The Top 10 Films of 2013

12 Years a Slave

12YAS-Poster-ArtSteve McQueen’s third film (following Hunger and Shame) and a bona fide masterpiece, 12 Years is an unflinching, uncompromising look at slavery in the American south. It’s painful and emotionally harrowing, and makes no attempt to make anyone feel good about not only this history but the long-reaching effects of it, which we’re still feeling today. 12 Years is not The Help, congratulating white people for ending racism in 1962. Instead it holds up a mirror to an ugly, unavoidable truth and asks only that we accept it and then figure out how to move on from there. It’s a beautiful film, almost lyrical at times, even for all the ugliness it contains. And with a central message of hope and survival in the face of soul-crushing despair, it’s one that, even though there are no easy answers, doesn’t give up on the possibility of healing. It’s not an easy watch, but it’s a necessary one. Continue reading “The Top 10 Films of 2013”

Finally, let’s talk about 12 Years a Slave

12YAS-Poster-ArtI’ve been wrestling with this review for several weeks. I wanted to get it just right. 12 Years a Slave is, simply, one of the best films I have ever seen, and it deserves the extra attention. Directed by Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame) rapidly becoming one of the most compelling filmmakers working, and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor (no longer “that guy from Love Actually”), Michael Fassbender, Alfre Woodard and Brad Pitt, plus a who’s-who of actors including Benedict Cumberbatch, Sarah Paulson, Garret Dillahunt, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Scoot McNairy and relative newcomers Quvenzhane Wallis and Adepero Oduye, and a break-out performance by Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years is a movie in which the smallest roles are occupied by tremendous actors. The result is a compellingly real recreation of the worst of American history; like Schindler’s List making the horrors of the Holocaust tangible, 12 Years a Slave brings slavery to awful, crushing life. Continue reading “Finally, let’s talk about 12 Years a Slave”