Tag Archives: “12 years a Slave

Oscars 2014: A turning point for diversity in the industry?

Like Hostess Ellen said, either “12 Years a slave” wins or we’re all racists. 

Good thing it won. But I don’t know if we’ve really turned a corner on diversity.  Under-representation and stereotypes still exist in Hollywood.  Asians are few and far between, and Native Americans?  In these times, Johnny Depp can still play Tonto.

But my goodness, the list of winners in the top categories this year is still  impressive:

Asian American of Filipino descent: Robert Lopez, composer, Best Original Song, “Let it Go,” from “Frozen.”

Mexican American: Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity.”

African American: John Ridley, Best Screenplay adaption, “12 Years a Slave.”

Mexican Kenyan: Lupita Nyong’o, Best Supporting Actress, “12 Years a Slave.”

Brit director Steve McQueen’s brutally honest telling of the Solomon Northup story is so disturbing, it’s hard to take.

But it needed to be told finally. Doesn’t put closure on the race issue by a long-shot. Don’t talk about post-racial America after a “Best Picture” Oscar.

But I think the industry is beginning to change as far as recognizing diverse audiences.

You can’t deny the winner’s list tonight.

I pretty much predicted how it would go.

“Gravity” was such a technical marvel, but didn’t quite get out of the planetarium for me.

I loved Amy Adams but knew she wouldn’t win. “American Hustle” was good but ABSCAM isn’t Watergate.  And for New Jersey folks, it’s not even Bridgegate.

So Cate Blanchett wins as she has most of the pre-shows.

Same with Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey in the  male actor categories.

Both of them gave great speeches.

I thought Leto’s mention of Ukraine and Venezuela, and AIDS victims brought things a little closer to reality. And McConaughey’s mention of God, was “all right, all right.”

But given the diversity wins of the night, Oscar folks still like things more  tactful than I would have wanted.

Never mind, Lupita Nyong’o’s acceptance speech struck the right chord. She recognized that her success was based on the pain of the past.(A show of humility there). And then after thanking colleagues, she chose to inspire:

“When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid. Thank you.”

This was not a night or the time to beat anyone over the head apparently. Not with Ellen playing silly, ordering pizzas and doing selfies.  It was a fun, guilt free Oscars.

And the winners were among the most I can ever remember.

Leave it to Lupita Nyong’o  to help validate the night.



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Just in time for Martin Luther King Weekend…”12 years a Slave”, Oscar nomination is your nudge

The PR stars are aligned for “12 years a Slave,” with its Oscar nomination for Best Picture and its nationwide run starting just in time for MLK weekend.

As I mentioned on the AALDEF blog, if you didn’t feel compelled to see the movie when it opened late last year, I don’t blame you. It’s much more graphic perhaps than it needed to be. But maybe in this day and age where it takes a shock to be noticed, we all need to see it.

The black film critic Armond White called it “torture porn.” And I tend to agree. There’s a fine line separating art and titillation when it comes to the sadistic violence we see in the film. The director Steve McQueen has made movies that come right up to the edge.  In fact, White has been very vocal about his stand and spoke out loudly while McQueen accepted a recent award from the NY film critics group. White was accused of heckling and was thrown out of the group for his behavior, not his opinion.

As much as I appreciate White’s contrary view, I still believe  “12…”  is worth seeing. Too many of us take slavery for granted as a part of our historical past. But what has been overcome shouldn’t be forgotten.

I called “12 years a Slave”  electroshock for racists in my short review on the AALDEF blog.  But who out there thinks they’re racist? So let me be more general. If you have a spec of racism in your being, from raging KKK to the sublimated, in-denial kind, seeing “12 years a Slave” will exorcise it out of you.

That’s what seeing the racism and hate on the big screen does.

As for the other nominations, I’m a big “American Hustle” fan. But compared to “12 years a Slave,” it just doesn’t get you emotionally. ABSCAM? Slavery? No comparison. The acting is good in “12…” and you definitely feel for the characters. But somewhat it seems one-dimensional compared to the complexity of cons conning cons in “American Hustle.” Amy Adams and Christian Bale are tremendous together. When the story fails to engage, you don’t mind. You just keep wanting to watch Adams and Bale. And not for Bale’s comb over. The overlooked performance in that movie, however, was by Jeremy Renner. It’s a shame his pompadour got edged out by Bradley Cooper’s perm rods.


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