did not.

Unfortunately Solomon could not push the court system to prosecute his kidnappers and therefore the men responsible were let go. Today this kind of activity would be hard to let go because we all believe fervently in our own freedom. But during that time, freedom wasn't always guaranteed. It still isn't. Its why people still fight for it on a daily basis. Freedom is not just a physical aspect, its also a state of mind. The state of mind only a free man/woman could understand.

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