Well damn all the colored actors are married to "others"..I was gunho to see this movie at first but I may wait, there has been so many slave movies this year and last year that I'm just kind of meh about it...
You're right. And then before that, we had movies like Precious and For Colored Girls. Hell, I loved Fruitvale station, but I cried while watching it and left feeling depressed.
Seems depressing movies about black people are all that get pushed.
I too want to see some different movies. Some more rom coms, some super hero flicks, or thrillers, or horror movies, or action movies. I'm hoping Best Man 2 does well and that Marvel goes ahead and does the Black Panther super hero movie. Maybe then Marvel will reboot Spawn.
I think its really about black movies being about how painful it is to
be black and to love other black people. Not every movie but I
understand the exhaustion.
Honestly I think seeing this type of
movie is good for those who don't know this material or the true nature
of slavery. If you are well-versed in this subject its just sitting
there watching people act it out, feeling the pain you're all to aware
of and walking away distraught. Again.
Overall I feel like
the Henry Louis Gates series is more worthy of viewing than this movie.
I realize however that not many are paying attention to things like
that and maybe this movie is the only exposure they will have of how
sick the institution of slavery was. There is a lot more of that
calculated brutality in Reconstruction and the evolution and execution
of Jim Crow. Slavery is only part of the story IMO and its the part we
kind of know but i/a many don't know as much as they should about.
Anyway I think this is a good point in an article I just read. I'll post with highlights in a minute.
Hattie McDaniel, the first black person to win an Oscar, did so for her role in Gone With the Wind
as Mammy in 1939. McDaniel was a formidable actress but, for better or
worse, roles that found her playing a maid dominate her résumé because,
in her time, domestic servitude was the primary way popular culture
could conceive of black women. In 2012, Octavia Spencer won an Oscar for
her performance as maid Minny Jacksonin the popular but deeply problematic The Help.
While there’s a lot of shallow rhetoric about post-racial America, when
it comes to the Oscars, Hollywood has very specific notions about how
they want to see black people on the silver screen. There are certainly
exceptions but all too often, critical acclaim for black films is built
upon the altar of black suffering or subjugation.
This year, we’ve seen quite the cinematic parade of both of these kinds of depictions. In the excellent Fruitvale Station,
writer-director Ryan Coogler deftly tells the story of the last day of
Oscar Grant’s life before Grant was murdered by a BART officer on New
Year’s Day in 2009. Lee Daniels’sThe Butler chronicles
the life of Cecil Gaines, a black butler in the White House for 34
years. Through the story of Gaines’s life, we also learn the story of
black America, the challenges of desegregation, and how with dignity,
one man persevered. The pinnacle of black suffering, though, comes by
way of Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. Since the movie’s debut on the festival circuit, it has enjoyed massive critical acclaim. It’s the movie everyone must see,
the definitive accounting of America’s brutal legacy of slavery. While
it's worth noting that having three movies about the black experience in
the Oscar race is disproportionately high, their themes fit into a very
narrow box. And that's especially true when you compare them to a few
of the movies being discussed as possible Best Picture nominees that
focus primarily on white people — the one set in space, the one about a
dysfunctional family, the one about a cat-loving folk singer.
But the overwhelming acclaim surrounding 12 Years a Slave
is especially curious, because slavery has been well accounted since
the early 1800s. What more could possibly be said about slavery? Who has
belabored under the impression that slavery was anything but an abject
horror?12 Years a Slave offers a relatively original conceit —
the true story of Solomon Northrup, a free black man who was kidnapped
and sold into slavery. As Michelle Dean notes for Flavorwire, “if on no other grounds, 12 Years a Slave is
remarkable because it is the only film to date that is based on a
slave’s own account of his experience.” The movie is also the first
major studio backed slavery film helmed by a black director. These
milestones are not insignificant. Despite the director and the source
material however, 12 Years a Slave does not offer any new insight into the slavery narrative.
I chose not to read many reviews before seeing the movie. I
wanted my viewing experience to be as unadulterated as possible. Now
that I have finally seen the movie, I’ll confess: I am not impressed and
I do not understand the effusive acclaim. The movie was brutal, almost
mind-numbingly so. Nothing was spared in depicting the harsh realities
of human enslavement — the loss of dignity, the physical, sexual, and
emotional violence of the experience. The reality depicted in this movie
is so harsh I cannot help but wonder if people find the movie excellent
because of the sheer relentlessness. I cried more than once, but I was
not moved. I was simply broken, the way anyone would be broken by
witnessing such atrocities.
12 Years a Slave is a decent enough movie — certainly
worth seeing if you’re unclear about slavery and its legacy. The actors
involved acquit themselves formidably. The film does a remarkable job of
revealing the ways in which white women were complicit in slavery;
Sarah Paulson in particular is absolutely chilling as the wife of a
cruel slave master. McQueen makes some lovely artistic choices
throughout the movie but, at times, those artistic choices are jarring
and out of place, and include extended, poetic shots of plantation
beauty and overindulgent cinematic pauses that make no sense. The movie
drags on at times, the boredom only interrupted by yet another
Most movies about slavery have a fetish for depicting the
mortification of black flesh to better expose the suffering and
subjugation; 12 years a Slave is no different. There are a number
of scenes where slaves are whipped for one infraction or another. When
Solomon is first captured he is “taught his place” with a beating.
Slaves are punished for not picking enough cotton. The most harrowing
scene is one in which Patsey, a fellow slave, is punished for going to
the neighboring plantation for a bar of soap with which to clean
herself. Master Epps (played by Michael Fassbender), with a reputation
for being a “slave breaker,” is so angry and sick with jealousy, he
decides to punish Patsey, but then he can’t follow through because he
has feelings for her.
So Epps hands the whip to Solomon, who is reluctant to take part
in this brutality yet well aware he has no choice. Solomon does his best
to mete out his master’s punishment but, in the end, Epps is not
satisfied. He takes the whip from Solomon and uses it on Patsey himself.
By the end of the scene, she is barely conscious, her back rent open
and bloody. The scene is visceral, as it should be, but it also feels
gratuitous because the scene is not designed to amplify Patsey’s plight.
The scene is designed to amplify Solomon’s plight, as if he is the more
tragic figure in this situation.
My reaction to 12 Years a Slave is borne, largely, by
exhaustion. I am worn out by slavery and struggle narratives. I am worn
out by broken black bodies and the broken black spirit somehow
persevering in the face of overwhelming and impossible circumstance.
There seems to be so little room at the Hollywood table for black movies
that to earn a seat, black movies have to fit a very specific
narrative. Thoughtful romantic comedies like Love & Basketball and the original Best Man,
which has a sequel later this month, fail even to be included in most
conversations about movies. Sure, they're not Oscar contenders, but they
certainly capture the black experience and yet, somehow, they're viewed
as being less worthy of talking about than similar fare like Enough Said,
which has earned many plaudits. Filmmakers take note of this and keep
giving Hollywood exactly what it wants. Hollywood showers these struggle
narratives with the highly coveted critical acclaim. It’s a vicious
There is no one way to tell the story of slavery or to chronicle
the black experience. It is not that slavery and struggle narratives
shouldn’t be shared but these narratives are not enough anymore.
Audiences are ready for more from black film — more narrative
complexity, more black experiences being represented in contemporary
film, more artistic experimentation, more black screenwriters and
directors allowed to use their creative talents beyond the struggle
narrative. We’re ready for more of everything but the same, singular
stories we’ve seen for so long.
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