12 Years A Slave

The 383rd film I have seen in theaters…

Property of Fox Searchlight Pictures

As I take my first weekend truly off in 18 years (new job, more $$, plus weekends!) the wife and I decided to knock a few of the Oscar nominated films off the viewing list. My first film of 2014 was a damned good one.

All images are the property of Fox Searchlight Pictures or any other respective owners.

The year in 1841 and Solomon Northup is a free Negro living in Saratoga Springs with his wife and two children. A musician, he is hired to travel down to Washington D.C. to perform his violin. Unbeknownst to him, the men who hire him plan to sell him into slavery. After a night of drinks with the men, he awakens in chains, and is soon bound for the South to be auctioned off as “Platt”, his true name being taken from him. He spends the next 12 years living as a slave, hoping for a chance to regain his freedom.

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I am sadly not that familiar with the work of Chiwetel Eijofor, but I will make a point of correcting this. This is one of the great performances in film. He is the lead, Solomon Northup, the freedman who is sold into slavery. The struggles this character endures are brought to stunning life by this amazingly talented actor. I think he has a lock on the Best Actor Oscar.

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My favorite actor of my generation. Michael Fassbender hasn’t let me down yet. Every role he portrays has that special quality that only an actor of his caliber can produce. He plays “Master Epps”, one of Solomon’s slave owners. From the first 5 seconds he is onscreen, you know who this guy is.  Part of that is good writing, the rest is Fassbender. I am not sure if he is going to win Best Supporting, but he is definitely worthy of that honor.

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Lupita Nyong’o plays Patsy, a female slave whom Epps has taken to sleeping with- something that Epps’ wife does not like. A strong performance of a woman who has lost all hope. Patsy hates her situation and wishes she was dead.

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Playing the wife is Sarah Paulson. At first we get a glimpse that she might be a sympathetic character to Solomon, but that is soon dashed as her cruelty towards the “property” is on full display. A good performance.

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The wife and I were joking that Benedict Cumberbatch seems to be in everything, and VIOLA! He appears! He plays “Master Ford” the first slave owner to buy Solomon. While a decent man, he is also a man of his place a time. He tries to protect Solomon as best he can, but is unwilling to face who and what he is.

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A short, though juicy, role is given to Paul Dano who plays Tibeats. the slave driver for Ford. He takes quite a bit of offense to Solomon’s intelligence, and lashes out against him. Dano did a good job.

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Onscreen all too briefly was Paul Giamatti who plays the Slave Auctioneer, strangely named Freeman, who dehumanizes these poor souls on the auction block. Always a good performance from Giamatti.

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Brad Pitt, also Producer of this film, appears as a contractor hired by Epps to build a house. Pitt’s Canadian accent needs a LOT of work, but he did well as a sympathetic man who harbors no love of slavery.

This might win Best Picture. I have a few more to see before March, but this looks to be the one. Well written, well acted, and so damn emotional. This holds nothing back and shows us slavery as it was- human beings being treated as animals. America needs to never forget what it did to these millions of people. Whenever I heard the phrase “The South shall rise again” a shudder ran down my spine. This film is an excellent example of why no sane person should ever look back on this period as “The good old days”. This review brought to you by a proud New Englander.

Community: Repilot

Community -- Season 5

Wow! The first tv show watched of 2014 and it’s was phenomenal! I did not realize precisely how much impact the return of creator Dan Harmon would have on the show.

Repilot: A dark episode. Jeff Winger is at Greendale for nefarious purposes, gets hooked up with the members of the study group, is about to be a complete dick, but decides to do the right thing. This could be a description of the original pilot. Instead of trying to get a quickie degree/grade, he is trying to get a lawsuit against the school. The episode, as a proper pilot should, sets up the series again. This was an actual reboot of this show. Jeff is now a teacher and the rest of the gang re-enrolls to better their failed lives.

Introduction to teaching: The second episode aired tonight might be one of the funniest. Jeff adjusts to teaching, discovers the teachers lounge and tries to skate by without actually working. Abed takes a film class on Nicholas Cage and gets sucked in by the eternal question: Is he a good actor or a bad actor? This causes a complete mental collapse as he tries to solve this unanswerable question. Uproxx provides the best gif of this moment.

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After starting a riot, the study group evolves into the “Save Greendale Student/Teacher group” adding Joseph Banks (Mike from Breaking Bad) as the other teacher in gang- filling the older male hole left by Chevy Chase.

I’ll be honest- this was near perfection. Six season and a movie might be possible now. Dan Harmon has proven that he is the only person that understands Abed, and it was great to see the character redeemed right off the bat. These episodes also had the best use of Leonard in ages. Even the Dean was toned down from the cartoon he evolved into. Community is back.

Makes me want to re-enroll.

The Return of Community!

After months of waiting, Community returned tonight with the original Producer Dan Harmon back on the job after the so/so 4th season! Community -- Season 5

I spent my day off cleaning, and when 8pm rolled around, the wife and I sat down for the show. Now, we NEVER watch live tv anymore. We ditched cable and are exclusively netflix/hulu/appletv. We have the antenna for the tv, but rarely use it. This was a special event. The hour arrives…the show begins!….and stops 5 seconds later, replaced by this guy:

 

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This is RJ Heim, weatherman for WJAR 10 out of Providence, RI- our local NBC affiliate. He interrupted the first couple minutes of the show to give us a weather update on the 1 inch of snow on the ground. I live in New England. It snows. We are used to it. Everyone here, and around the nation I bet, is aware that there is a huge blizzard coming tonight. Despite this, he came on EVERY HOUR to give a weather update, preventing viewers from watching the start of all NBC shows tonight. He did not cut into their precious commercials, but the shows- i.e. the reason we are tuning in.

After some wonderful profanity, I turned off the television and have sworn off live tv programming forever. Not news events, but regular tv shows. I can wait a day and see them on Hulu or online. This goes for the Olympics too. After the abomination that was the 2012 coverage of the London Games, we discovered the various options for watching the games on the internet. After the insulting coverage of the Opening Ceremonies (which they edited for us) we “found” the BBC feed. FAR superior.  #NBCFAIL was born on twitter and I expect much of the same this year from them.

Thank you WJAR for reminding me why I don’t need you anymore.

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