a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Black’

I See “12 Years A Slave” for the 2nd Time! Still spellbound!

Seeing “12 Years a Slave” for the second time was quite an intense experience. It really held up. And seeing it with a paying New York  inter-racial audience was very interesting. They were spellbound to put it mildly and so was I.

It was very interesting that the audience was so mixed, which shows that it’s reaching different demographics. Which is great.  And people did gasp at some of the most horrific scenes. And they applauded wildly when for one brief intense moment Solomon Northrup breaks out of his slave role and beats the living daylights out of the horrid white overseer played by Paul Dano.

Dano is really excelling in these creepazoid, slimy roles this year, having also just been seen in “Prisoners” as a pervy offender. He’s truly hateful in “12 Years a Slave”, one of the worst characters in it.

I was so overwhelmed by Chiwetel Ejiafor as Solomon Northup, the title character, and also by Michael Fassbender’s tremendous turn as Master Epps, Solomon’s final owner, that I didn’t mention how terrific Paul Giamatti is as another noxious slave dealer who sells Solomon, who he re-names “Platt” to his first owner in the movie, the benevolent(but not so) Benedict Cumberbatch.

This is also the scene where the naked slaves are  casually displayed like livestock in Giamatti’s home. Giamatti, whom we all know as usually a genial boob, here is completely hateful as the pragmatic slave dealer, who slaps Northrup across the face so hard, you, the audience, feels it, too.

He also sells Eliza, the mother (Adepero Oduye)of two young children to Cumberbatch and splits up her family, selling her son to one person and keeping her mulatto daughter for himself. It’s horrifying.

I also never mentioned how frightening Sarah Paulson is as Mistress Epps. No Scarlett O’ Hara, she,  no fragile Southern Belle. The White women in this film as all just chillingly, matter-of-factly evil,,just as bad as their husbands, if not worse.

She is insanely jealous of her husband (Fassbender)’s seeming obsession with the beautiful Patsie, the slave, who picks so much cotton, Epps calls his “Queen of the fields”. Mistress Epps violently scratches and scars Patsie (Lupito Nyong’o)’s face in one midnite scene where a restless and bored Epps awakens his drowsy slaves in the middle of the night and has them dance for him.

The love triangle between the two Epps and Patsie was clearer to me the second time around and both Michael Fassbender and Lupito Nyong’o’s performances grew in grace and stature. Fassbender underplays Epps for most the film I realized this time. He only raises his voice and his fists and his whip when he is truly angry. And he does obsess in a very sick S&M way over Patsie. And yes, he does violently and repeatedly rape her, too.

Patsie seeks comfort and support from Mistress Shaw, a former slave who married her white plantation owner, and now is the mistress of her own domain, and has her own slaves as servants, at a very charming tea party. You also see Patsie looking at her as a role model. Could it be in the back of her mind that she might supplant Mistress Epps? Alfre Woodard is a treat in his too small role.

So much horror is piled upon horror in the masterful film directed by Steve McQueen, that the first time you see it you are so swamped by the constant brutality, the smaller incidents just get blurred into one stupefying whole. Images like Solomon screaming “help!” from his basement jail, as the camera objectively pans up to a tranquil matte shot of Washington, D.C. in 1854.One notes that the capitol dome was still under construction then. And nobody hears Solomon scream.

And when an unrecognizable Brad Pitt turns up as the scraggly bearded, white Canadian house builder Samuel Bass, you cheer his arrival. An incipient Abolitionist, he’s the cavalry riding in a the last-minute. And yes, as the title implies, there is a happy ending. And it’s Pitt. He’s also the producer of this film, which, according to director McQueen, would never have been made without him.

It also becomes clear that Fassbender and Nyong’o are going to sail to Oscar victory in their Supporting Categories. NOBODY is going to be able to touch them. Their performances are staggering, unforgettable, as is Ejiafor’s. But his Northrup is so powerful that you really do need to see it again to get all the nuances McQueen has built into their performances and into the film. Pitt and McQueen are also Oscar-bound as producer and director of this unforgettable film.

And the audience? There was a lot of audible sobbing at the end, but then when the titles coming up, thunderous applause. And this is something you never see happening with the general paying public. But applaud they did!

I’ll say it again, it’s a masterpiece of our times that you CAN NOT miss.

“Monuments Men” postponed! Getting out of Oscars’ Way of “12 Years…”

And so it continues. More and more Oscar drop-outs. Meaning they’re all getting out of the Awards season upcoming onslaught of “12 Years a Slave”! And who can blame them? The latest casualty of this brutal Oscar race is George Clooney’s “Monuments Men”. Opening it “in early 2014” is equivalent to meaning it doesn’t have an Oscar prayer.

And the premise, getting Art out-of-the-way or back from or something like that from the Nazis. Meh. Gorgeous George is writing, directing and  starring in it. This just doesn’t sound good. January and February are like movie grave-yards. The good stuff opens NOW. In October, Nov., Dec.

And “The Wolf of Wall Street” has also moved its’ purported opening from this fall. Which is now. Until Christmas. MAYbe. Maybe not. “Wolf” is the Martin Scorcese’s latest for Leo DiCaprio. 

As I said when I saw it in Toronto, nothing can beat “12 Years a Slave” for Best Picture and maybe many, many other categories, too. http://www.goldderby.com is now reporting Lupita Nyong’o the beautiful Yale School of Drama grad, who steals the show at “12 Years a Slave” as the  tragic slave, Patsie, has now passed Oprah Winfrey in the Supporting Actress category.

Which I was saying at TIFF. THAT role! The things that happen to Patsie are the worst, the most horrific abuses in that filled-with-horror movie. Lupita cried as she won the New Hollywood Award at the Hollywood Awards last night. The first of her probably many accolades this year and Oprah was nowhere in sight!

Tom O’Neil’s experts now have Michael Fassbender tied with Jared Leto for “Dallas Buyer’s Club.” Leto, who plays a draq queen in “Dallas Buyer’s Club” also just got a Hollywood Breakout Performance Award  last night from the Hollywood Awards. Which nobody takes seriously. Although E! just called it “The Official Beginning of the Awards Season.” Really? I thought that was the Toronto Film Festival. And Steve McQueen of “12 Years...” won for the Hollywood Breakout Director Award,

Gold Derby has “12 Years” winning Best Picture by a mile and also Chiwetel Ejiafor as Best Actor.

They’ve also got Cate Blanchett(“Blue Jasmine”) way out in front of Sandra Bullock for “Gravity”. Whose box-office, as every one knows, is in the stratosphere. For Best Actress. I think “Gravity” has become so big that the Academy is going to want to give it something big, besides all the technical awards it will surely win, and that will be Best Actress for the beloved Bullock. Bullock won the Hollywood Best Actress award last night, too. And wowed the crowd.

Oscar Shocker? White Stars Knock Black Stars Out of Best Actor Race

Sad, but true. In what is being touted as the best year ever for the recognition of Black film making, with “12 Years A Slave” steam-rolling every Oscar category in its’ path, the Best Actor race may sadly be the same old same old-as in The Same Old White Faces.

There were FOUR possible Black Best Actor candidates. I’m using the word Black because two of them are British and therefore the term African-American is not totally apt here. Chiwetel Ejiafor for “12 Years a Slave” is British, and so is Idris Elba “Mandela:Long Walk to Freedom.” The other two being Forest Whittaker (already an Academy Award winner in this category) for “Lee Daniels’ The Butler‘”and Michael B. Jordan for “Fruitvale Station.”

I’m afraid when the nominations are announced in January only Chiwetel Ejiafor is going to be the last one standing. And the hue and cry resulting from this happenstance, may very well secure his win. WHICH HE TOTALLY DESERVES!!! “12 Years a Slave” is a masterpiece!

I have no trouble saying that “12 Years a Slave” won the Oscar in September. In Toronto, to be exact. At TIFF’13. I know. I was there. I saw it.I felt it.  It was seismic. The ground was trembling. It was like an Academy Award earthquake!

And the words on everyone’s lips formed a mantra “’12 Years a Slave’ has already won the Oscar in September!”

And lo and behold, it did go on to win the Toronto Film Festival Audience Choice Award for Best Picture. One of the only awards that non-award-giving TIFF gives out. And it’s the audience at TIFF that voted for this.

And I think it’s going to dominate in every category that it’s nominated for. Particularly Best Director(Steve McQueen), Best Supporting Actor (Michael Fassbender) and Best Supporting Actress ( dazzling newcomer) Lupita N’yong’o. Yes, I think Jeff Wells http://www.hollywood-elswhere.com is right in saying she could beat Oprah Winfrey in this category. Oprah being in the running for “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”

But back to the lead in this story. The SWORM which IS the Academy (Straight White Old Rich Men) are going to make sure that Robert Redford, Tom Hanks and Bruce Dern all end up nominated in this category.

Hanks certainly landed with a big splash on Friday night, opening the New York Film Festival with “Captain Phillips.” Everyone, critics and audiences alike were ecstatic in their praise. Also of Barkhad Habdi as the main Somali pirate. There could be a surprise nomination there. No one saw that coming. But there it is.

Robert Redford’s solo performance in “All Is Lost” is a career-capper, too, by all acounts, and so is Bruce Dern’s in “Nebraska.” Up against these Hollwyood legends, I fear Whittaker, (“He already has an Oscar “) and Idris Elba( his film did not wow the critics or audiences at TIFF) and newcomer Jordon(“He’s young. He can wait.”) will all cancel each other out and leave Chiwetel as the last Black man standing.

And he could win. Satisfying EVERYONE. I hope.

I’m figuring the #5 slot is going to go to the long-overdue, career-changing Matthew McConaughey, who, yes, scored mightily, yes, at TIFF, for “Dallas Buyers Club.”

So much was decided at TIFF this year, I just couldn’t believe it.

When “Mandela” bombed, as did “The Fifth Estate,” those two films were quickly taken off the Oscar table.

It doesn’t bother me that “12 Years a Slave” is the presumptive winner. It deserves it.  It’s one of the greatest films ever made and deserves to be acknowledged as the masterpiece it is.. The injustices and horror of slavery that it depicts, just SCREAM “AWARD THIS!” All the other films coming up this year simply in terms of subject matter seem picayune by comparison.

The fact that in the Best Supporting Actress category, which some refer to as “The Booby Prize” of the Oscars,” there could very well be a historic TRIO of African American nominees, Oprah Winfrey, N’yong’o( She’s an American. She went to the Yale School of Drama! Yes, she did!) And past winner Octavia Spenser for “Fruitvale Station”. That would be terrific precedent-breaking situation. But in the Best Actor category, sadly, no. The status quo will, I fear,prevail.

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