Tag Archive: 12 Years a Slave


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The Academy Awards are this Sunday night and they are bound to bring their share of joys and disappointments. To combat the disappointment that I feel when my favorites don’t win, I decided to hand out my own awards to the films that I believe are most worthy. Here you will find my favorites of 2013 in categories ranging from Best Actor to Best Original Song. Agree with my choices? What categories would you do differently? Let me know in the comments below!

If you are interested in viewing my top ten films of 2013, click here

 

Best Director

Ethan Coen & Joel Coen – Inside Llewyn Davis

Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity

Abdellatif Kechiche – Blue is the Warmest Color

Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave

Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street

 

Best Actor

Bruce Dern – Nebraska

Leonardo DiCaprio- The Wolf of Wall Street

Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave

Tom Hanks – Captain Phillips

Michael B. Jordan – Fruitvale Station

 

Best Actress (TIE)

Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine

Sandra Bullock – Gravity

Adèle Exarchopoulos – Blue is the Warmest Color

Greta Gerwig – Frances Ha

Emma Thompson – Saving Mr. Banks

 

Best Supporting Actor

Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips

Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave

James Franco – Spring Breakers

Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street

Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

 

Best Supporting Actress

Scarlett Johansson – Her

Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle

Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave

Léa Seydoux – Blue is the Warmest Color

Octavia Spencer – Fruitvale Station

 

Best Original Screenplay

American Hustle – David O. Russell and Eric Warren Singer

Blue Jasmine – Woody Allen

Her – Spike Jonze

Inside Llewyn Davis – Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Nebraska – Bob Nelson

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

12 Years a Slave – John Ridley

Before Midnight – Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy

Blue is the Warmest Color – Abdellatif Kechiche

Captain Phillips – Billy Ray

The Wolf of Wall Street – Terence Winter

 

Best Cinematography

Gravity

12 Years a Slave

Prisoners

Spring Breakers

Inside Llewyn Davis

 

Best Art Direction

12 Years a Slave

Gravity

The Great Gatsby

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Her

 

Best Visual Effects

Star Trek Into Darkness

Elysium

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Pacific Rim

Gravity

 

Best Sound

Gravity

All is Lost

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Captain Phillips

12 Years a Slave

 

Best Original Score

Gravity

12 Years a Slave

Frozen

Saving Mr. Banks

Her

 

Best Original Song

Atlas – Hunger Games

I see Fire – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Let it Go – Frozen

Ordinary Love – Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Please Mr. Kennedy – Inside Llewyn Davis

 

Best Animated Film

Despicable Me 2

Frozen

Monsters University

 

Best Editing

12 Years a Slave

Captain Phillips

Gravity

Inside Llewyn Davis

Prisoners

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My Top Ten Films of 2013

ImageHonorable Mentions (In Alphabetical Order): American Hustle, Blue Jasmine, The Bling Ring, Captain Phillips, Frances Ha, Frozen, The Spectacular Now, Spring Breakers, Star Trek Into Darkness, This is the End, The Way Way Back, The World’s End, You’re Next

 

10. Fruitvale Station – Based on the true story of Oscar Grant, an innocent young man who was murdered by a police officer in 2009, Fruitvale Station is one of the year’s most emotionally affecting dramas. The film, which follows Grant on the last full day of his life, doesn’t portray him as perfect. Instead, director Ryan Coogler realistically showcases Grant for who he really was: a young man who was struggling to live a better life. He was a man who had served jail time and continued selling drugs to take care of his infant daughter. But this is what gives the film its beauty. Grant wasn’t perfect, but he didn’t deserve what happened to him. Every life is sacred and this is the true message at the heart of Fruitvale Station. Anchored by a star making turn from Michael B. Jordan, this isn’t an easy film to watch, but it is a film that everybody needs to experience.

 

9. Her – In a career spanning fourteen years, Spike Jonze has only directed four feature films, but his unique vision and directorial style makes each of these films well worth the long wait. His latest effort, Her, is a sweet and emotional love story about a man who falls in love with his computer. Set in the not too distant future, the film comments on our obsession with technology and realistically predicts what our society will be like in the decades to come. Thanks to Jonze’s clever writing and careful direction, a love story that may seem outlandish on paper feels grounded and real.

 

8. Nebraska – As people grow older, it’s inevitable that their minds and memories will slowly begin to fade away. In Nebraska, the latest film from director Alexander Payne, this happens to Woody Grant, an elderly man who thinks that he has won $1 million in a sweepstakes. His son knows that the sweepstakes is a scam, but he decides to drive him to Nebraska to collect his prize because this could very well be one of the last father/son bonding moments that the two will share together before Woody’s mind is completely gone. It’s a simple story, but in this simplicity Payne is able to explore topics of family, aging and even the inevitability of death. Featuring a fantastic performance from Bruce Dern as Woody Grant, Nebraska is the best film about small town family life to come out in years.

 

7. Inside Llewyn Davis – The latest film from The Coen Brothers is an intimate character study of an out of luck folk singer, living in New York City in 1961. Oscar Issac is great as Davis and he truly translates the pain and desperation that his character is feeling. There are a number of fantastic folk songs on display in the film and when Davis sings, you can feel the emotion that is going into his performance. Inside Llewyn Davis is a very sad film and it doesn’t offer any happy endings. Instead, we get to watch one man struggle, and ultimately fail, to achieve his dreams. It’s far from feel good cinema, but it’s beautifully shot, wonderfully acted and surprisingly poignant.

 

6. Prisoners – A film that holds you in an icy grip for the entire two and a half hour runtime, Prisoners is the year’s best thriller. The story of two missing daughters and one man’s obsession to find them, this is a film that crackles with a sense of dread that is sustained from the opening frame to the closing credits. Director Denis Villeneuve makes use of great editing and a smart script from Aaron Guzikowski to keep the audience on their toes. The cinematography from Roger Deakins brilliantly captures the grim mood that prevails throughout the film and the entire ensemble cast brings their A-game, with Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal giving particularly powerful performances. A thematically rich commentary on obsession, desperation and the human capacity for violence, Prisoners is exactly what an adult oriented thriller should be: smart, brutal, suspenseful and so intense that you’ll be gasping for air.

 

5. Before Midnight – In 1995, two young travelers named Jesse and Celine met on a train and spent the night walking around Vienna together in the incredible romance, Before Sunrise. Nine years later, Jesse and Celine reunited for the first time since that night in Before Sunset, a sequel that was just as wonderfully romantic as the original film, if not more so. Now, director Richard Linklater has given us the (probable) conclusion to his Before trilogy, Before Midnight. Set another nine years after its predecessor, Jesse and Celine are now together and share two young daughters. The entire film takes place on one day while Jesse and Celine are on holiday in Greece and we watch them analyze what their relationship used to be and where their relationship will be going in the future. Their relationship is far from perfect and there is a constant sense that it may not survive much longer. The conclusion of the film doesn’t give us any definitive answers about what will happen to them in the future, but it still manages to end on a hopeful note. All relationships have problems, but it is rare for two people to share a true connection with each other and this is what makes Jesse and Celine’s relationship worth fighting for. Perhaps Linklater and stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy will revisit these characters in another nine years, but if they don’t, then I can say that Before Midnight is the incredible conclusion to one of the greatest love stories ever told.

 

4. The Wolf of Wall Street – With its copious amounts of drug use, three hour runtime and explicit sexual content, The Wolf of Wall Street may be too much for some viewers to handle. In fact, some critics have argued that the film is a failure because it revels in this intense debauchery, but these critics are missing the point. The film never glorifies what is appearing on screen, but takes us on a journey as we watch our protagonist, Jordan Belfort, slowly lose all of his humanity to corporate greed. Belfort is played brilliantly by Leonardo DiCaprio and, in a supporting role, Jonah Hill cements his status as a serious actor in Hollywood. Equal parts satire and black comedy, the film will have audiences laughing and marveling at everything they are witnessing on screen. Director Martin Scorsese has created a picture that truly pops; like its lead character, the film is on a constant high.

 

3. Gravity – In a film that is overflowing with state of the art special effects, it’s surprising that Gravity never loses the humanity that is central to any truly great story. The plight of two astronauts who become stranded in space is told with great realism from a director who is clearly at the top of his game. Recent special effects extravaganzas have stumbled when it comes to story and character development (*cough* Avatar *cough*), but Gravity excels in this area because it tells a simple, straightforward story with characters that we can relate to. Because we care about these characters, the sequences of destruction give the film an almost unbearable sense of tension. Aided by a beautiful score from Steven Price, Gravity is a bold and immersive picture that will leave you slack jawed, gaping at the screen. It’s not just a massive leap forward for the sci-fi genre; it’s a massive leap forward for the art of film itself.

 

2. Blue is the Warmest Color – A film that chronicles the joys, troubles and poignancy of a relationship, Blue is the Warmest Color is a love story that feels honest and true. Chronicling an intimate relationship between two young women, this French film is one of the most realistic love stories that I have ever seen. The story isn’t entirely original, but it feels truthful in its simplicity. As the film ended, I felt as if I had experienced a large chunk of someone’s life with them, and leaving them after having cared for so long was emotionally devastating. The three hour runtime may seem daunting to some viewers, but it truly absorbs you into the lives of these characters. Also aiding the film are the two incredible performances from Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux. Exarchopoulos is astounding as Adèle, giving the character a sense of emotional vulnerability that feels relatable and real and Seydoux is immensely charming as Emma. These two actresses have an undeniable chemistry between them and this allows the audience to truly care about the relationship that develops throughout the film. While it’s far from enjoyable entertainment, this is a film that anyone who has experienced love and loss should seek out. Like any relationship, it is something that will stick with you, in your thoughts and in your heart, long after it has ended.

 

1. 12 Years a Slave – Every year during Oscar season, there is always one film that emerges as the awards season frontrunner. This year’s frontrunner (and hopefully, winner) is also the best film of 2013. Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave is horrifying in its realistic portrayal of slavery, breathtaking in the sheer amount of care and cinematic prowess that went into its production, and ultimately uplifting in its message that, no matter how bad things may get, there is always something worth living for. McQueen’s use of long takes in the film is expertly used, forcing the audience to face the horrors of slavery without shying away. The entire cast gives solid performances, but Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender are the clear standouts. As Solomon Northup, a free man who was sold into slavery, Ejiofor delivers a performance of shocking emotional gravitas, effectively causing the audience to feel the pain that his character had to endure and Fassbender is absolutely chilling as Edwin Epps, an evil plantation owner who cannot be reasoned with. These performances add to a film that excels in every aspect. Slavery was a dark time in America’s history and 12 Years a Slave places its audience into a 19th century nightmare. There will never be any way to truly comprehend how awful slavery was, but this film comes as close as any film possibly could. Not only is 12 Years a Slave the best film of the year, but it’s also the greatest film ever made about slavery in the American South.

My 2014 Golden Globe Predictions

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The 71st Golden Globe awards are held this Sunday, so it is only appropriate that I post some hopes and predictions. Here I will tell you who I predict will win, who I think should win and who was snubbed from a nomination. While I hope that these predictions will be accurate, keep in mind that anything can happen on awards night.

Best Drama

12 Years a Slave
Captain Phillips
Gravity
Philomena
Rush

Who Will Win: 12 Years a Slave

Who Should Win: 12 Years a Slave

Who Got Snubbed: Prisoners

Steve McQueen’s brutal treatment of slavery in the American South still remains the award season frontrunner. It’s a shame that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association overlooked Prisoners, a gripping film that was one of the best thrillers in years.

Best Musical/Comedy

American Hustle
Her
Inside Lleweyn Davis
Nebraska
The Wolf of Wall Street

Who Will Win: American Hustle

Who Should Win: The Wolf of Wall Street

Who Got Snubbed: The World’s End, Before Midnight

Voters are likely to be wooed by the performances and energetic direction in American Hustle, but the film lacks the bite that makes The Wolf of Wall Street the deserving winner. It’s unfortunate that The World’s End and Before Midnight couldn’t secure a nomination here, but this is a very competitive category.

Best Director

Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Alexander Payne, Nebraska
David O. Russell, American Hustle

Who Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón

Who Should Win: Steve McQueen

Who Got Snubbed: Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street, Spike Jonze – Her

Alfonso Cuarón created a technical marvel with Gravity, but Steve McQueen deserves just as much praise for 12 Years a Slave’s emotional intensity. The biggest snubs in this category include Martin Scorsese for managing to make The Wolf of Wall Street’s three hour runtime move at a breezy pace and Spike Jonze for turning a man’s affection with his computer into one of the best films of the year with Her.

Best Actress in a Drama

Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks
Kate Winslet, Labor Day

Who Will Win: Cate Blanchett

Who Should Win: Cate Blanchett

Who Got Snubbed: Adèle Exarchopoulos – Blue is the Warmest Color

Cate Blanchett’s powerhouse performance in Blue Jasmine is one of the greatest of the year, matched only by Adèle Exarchopoulos’ emotional discovery in Blue is the Warmest Color. Her absence in this category is upsetting.

Best Actor in a Drama

Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Idris Elba, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyer’s Club
Robert Redford, All Is Lost

Who Will Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor

Who Should Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor

Who Got Snubbed: Michael B. Jordan – Fruitvale Station

Chiwetel Ejiofor seems to be the frontrunner and Michael B. Jordan’s breakthrough performance in Fruitvale Station deserves far more praise than it’s been receiving

Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy

Christian Bale, American Hustle
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Leonardo Di Caprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis
Joaquin Phoenix, Her

Who Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio

Who Should Win: Leonardo DiCaprio

Who Got Snubbed: Ethan Hawke – Before Midnight, Simon Pegg – The World’s End

Bruce Dern could sneak in and win this one, but DiCaprio has been a longtime favorite of the HFPA.

Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy

Amy Adams, American Hustle
Julie Delpy, Before Midnight
Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Enough Said
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

Who Will Win: Amy Adams

Who Should Win: Greta Gerwig

Amy Adams and Meryl Streep appear to be the only real contenders in this category, but it would be delightful if Greta Gerwig was able to pull off an upset.

Best Supporting Actress

Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
June Squibb, Nebraska

Who Will Win: Lupita Nyong’o

Who Should Win: Jennifer Lawrence

Who Got Snubbed: Octavia Spencer – Frutivale Station, Lea Seydoux – Blue is the Warmest Color

I’m predicting that Lupita Nyong’o will follow the success of 12 Years a Slave to a win, but I hope that voters will award Jennifer Lawrence for her fantastic scene chewing in American Hustle. This is another very competitive category, but it’s a shame that two of the most emotional performances of the year (Octavia Spencer in Fruitvale Station and Lea Seydoux in Blue is the Warmest Color) are nowhere to be found.

Best Supporting Actor

Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Daniel Bruhl, Rush
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyer’s Club

Who Will Win: Jared Leto

Who Should Win: Michael Fassbender

Who Got Snubbed: James Franco – Spring Breakers

Jared Leto has been receiving much praise for his role in Dallas Buyers Club, but Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of a truly evil plantation owner is a much more impressive performance.

Best Screenplay

Spike Jonze, Her
Bob Nelson, Nebraska
Jeff Pope/Steve Coogan, Philomena
John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell, American Hustle

Who Will Win: American Hustle

Who Should Win: Her

Who Got Snubbed: Woody Allen – Blue Jasmine

American Hustle’s snappy dialogue will appeal to voters, but the characters in Her feel more realistic and the film’s message is more profound.

Best Animated Feature

The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Frozen

Who Will Win: Frozen

Who Should Win: Frozen

Who Got Snubbed: Monster’s University

It was a weak year for animation and Frozen is the clear frontrunner. Even though it was far from Pixar’s best film, Monster’s University definitely deserved a nomination here.

Best Original Song

“Atlas,” The Hunger Games, Catching Fire
“Let It Go,” Frozen
“Ordinary Love,” Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
“Please Mr. Kennedy,” Inside Llewyn Davis
“Sweeter Than Fiction,” One Chance

Who Will Win: “Let it Go”

Who Should Win: “Let it Go”

Who Got Snubbed: “I See Fire”, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Best Score

Alex Ebert, All Is Lost
Alex Heffes, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Steven Price, Gravity
John Williams, The Book Thief
Hans Zimmer, 12 Years a Slave

Who Will Win: Steven Price – Gravity

Who Should Win: Steven Price – Gravity

Who Got Snubbed: Thomas Newman – Saving Mr. Banks

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Nearly every film will have some sort of emotional reaction on the viewer. These reactions can range from joy, to fear, to boredom, to disgust. But it takes a truly great film to hit you on such an emotional level that it will leave you in tears. Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave will likely have this effect on people. It is such an emotionally tolling film, that I found myself tearing up in multiple moments throughout the film’s 133 minute run-time. It is horrifying in its realistic portrayal of slavery, breathtaking in the sheer amount of care and cinematic prowess that went into its production, and ultimately uplifting in the film’s message that, no matter how bad things may get, there is always something worth living for.

In this astonishing true story, Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Solomon Northup, a free African American man who is living with his wife and two children in New York during the year 1841. One day he is approached by a pair of men (Taran Killam and Scoot McNairy) who offer him a job as a musician in a traveling circus. This job offer seems too good to be true and, unfortunately for Solomon, it is. He awakens the following morning in a jail cell, having been drugged the night before. Despite being a free man, Solomon is sent by ship to New Orleans to be sold as a slave.

In his third feature film, director Steve McQueen has crafted what will surely go down as a masterpiece. The cinematography by Sean Bobbitt is incredibly exquisite, somehow managing to simultaneously look beautiful and threatening, often within the same shot. An early scene in which the camera moves through a field of sugarcane is certainly a harbinger of the violence that the audience will soon be witness to. Also incredible are McQueen’s use of long takes. Some of them last for an excruciatingly long time, forcing the viewer to feel some of the distressing pain that Northup is also experiencing. One long take involving a whipping is so expertly shot and choreographed that it will likely be studied for years to come.

Many viewers may find the graphic violence depicted in the film simply too much to handle. In his portrayal of the hardships that were faced by African Americans during the time of slavery, McQueen simply doesn’t hold anything back. Not only is the physical violence in the film disturbing, but the actual dehumanization of the African Americans is brutal to watch as well. A scene in which white plantation owners walk through a room full of naked African Americans for sale will fill the viewer with disgust and a scene involving a rape is truly horrifying to watch. Never before has the calamity of slavery been portrayed so realistically on film.

Chiwetel Ejiofor has been delivering solid performances for over a decade, but it his role as Solomon Northup that should finally get audiences to take notice of his incredible abilities. Ejiofor delivers a magnificently emotional performance as Northup, a man who is willing to endure the most difficult of circumstances to survive and, hopefully, one day be reunited with his family. Ejiofor takes the audience on an emotional journey and really makes you feel what his character is experiencing.

Luckily, Ejiofor never overshadows any of his costars, who all deliver equally impressive performances. Michael Fassbender is brilliantly frightening as plantation owner Edwin Epps. Fassbender’s character often feels like a man who cannot be reasoned with, making him all the more intimidating. As the Mistress Epps, Sarah Paulson is often more terrifying than her onscreen husband, choosing to slowly torture any of her slaves that she is not fond of. The slave that receives most of this torture is Patsey and Lupita Nyong’o (in her feature film debut) is incredible in the role. Not every plantation owner is portrayed as truly evil and it is clear that Benedict Cumberbatch’s character, William Ford, is simply a product of the times that he has been born into. Cumberbatch is great in the role, further cementing him as one of our greatest up-and-coming actors. Finally, in a small but pivotal role, Brad Pitt turns on his Southern accent as Samuel Bass, but he does so with gravitas and sophistication.

The true story of Solomon Northup is so extraordinary and inspiring that it’s baffling that it has taken this long to adapt it into a feature film. Thankfully, it has been worth the wait because this story has been given the care that it deserves. With a musical score by Hans Zimmer that manages to feel both tender and imposing, and an intelligently crafted script from John Ridley, Steve McQueen has somehow managed to assemble a cast and crew of the highest pedigree. Not only is 12 Years a Slave one of the best films of the year, it is quite possibly the greatest film ever made about slavery in the American South.

12 Years a Slave receives 4/4