12 Years Avoids Oscar’s Paint By Numbers

Pronounce it with me, people. E-Chew-It-Tell Edge-E-O-Four. Bam, who said you couldn’t learn something from my blog?

Sometimes, when I’m out on a date with a hottie with a naughty body, I just know the chick is putting on a facade. The right words roll off her tongue. Her makeup is almost too perfect. And, if she’s exceptionally eager, she’ll even know a thing or two about Scorsese’s career. The point is: everything is flawless but it never seems genuine. It seems like she’s trying to be something that’ll impress me, instead of just showing her tits and actually impressing me. And that’s basically the same feeling I have when I watch certain quote unquote Oscar films.

Take The King’s Speech, I can’t technically say a bad word about that film. It’s a sturdy film. The cinematography is clever. The acting is exceptional. And there’s a clear emotional through-line from beginning to end. It talks, walks, and acts like an Oscar-winning movie should be. And that’s the problem. It wasn’t created out of love. It was assembled to win prizes.

Do you know what film was different, fresh, and exciting the very same year The King’s Speech won? The Social Network. It was a timely parable about greed in America, and the cost of success. And it was unlike anything else nominated that year. But it didn’t walk the Oscar walk. And you know which film won, despite the fact that it didn’t push the art of film forward? That’s right, The King’s Speech.

You see, some movies don’t want to be remembered, or stand the test of time. They just want an award. The creators think if you make it historical, add high-caliber actors with accents, and be long and boring, you can win an Oscar. And they’re generally right. Which is why I was worried about 12 Years a Slave. It looked less like an amazing film and more like uninspired Oscar bait. But, don’t worry folks, 12 Years of Slave is incredibly inspired.

Cause, yes, there’s a lot that’s textbook Oscar in his film. It’s historical. And the cast is downright amazing. They all even use accents of various Southern fried sorts. But director Steve McQueen- (Who, as an aside, directed the equally radical Shame. Check it out, I swear it isn’t just soft core porn.)- isn’t just painting by numbers. His passion for this story really shines through in bold, interesting choices.

For instance, most films dealing with slavery tend to shy away from the actual violence that was part and parcel with human bondage. But 12 Years puts it front and center, almost daring the viewer to look away. There are some scenes of brutality that last a good two minutes longer than they should. And the effect is a strong one. McQueen doesn’t want the viewer to be able to escape the atrocities done to slaves. He wants us to feel them. And, believe me, for the length he holds his shots in this movie, you’d be an emotionless zombie not to feel something.

So, thank the Cinema Gods, 12 Years a Slave actually has some real juice. It’s a great movie that should be required viewing for people with morals. And, come Oscar time, I’m sure it’ll clean up. And, while Gravity is the younger, leaner film, 12 Years is completely deserving of everything it has coming to it.

Grade: A

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