Ugly Realities vs. Ridiculous Fantasies

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An ugly reality will lose out…

Not that it matters, but 12 Years A Slave was awarded Best Movie of the Year at Sunday’s Golden Globes awards.   That’s nice if  you care about that sort of thing.   It was even nicer Armond White didn’t show up to drop any F-bombs and pull off his pee-pee and take a whiz in public.   Probably too busy licking his wounds over being expelled from the NY Film Critics Circle and that matters even less.

In the 18th century, William Wilberforce said of slavery, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”

In 19 words Wilberforce hits on what makes 12 Years A Slave must viewing for any conscious human being who wants a realistic, unflinchingly honest and terrifying brutal two-hour trip through the American Holocaust.    You may have to watch it peeking through the fingers of your hand in front of you face, but you can never say again that you did not know.

The story of Solomon Northrup is based on fact. Django is nothing more than an Italian spaghetti western relocated to America so Quentin Tarantino can film his fetishes and fantasies about slave-fights, Black bounty hunters roaming the South killing Whites with impunity and his desire to say “nigger” as many times as he damn well pleases.

12 Years A Slave is a movie. Django Unchained is a cartoon.

...vs fantasy.

…to a ridiculous fantasy.

12 Years A Slave was the best movie of 2013. Period. End of sentence. I do not need the official stamp of awards and I don’t need the consensus of the crowd who line up like lemmings for a Tarantino masturbatory fantasy but go mental when a Black director and a Black screenwriter tell the true story of a Black man taken and held against his will by a vicious slave owner.

If others prefer cartoons like Django Unchained, fine. I ain’t mad atcha and where you spend your movie-going money doesn’t phase me in the slightest.  It’s fine by me if anyone really believes a Black bounty-hunter could wander around the antebellum South shooting and killing as many White men he wants with impunity and without punishment.   It didn’t happen and it’s a joke, but Tarantino is quite the joker.   He made his best film with Pulp Fiction  20 years ago and has floundered since trying to follow-up with a second act he doesn’t seem to have.   Say what you will about Jackie Brown, Kill Bill 1 and 2, Inglorious Basterds, and Django Unchained (we’ll forget Death Proof because even Q.T. wants to), but you can’t say Tarantino is challenging himself as a filmmaker or the public as an audience anymore.

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Steve McQueen, Lupita Nyong’o and Chiwetel Ejiofor may have Oscar gold in their future.

But don’t get all up in my grill telling me I don’t know my history and that I’ve been brainwashed by Whites and I’m some sort of self-hating dupe because I prefer movies that challenge me and force me to think and not simply sit there like a spastic drooling in my popcorn at the stylized and vulgar bullshit of a race pimp like Tarantino. Comparing Django to 12 Years is like comparing a Bugs Bunny cartoon to The Godfather.  It’s not a serious comparison and we can’t’ have a serious conversation about it.   Seriously.

Given a choice between a harsh reality and an amusing fantasy on slavery, I’m not at all surprised most opt for the fantasy. Just a bit disgusted.  There may be an intelligent, reasonable and rational argument to be made that Django Unchained is a superior and more honest depiction of slavery than 12 Years A Slave.   I just haven’t found an intelligent, reasonable and rational person make it yet.

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“12 Years A Slave” and “Fruitvale Station:” Unforgivable Blackness, Unbearable Bleakness.

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Fassbender, Nyong’o, Ejiofor. Practice saying the names now. You might be hearing them Oscar night.

As a freelancer, I used to review movies for a newspaper and I belonged to a local film critics group.  Every year we would make our list of the best movies and argue among ourselves whose list was the most and least credible and I admit that sometimes I may have been influenced by the will of the majority.  After all, I didn’t want to be the one who looked like I didn’t know what was going on.

I’m not part of any critic groups anymore and I only have to see the films that interest me so while I may have missed out by not seeing Blue Is the Warmest Color, Her, Nebraska, Frozen, or whatever bit of Oscar bait Meryl Streep is in this year, I’m okay with it.

The Best Movie of 2013 is 12 Years A Slave.  But so is Fruitvale Station.  Who says there can only be one?

Fruitvale Station holds a staggering 94 percent “fresh” rating at Rotten Tomatoes, but 12 Years bests it with a 96 percent positive reviews.    They’re both great films, they both are indelibly sketched in my mind in a way most movies this years aren’t.  I slammed plenty of popcorn over Iron Man 3, Star Trek: Enter Darkness, Man of Steel and The Wolverine.  I enjoyed most of them.  I recall none of them.

12 Years is not only unforgettable, it was unspeakable.  That’s an experience I’ve never had in the dark before.

I saw the movie in November, but I didn’t write it up.  Normally I write a blog post a day or so afterward.   Not this time.  Not for this movie.   Fruitvale Station troubled me immensely and brought me to tears but I didn’t squirt a drop to 12 Years A Slave.   All I felt was a dazed numbness that was replaced by cold blooded anger.   As the credits rolled I sprang from my seat leaving my wife and son behind and strode briskly and purposefully to the lobby.  I had to get out.  I needed air and about a minute all my own to collect my troubled thoughts.

Everyone figured we had seen the evils of slavery.  We got to a point where we could snicker at the funny side of slavery via Django Unchained.    Nobody was ready for what director Steve McQueen and screenwriter John Ridley had in store with 12 Years A Slave.  It is the anti  Django Unchained.

With a gross of less than $40 million, 12 Years A Slave hasn’t dominated at the box office the way Quentin Tarantino’s cartoon did, but it has cleaned up with critics winning 75 percent of the Best Picture awards handed out by various groups including the New York Film Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

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In a less crowded year Michael B. Jordan’s performance would be a lock for Best Actor nominations.

This should bode well for Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, and director Steve McQueen’s likelihood of receiving well-deserved Oscar nominations.   Why Michael Fassbender is being overlooked for his unnerving performance as Edwin Epps,  the sadistic “nigger-breaker” who rapes, beats, tortures and humiliates his slaves to satisfy his depraved soul is a small mystery, but I can speculate as to the reasons why.   Fassbender doesn’t just project evil and malevolence; he inhabits it.   There’s a lot of Black folks that would love to punch out Fassbender for being so convincing.

Fruitvale Station has been lost by the acclaim showered upon 12 Years.   It’s as if only one Black-themed film can be great in year.  Two or more throws off the curve.   McQueen has created an epic compressing 12 years into two hours (with Ejiofor’s Solomon Northrup looking fairly unscathed outwardly by his harrowing experience) while Fruitvale Station takes the last day of Oscar Grant’s life and attempts to fill in the blanks of who he was before he ended up handcuffed, face-down on a subway platform and dying in a pool of his own blood on New Year’s Eve.

Northrup’s story depicts the darkest part of American history: human beings bought and sold like chattel and treated no more humanely than cattle or swine.   Grant’s story has no grand scale, no larger implications than yet another urban youth left dead after a fatal encounter with law enforcement.   Perhaps the reason Fruitvale Station is being overlooked during awards season is critics gravitate to the unusual and the unique and Grant as portrayed by Michael B. Jordan, who is also being shut out for Best Actor considerations,  is depressingly familiar to anyone who follows the news.

Both movies will be released on home video next month which is where most audiences will gain an appreciation of how great they are.   However,  my wife has already said she has no wish to ever watch 12 Years A Slave or Fruitvale Station again.  There is a list of films that are simultaneously as great as they are unwatchable and both go into the collection along with  City of God, Requiem For A Dream, United 93, Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List.     These are the movies I have to be in the mood to watch again and I’m rarely in the mood.

12 Years and Fruitvale are  as dazzling as they are depressing and I’m glad I saw them, but if I don’t see them again for a year or so, I’m cool with that.

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Django isn’t coming to set them free. Neither is Abe Lincoln.