Clenching the Nomination - 12 Years A Slave - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Clenching the Nomination – 12 Years A Slave

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This week Andrew, Kyle, and Ryan will be discussing the one scene from each of the films that they feel clenched their nomination for the Best Picture Oscar.  *Some spoilers to follow*To riseRyan COMMENTARY w/o RatingSolomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) has a moment where he can’t it anymore and lashes back at white worker John Tibeats (Paul Dano) and almost instantly knows it is a mistake. While Tibeats was abusing him and degrading him on a daily basis, that was ok because Tibeats was white and a worker and Norhtup was black and a slave. When Northup has the audacity to make Tibeats bleed, everyone knew that was going to be a horrible reckoning. What happens next is one of the most powerful and uncomfortable scenes from 2013.

Northup is drug to a tree, a noose strung around his neck and then lifted off the ground JUST enough that his feet could barely touch that makes him have the feeling of being hung but not actually killing him. The plantation workers tie off the rope to keep him in this place and leave. The director, Steve McQueen, does not cut away from this scene, the camera does not linger, done not blink and doesn’t give the audience a chance to breathe again. The only sound that you hear is the gasps and struggling breaths of Northup and life going on at the plantation. In the background you see other slaves still working, as powerless to stop the lynching as the audience is witnesses to the brutality like us.

I don’t think 12 Years a Slave is the best film of the year but it might be the most important. It is a film that doesn’t sugarcoat an inexcusable time in our not so distant past and never lets the viewer off the hook. McQueen uses long shots with few edits and movements to make sure you soak in the brutality and when the film is done you don’t feel like you watched a movie, you feel like you survived an experience.

If I had a vote in the Oscars, I would probably award Cauron best director and Wolf of Wall Street best picture but if 12 Years a Slave or McQueen won either major award, they would justified wins in my book thanks to the scene discussed above and for many others like it. Most directors would have cut the scenes up, moved the cameras to get reaction shots from the other characters or added uplifting music to mute the brutality. By stretching these scenes out to agonizing lengths, McQueen made the film that much more powerful and unflinching an experience. We have been making movies for over 100 years but it took an Englishman to showcase our black eye in plain view. For that reason alone, the lynching scene from 12 Years a Slave is the first moment that cemented that movies nomination for best director.

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Posted by Andrew

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