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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