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Posts tagged ‘Solomon Northrup’

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My Surprising Best Actor Pic, Or is it?

My Surprising Best Actor Pic, Or is it?

Just take a look at that picture. Can you imagine anyone voting for anything else if they have seen or suffered through that horrendous moment of moments in “12 Years a Slave”? where Chiwetel Ejiofor’s character of Solomon Northrup is hung by the neck until he’s NEARLY dead? And it’s an INTERMINABLE time. It’s goes on and on and on and director Steve McQueen’s camera just holds that horrifying shot. And it comes near the beginning of the film, too.

Northup revolts against Paul Dano’s thoroughly evil twerp of an over-seer and whups the living daylights out of him,and the audience bursts into cheers! Always. But are horrified to see Dano’s character come back with reinforcements, and they string Solomon up and just leave him there for what seems like hours. AND NO ONE CUTS HIM DOWN!!! AND HE’S STILL ALIVE!!! As the other slaves in the background of the above scene just go about their work, and COMPLETELY IGNORE his hanging there before them!

Northup’s feet barely touch the ground and keep trying to find footing or balance as he hangs by his neck until….well, I don’t want to spoil THAT much of the movie But the utter horror of Ejiofor’s Northrup hanging there, and hanging there and hanging there….well, it’s like watching a REAL hanging in real-time.

It’s excruciating and unbelievable but TRUE! Everything in “12 Years a Slave” is directly from that book that Solomon Northrup wrote that is only now beginning to be taught in schools in America….

But for this scene, as Ejiofor as Northrup struggles to free himself, to balance himself, to just keep breathing is well, breathtaking, and is a scene the Academy, if they’ve seen it, will surely reward with a Best Actor Oscar for Ejiofor.

Although the operative word in that sentence is IF THEY’VE SEEN IT. Peggy Seigel, the great Oscar party thrower, said at the Vanity Fair Oscar Chat that Sasha Stone writes so feelingly about at http://www.awardsdaily.com , that many, MANY Academy voters were just NOT WATCHING “12 Years a Slave” AT ALL.

And Sasha keeps trumpeting and advocating for it until the last-minute, and so, this year am I.

She has expressed doubts about it winning Best Picture and thinks that it might be “Gravity.” I hope not. But she’s also said that she thinks, worse case scenario that it might just get ONE big award. And after BAFTA, which Brit Ejiofor won, that THAT would be the Award. “The Big One” that “Slave” gets, if it shockingly doesn’t get anything else.

But I for one think it will get Best Picture. You ask everyone in New York(and I do) on my cinematic travels and everyone HERE says in unison “12 Years a Slave”. Maybe in L.A. you’re hearing something different. But with the BAFTA Best Picture and Best Actor win, I think the Academy may just do the right thing and check both boxes.

Lupita Nyong’o, who may very well be the OTHER “Big One” that “Slave” wins didn’t win at the BAFTAs. She lost to last year’s It Girl, Jennifer Lawrence for “American Hustle.”

So it could be BP, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. But I would also hope Lupita wins. Both the Gurus o’ Gold at http://www.moviecitynews.com and also Tom O’Neil’s Gold Derby at http://www.goldderby.com have Lupita out in front. But Chiwetel isn’t even LISTED in either place.

If “American Hustle” is going to win anything, and the Academy may want to give it SOMEthing, they can award the indefatigable director David O. Russell in “Original Screenplay” which he also wrote and I think that’s where the “American Hustle” voting energy will go. And voila! They’ve honored it and FINALLY David O gets an Oscar.

What else could “Slave” win? It could turn up in some of the below the line categories, like Production Design or even Costume Design. If it wins Best Editing early in the evening, look out, a sweep for “Slave” is coming. But if that early award goes to “Gravity” as well it might, we can look for “Gravity” to take the many, many technical awards it’s predicted for.

But if it’s “Captain Phillips” in editing, there really could be a shake-up and spread amongst the categories, with even an upset like Somali first time actor Barkhad Abdi winning for Best Supporting as he did at BAFTA. Is the Academy so broadened in its’ thinking post-“Brokeback” that giving BOTH its’ Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor awards to TWO gay AIDS victims, Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto?

Still smarting from “Brokeback”s loss to homophobia in AMPAS, I’m hedging my bets that both McConaughey and Leto won’t win. ONE of them may. And this could be where Chiwetel Ejiofor is the surprise of the night who triumphs. But no surprise to me, or to you, dear readers, dear cineastes.

Oscar Best Picture Race~Is It Really Down to Three?

New York’s just had its’ first major snowfall, Christmas is around the corner, and can the Oscar race for Best Picture be just down to three films already?

To judge by the major Oscar websites, it already seems a done deal. With “12 Years a Slave”, “Gravity” and unbelievably “American Hustle” being judged the only three that could. Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone has another great “State of the Race” piece and she sees it this way at http://www.Awardsdaily.com and so does Tom O’Neil at http://www.goldderby.com

But interestingly though they came to the same conclusions about THE THREE. Sasha has “12 Years a Slave” is on top, and Tom O. is sticking to “Gravity.” Me? I’m on Sasha’s side. And I hope that’s the way it plays out.

I saw “12 Years a Slave” for the THIRD time last night, and was bowled over by it all over again. It’s beauty.It’s musical score by Hans Zimmer. The cinematography, director Steve McQueen’s expert use of his large cast. There’s not a weak one among the vast ensemble. And the writing is so good! And it’s a true story!John Ridley is the screenwriting, based of course on the now best-selling book by Soloman Northrup. First published in 1856.

And Lupito Nyong’O and Chiwetel Ejiafor broke my heart all over again.

I can’t even imagine sitting through “American Hustle” Three times. Maybe to figure out its’ dense con artist plot within a plot within a plot. But not even Jennifer Lawrence’s hilarious mob wife would get me back a second time. There’s not enough hours left in my life.

“American Hustle” benefits greatly from being the new kid on the block as it were. “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity” have been going strong since Toronto Film Festival, which is where I saw the both of them. And that’s a problem, too. Keeping the momentum going this long. Both Fox Searchlight and also Warner’s have that as a task they must fulfill.

I just  got a press release that it’s going to be re-released, though I just saw it for the third time, as I’ve said, last night. It’s made $35 million, which is no small amount of Oscar change. And the nominations are only now about to be mailed out to the membership.And of course, those all important DVD screeners.

Seeing movies on the big screen is the only way, really, to see these important films, IMHO. I saw “Her” tonight. Cute. With a small “c”. But with so many films these days being so dark and so tragic, “Her” is really a sweet, sweet love story…about a man(Joaquim Phoenix) who falls in love with his Ciri-like Operating System, voiced magnificently by the totally unseen Scarlett Johansson. It gains by comparison. It aims to be GENTLE. And it refreshingly is.

It’s a futuristic love story, but that’s all it is. Filmed in Beijing, it looks like it really HAS been shot in the future, too.

In any other year, Joaquim Phoenix’s kindly, lost, dweeb Twombly would be in the best actor race. Most of the film is ONLY shots of his face. I didn’t know if it would sustain, if he’d be that riveting, but newsflash, he is. TOTALLY different from his disturbed loner Freddie Quell from last year’s “The Master” which, yes, indeed he WAS nominated for Best Actor for. But this year Best Actor is so crowded, he hasn’t a chance to get in.

He hasn’t turned up in any of the precursor critics awards. And neither, strangely has Tom Hanks for “Saving Mr. Banks”. His Disney on Disney performance is not going down or turning up anywhere.  At least not yet.. NOBODY nominated him for this Supporting turn, whereas they ALLLLL nominated him for “Captain Phillips” as Best Lead Actor and they’ve nominated Somali newcomer Barkhad Abdi in all three major races, too. For Best Supporting Actor.

He and Daniel Bruhl  of “Rush”as well have been nominated for the SAG Award, the Golden Globe award and also the Critics choice awards, something NOBODY could have seen coming, but yet, there they are. They made the golden trifecta that you NEED to get to be nominated for an Oscar.

Oprah was left out of the Golden Globes in Best Supp. Actress for “The Butler”. So does that make her vulnerable? Or just simply unpopular with the Hollywood Foreign Press?

And Robert Redford not being nominated for a SAG award for Best Actor for “All Is Lost” is still the most shocking snub. And it WAS nominated for Best Stunt Ensemble, which is really crazy weird because HE IS the Ensemble, in this one person movie.

That, yes, can be seen as merely stunt work.And it IS incredible stunt work. For a 77-year-old man to be doing all that running (around his sinking yacht), climbing the mast, swimming with sharks…well, he’s certainly in good shape for his age. And his agility is amazing. But is that great acting? Well…

It’s also  almost totally silent.

He says one word and one word only “FUCK!!!!!” when he begins to finally sense the utter desolation of his desperate situation. IF ONLY THAT WEREN’T HIS ONLY WORD…And I thought, “Well, he’s lost the Oscar. Right there.”

In this tough field, he’ll be lucky to be nominated. And he’s not actively campaigning as the other 77-year-old in the race for Best Actor is, Bruce Dern, for “Nebraska”. He’s everywhere. In L.A. Guess he’ll be showing up in New York to pick up his National Board of Review award for Best Actor. He won that, Bruce did. And he also triumphed at the L.A. Film Critics.
But neither of them are going to win against “12 Years a Slave”s majestic powerhouse Chiwetel Ejiafor.

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.

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