Oscar Alert! – 12 Years a Slave

This one has the Film Critics atwitter after the Toronto Film Festival. It is a film depiction of the true story of Solomon Northup, born a free man, who was abducted and enslaved in the pre-Civil War US.  Unlike the fictitious Django – the film is based on a book on the real-life experiences of the author, Solomon Northup, by the same name. The book is the 1853 autobiography of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped in Washington D.C in 1841 and sold into slavery. He worked on plantations in the state of Louisiana for 12 years before his release.

The other big plus to this one, is that it sticks to historical truth – unlike The Butler, where the Director chose to “spice up” the story, having the central character born in Georgia – instead of Virginia. Met Mr Allen at a Christmas Party at the White House in 1976. I remember him distinctly because of being introduced by a family friend ho was a chef there – and a conversation about the “honesty” and racial feelings of the various Presidents he had served under to that time with the Master chef. Now – gay people may have “gaydar” – but black folks have “racedar” – that is reading the body language and reactions of a white person they interact with. One of the things Allen said was to keep an eye on whether when then new President Carter came downstairs to greet the staff, whether he looked them in the eye while shaking hands (or even shook their hands, which Nixon would not do). He then went on to say that despite the common belief that Eisenhower hated black folks – when he shook your hand he looked you straight in the eye regardless of race. which said a lot more about the man than any Monday morning quarterbacks in the press. I broke into the conversation and asked him which did… And which didn’t. He told me a story totally confounding my then 70’s belief set.

I think back on that brief conversation and recall a quote from Martin Luther King…

Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.

I wish the movie was about that.

And unlike the movie – NO –  Ronald Reagan was no racist. Although unfortunately several of his senior staff, like Ed Meese, were sheet wearers.

TIFF 13: Did Steve McQueen’s ’12 Years a Slave’ just change the game?

TORONTO — Brad Pitt didn’t say much during the question-and-answer session that followed the Toronto International Film Festival premiere of “12 Years a Slave” on Friday night, just a short comment on why he produced and co-starred in the Steve McQueen period drama.

But, like his turn as an abolitionist-minded maverick amid a group of brutal slaveowners, Pitt spoke volumes as he stood on the stage with cast and filmmakers. “If I never get to participate in a film again,” he said, his voice trailing off as if to imply this would be enough, “this is it for me,” he finally finished.

It’s a sentiment you could imagine the lead cast members –Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o and of course Chiwetel Eijiofor, standing out amid the standouts — sharing with Pitt. And it’s a sentiment you could imagine the audience feeling. Festivals come and go; movies rise and fade. But once in a great while there’s a film that feels almost instantly, in the room, like it’s going to endure, and change plenty of things along the way. And “12 Years” offers that feeling.

Director Steve McQueen (r) and co-Lead Actor Michael Fassbender (l).

Most narrowly, that’s true on Oscar level. By 9 p.m. Friday night, just six days into September, the film had already become a top contender for various acting, writing and directing prizes, as well as the big prize. You could say that’s premature. But you probably wouldn’t if you sat in the room. (Vulture’s Kyle Buchanan certainly didn’t hold back.)

It’s equally true on a social level. “12 Years” tells the fact-based story of Solomon Northup (Eijiofor), a free man who in 1841 was kidnapped and sold into slavery, and his travails — at once horrifying and surprising, no matter how much you think you’re ready for them — when he is trafficked to a series of Southern plantations for more than a decade.

The movie has many of the hallmarks McQueen has become known for — the meticulous composition, the bold and haunting sequences — but, far more than previous films “Hunger” and“Shame,” it has a galvanizing topicality. (For more on “12 Years” and how it was made see my colleague John Horn’s excellent piece in the Sunday Times.)

It also has the kind of bracing honesty that has always been rare in Hollywood and is even rarer these days, a Hollywood where, if tough issues are taken on at all, it’s under the garb of respectful period drama or easy sentiment.

Slavery is pretty much at the top of that list of tough issues. With films like “Django Unchained” and “Lincoln,“ the subject has have become slightly less taboo in the past few years — but only slightly.“Roots” broke new ground on TV more than three decades ago, yet few have followed in its path. McQueen is finally willing to pick up the trail.

But maybe that feeling of change was most apparent because the movie went beyond its ostensible subject of race and the fight for emancipation. After the screening, several people I was sitting near began comparing the movie, favorably, to other films about race. A worthwhile comparison. But the film also evoked parallels to a more unexpected movie, “Schindler’s List.” Exactly 20 years ago that film paired impressive filmmaking with a wrenching subject, and in so doing achieved something remarkable — used cinema to change the way we view a cataclysmic period we thought we knew. “12 Years” has the  power to do the same thing.

As this movie rolls out this fall, people will talk about the questions it raises, about the evolution of race relations, about what it’s saying on the matter of slavery, whether nearly 150 years after the end of the Civil War there is resolution or closure, whether there can ever be resolution or closure.

And there will be, inevitably, a backlash, people who will question the choices McQueen made, will scrutinize whether this detail softpedals the history or that detail overplays it, whether he went too far or not far enough, whether he fetishizes too much or too little.

Mostly, people will talk about slavery in a way they haven’t before because by seeing the film they’ll experience it in a way they never have before. McQueen on Friday summed up his reason for making a movie about slavery thusly: “For me it was a no-brainer. I just wanted to see it on film. I wanted to see that history on film. It was important. It was that obvious. And that’s it,” he said, putting a period on the sentence. But the conversation is only just beginning.

BTx3 is going to see this one. This one strikes a personal chord as part of my own family fought re-enslavement after the Revolutionary War for near 50 years. While no letters or material from those family members still exist (although there are a few pictures), there is ample evidence in court documents from 1790 through 1840 which document the trail… Including 4 court cases where slavers tried to claim various members of he family were escaped slaves. A decades long struggle which by a bit more than just local legend included several killings.

Free “Blade”. Wesley Snipes Leaves Prison

Actor Wesley Snipes can now begin the process of putting his acting career back together… A “Blade” sequel?

Repeat after me, Wesley…”1040…1040…1040″.

Actor Wesley Snipes released from prison

 Actor Wesley Snipes has been released from a federal prison where he was serving a three-year sentence after being convicted on tax charges in February 2010.The release to a supervised residential location in New York occurred Tuesday, the Federal Bureau of Prisons told CNN.

Snipes, 50, who starred in the “Blade” action movies and “White Men Can’t Jump,” had been serving time at a federal prison in Pennsylvania. A jury convicted him of willfully failing to file tax returns for 1999, 2000 and 2001. Snipes was acquitted of felony tax fraud and conspiracy charges.

In June 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of his sentence, which he had argued was too harsh for a misdemeanor conviction.

Dust Storm Eats Phoenix

No – this isn’t an out take from a Hollywood Special effects shot, or an Alien Invasion for summer theater fare…

Those of you who have lived in a desert for any length of time are probably familiar with a weather event common in many parts of the arid world – a dust storm.

Those who haven’t lived in one of those areas – this can be pretty scary!

Some spectacular images here -

 

Black Thor Has Conservatives In a Tizzy!

Oh My! What if they made a movie based on a Shakespeare fiction, converted into a comic book fiction about fictional Norse Gods…

And one of the gods turned out to have a decidedly southern tan?

Egads! Diversity amongst the gods?Racists Boycotting Thor Movie Over Black God

White Supremacists Boycotting Thor Over Black God

A far-right group is calling for a boycott of the upcoming Thor movie because a black actor has been cast as a Norse god. Idris Elba plays the god Heimdall in the superhero movie, a casting decision that the Council of Conservative Citizens says is an “insulting multi-cultural make-over,” Gawkerreports.

Marvel Comics is known for its support of left-wing causes and “has now inserted social engineering into European mythology,” complains the group, which opposes inter-racial marriage. Elba himself addressed the issue earlier this year, the Guardian notes. “Thor has a hammer that flies to him when he clicks his fingers,” he said. “That’s OK, but the color of my skin is wrong?”

Next they will be claiming all sorts of nonsense, like there were black confederates! Just the sort of thing to sour a Secession Ball, indeed…

 

White Hobbits Only!

No Frodo…There are NO black Hobbits allowed!

The previous movies in this series were pretty anemic looking…

The Hobbit': Casting agent dismissed after seeking extras with ‘light skin tones’

A casting agent working on director Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’sThe Hobbit was fired from the production after placing ads in a regional New Zealand newspaper seeking extras with “light skin tones,” according to Agence France-Presse. The casting agent was also reported to have told a prospective background extra, a woman of Pakistani heritage named Naz Humphreys, that she wasn’t suitable to play a Hobbit because of her skin color. According to The Waikato Times, video footage shows the casting agent telling people at an audition, “We are looking for light-skinned people. I’m not trying to be … whatever. It’s just the brief. You’ve got to look like a Hobbit.” A spokesman for Jackson’s production company told Agence France-Presse that the casting director, who was contracted by the film, was never directed to make any restrictions based on skin color. “No such instructions were given,” the spokesman said. “The crew member in question took it upon themselves to do that and it’s not something we instructed or condoned,” adding, “It’s something we take very seriously.”

Another White Cleopatra?

Angelina Jolie has been cast as Cleopatra in the upcoming movie. Now, don’t get me wrong, Angelina is gorgeous – and on my very short list of actors/actresses who might be interesting to sit down and have a conversation with…

But Dayam! How about a little “color”!

Yeah…Yeah… I know Cleopatra’s dad was Macedonian Greek, and she definitely wasn’t African looking…

But I think she probably would look a bit more like a Beyonce or Halle Berry than Angelina.

Probably the Best Known Cleopatra, Elizabeth Taylor Who Acted Opposite Richard Burton

White Actress Cast as African Queen—Again

Why is Angelina Jolie, a white woman,playing Cleopatra, an African queen? “Just when we thought there weren’t enough leading roles for black women in Hollywood , they create one and give it to a white woman,” writes Shirea L. Carroll for Essence. “I don’t care how full Angelina Jolie’s lips are, how many African children she adopts, or how bronzed her skin will become for the film, I firmly believe this role should have gone to a black woman.”

Cecile B. Demilles's Cleopatra, Claudette Colbert

Carroll points out that three white actresses have already played Cleopatra and notes that this is far from the first time Hollywood has cast white women in similarly inappropriate roles. “While historically there is no concrete confirmation that Cleopatra was of a darker complexion, there is more evidence than not that she was black, and not entirely of Macedonian Greek ancestry, as Shakespeare, leagues of painters, and now Hollywood would have us believe. Jolie—not so perfect.”

The Real Cleopatra done by computer modelling and reconstruction with all of the available evidence.

“Fiddy” Down to a Dime and a Half

1274966072_fifty.jpg

After massive Weight Loss to lay movie part, 50 Cent is down to 160 lbs.

50 Cent Down to a Dime and a Half

Whoa! 50 Cent (real name: Curtis Jackson) made a hell of a sacrifice for his upcoming movie. Usually the MC looks like an NFL linebacker. But for his starring role in the Mario Van Peebles-directed Things Fall Apart, a movie he wrote, 50 dropped 54 pounds to play a college football player battling cancer. On a liquid diet and three-hour-a-day treadmill stints, he went from 214 pounds to a sickly 160 pounds, reports US Weekly.

It’s not unusual for actors to lose extreme weight for movie parts. Matt Damon got bony forCourage Under Fire. Will Smith shrunk forSeven Pounds, and Christian Bale got frail forThe Machinist. But those were all for major releases. There’s no word yet on if this movie will hit theaters or not.

Maybe this will be 50′s breakout role. But there’s a good chance it won’t. As an actor, 50 Cent has only starred in a handful of major releases and straight-to-DVD castoffs. His film debut came in 2005 with the semi-autobiographical Get Rich or Die Tryin’, and in 2008 he acted alongside Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in the commercial flop Righteous Kill. All of his showings suggest that he should stick to his day job, though it seems he’s bent on Hollywood stardom.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 141 other followers