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”

Sleepwalk with Me is a comedy about comedy about life

Do you know Mike Birbiglia? Fans of stand-up comedy should know him from his shows such as What I Should Have Said Was Nothing and Two Drink Mike. NPR listeners might recognize him from This American Life, where he contributes bits culled from his “Secret Public Journal” blog. And cinemaphiles ought to learn his name because Birbiglia is emerging as not only a top-notch writer and performer but he’s not half bad behind the camera, too. His first feature film, co-directed with Seth Barrish, also a first-timer, Sleepwalk with Me, has been a hit with audiences and critics at film festivals ever since Sundance back in January, and it’s now in theaters, cleaning up even amid otherwise dismal box office returns (we’re in for an indie renaissance not unlike what happened in the 1970’s, but that’s for later). Continue reading “Sleepwalk with Me is a comedy about comedy about life”