I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…


Thursday, July 23, 2015

12 Years a Slave, 2013





Rated R
                                                                                                                   
Tightness. Anxiety. Heart in my throat. Pit in my stomach. That’s how I started watching this movie, based on what I had read and heard from others regarding the harrowing scenes that this film depicts about the brutal honesty of slavery. This is not an easy film to watch. It has what seems like one unimaginable scene after another. Yet, I will admit, it is a poignant film; one that is fully deserving of this year’s Best Picture award.

Chiwetel Ejiofor BRILLIANTLY portrays Solomon Northup, a Northern-born musician and free man who when traveling away from his wife and two children for a gig, gets drugged, kidnapped, and awakened in shackles. His nightmare (or anyone’s really) is now a reality: he is sold into slavery and brought to the Antebellum South. Nobody believes he is free, and why should they? It was far too easy for absolutely everything to be taken away from him. An educated and respectful man, he eventually succumbs to keeping his head down and mouth shut in order to survive the following years after he’s sold yet again, to a ruthless, despicable slave-owner, played villainously by Michael Fassbender.

It’s impossible for me to imagine how Solomon had the will to survive TWELVE years of back-breaking and spirit-crushing work knowing his freedom papers and his family were safe on another side of the country. It is also impossible for me to envision that there was such hatred, discrimination, and brutality towards fellow human beings. The tension that mounts between Solomon, Master Epps, and even the young female slave, Patsy (who is the object of both Epps’ lust and beatings), is enough to make you shake with fury. One such outburst leads to one of the film’s most disturbing scenes; it is burned into my memory. But Solomon’s steadfast devotion to his family, his quiet pride, and his honest work ethic are all admirable.

Sadly, slavery didn't end with the Civil War or the Emancipation Proclamation. It was outlawed, but it has not ended. Human trafficking is one example of the modern-day slave trade. Stereotypes and attitudes that surrounded slavery then still permeate our society today. The same racism that fueled the slave trade can be seen around the country on a daily basis, and the media have field days shoving the resulting violence in our faces, often blowing some instances out of proportion thus instigating new aggression.

“12 Years a Slave” was nominated alongside some other award-worthy (and -winning) contenders: “Dallas Buyers Club”, “Gravity” (the film with the most wins this year), “Her”, “Philomena”, “American Hustle”, “Captain Phillips”, “Nebraska”, and “The Wolf of Wall Street”. Interestingly, six of these nine films were based upon true stories with real people and events. This film received only three wins from its nine nominations, including Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress. Ejiofor was nominated for Best Actor, but lost to Matthew McConaughey for “Dallas Buyers Club”. Oh, how I wish Ejiofor had won… I’m not sure I’ve seen a more deserving actor, considering his role. His facial expressions conveyed what no uttered words could. The man barely had to change the look in his eyes, and we were right there with him feeling his struggles. My hat is off to you Mr. Ejiofor.

FAVORITE SCENE:

It is difficult to pick a “favorite” scene when the film is riddled with heart-wrenching ones, but my spirits were raised when Solomon confides in Samuel (Brad Pitt) and a glimmer of hope is sparked. Samuel admonishes slavery. There’s a chance he’s willing to risk his life to retrieve Solomon’s freedom papers.
 

The very last scene is one I will never forget. I literally stood up from sitting on the couch with tears streaming down my face, surprised at the ending (and upon learning that this film was based on Solomon’s own autobiography).
 

LESSONS LEARNED:

The Bible was and still is deliberately used to manipulate and control the gullible or unsuspicious. Its context is constantly misconstrued in order to satisfy the person doing the preaching.

“Is everything right because the law allows it?” This loaded question was posed during a fantastic dialogue between Samuel Bass and Master Epps. Our country was founded on certain principles, mandated a set of laws, and even amended those in years that followed. I pray that as we continue to fight today for what’s “right”, we are showered in and guided by God’s grace and mercy.
 

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