One of the most-talked about films of the year and frontrunners for Best Picture is Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave”. Starring a myriad of actors in small roles and based upon a true story of a free black man enslaved for 12 years in the 1840s and 1850s, it is a film unlike any other you’ve ever seen. Alex and Joseph each present their thoughts.
Alex Beene – Examining an Instant Classic: What makes “12 Years a Slave” Great
I suppose I should start with some elaborate explanation as to why you’re just now reading a Wise Guise recap of “12 Years a Slave.” Steve McQueen’s sprawling historical drama has been in theaters for weeks, garnering universal acclaim from critics, strong awards buzz and – not surprisingly – some walk-outs from audience members not anticipating such intensity in its filmmaking.
In reality, we’re just a group of busy Southerners who have a hard time being able to keep ourselves grounded at a computer long enough to reflect on such an experience. And yet, perhaps that additional time given to ponder on this masterpiece of a film helps in attempting to detail why this historical recap on one of slavery’s darkest stories is an essential lesson for Americans eager to get a brutally realistic take on a once-divided nation.
For “12 Years a Slave’s” true accomplishment is not in providing a by-the-books overview of Civil War-era America, but rather in giving viewers a very intimate story of one man’s stunning story of survival. Once-free Northerner Solomon Northup, brilliantly portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor, is drugged and thrown into the ownership of Southern landowners. The setting is perfect for a bombastic melodrama over the battle for rights and acceptance.
Yet, McQueen ignores the common plight of other films in the genre. More than anything, this is about survival. Northup spends little time screaming about his freedom and instead utilizes most of his life as a slave simply trying to live until the next day.
[Editor's Note: I'm a big fan of Aronofsky. I LOVED The Fountain and thought Black Swan, though imperfect, was extremely creative and captivating. So I was disappointed when Aronofsky dropped as the director of the second Wolverine film. But then I was intrigued when I found out he was directing a film about the Old Testament tale of Noah's Ark. Needless to say, I couldn't wait to see how this would be. And, with the premiere of the first trailer, I'm still not sure. So I did what I do with many things… sent the trailer to some of my smartest and funniest friends to get their thoughts. It would have been selfish of me not to share these with you. - Joseph]
Joseph: From the man who brought us Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, and Black Swan…
Some context is helpful for what the rumored problems with the early screenings have been.
Seth: We’re gonna need a bigger boat.
[Today, we're honored to have a guest contributor review "The Counselor", the Ridley Scott-directed, Cormac McCarthy-penned film with the all-star cast and less-than-stellar reviews. Don't miss what R. Rooney Roux, CSA has to say about this movie dividing so many critics and viewers alike.]
Knowing how difficult it may be to pass up a Ridley Scott directed film featuring Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, and Michael Fassbender, I, nonetheless, encourage you, entreat you, implore you to do just that.
How does a premiere writer-director team take such incredible screen talent and produce such a travesty of a film? Primarily, they use a tired, unoriginal plotline of pretty boy lawyer-type wants more. The namesake of the film has it all. Plenty of money from a successful law practice, brand new Bentley convertible coupe and the love of his life – the beautiful, sexy, you could even say “perfect” Laura, played by Cruz. But of course, it’s not enough. He’s got to have lots more and in the process places Laura in the crosshairs of all the Juans, Pedros, Manolitos and Chingons that work south and north of the Rio Grande. So take on a couple more clients, you idiot. No, I think I’ll make a big hit and jump in bed with some Mexican Drug Lords. Even after he is told over and over not to do it by the guys who know what happens when one lies down in a bed of rattlesnakes, he smugly says, “I’m in.” Everyone in the theatre knew he was thinking ‘how bad can they really be?’ How bad can these people be? Can you say beheading and snuff film?
Last year, we did one of our first Roundtables discussing all things Halloween – costumes for the young and old, movies, etc. This year, we got our growing group of friends together to give us their thoughts on funny/creative costume idea suggestions for this year, your favorite costume you’ve worn, your costumes that you think are overplayed, favorite scary movies, favorite candy to receive trick-or-treating, worst candy to receive, funny stories from past Halloweens, etc. Enjoy!
Many in the auditorium cheered as the Navy SEAL team took down the final three pirates at the movie’s climax, yet I sat silent. I know I was supposed to cheer at the superiority of our military (of whom I am incredibly proud, because HOLY COW they are good!), yet the moment felt somehow different than a similar scene in Zero Dark Thirty when SEALs took down Osama Bin Laden. It wasn’t as if the United States was wrong to kill the Somali pirates holding Captain Phillips hostage. In fact, the young men were committing one of the oldest and most contemptible international crimes. Yet, while grateful for the U.S. military and our incredible Navy SEALs who keep innocents like Captain Phillips and ourselves safe and free every day, I simultaneously mourned for those slain pirates. Not particularly the moment of their death, but instead the tragic inevitability of their life that led them to that moment.
Author’s Note: This post is excerpts of an essay I wrote for Fare Forward. I highly recommend you visit that site, like the publication on Facebook, and even become a subscriber. It’s a collection of people much smarter and much better at writing than me, discussing all topics you could imagine through a deeply intellectual Christian worldview. I’m humbled to have written for them previously and for them to have been kind enough to invite me back to write again. They’re far too kind to me. I’ve tricked them into thinking I’m a legitimate writer. Please don’t destroy this illusion. But do support Fare Forward. It’s amazing what they’re doing.
This post contains excerpts of my essay entitled, “Fantasy Worldviews: From Middle Earth to Westeros.” Whether you’re a fan of Tolkien’s Middle Earth or Martin’s Game of Thrones universe, I think you’ll enjoy my reflections on what Martin borrows from Tolkien and what each fantasy epic tells us about ourselves and our time.
After what felt like an incredibly long dry patch in my movie outings, I’m excited to not only share my thoughts on one movie I’ve seen recently, but THREE of them. Read more