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Just how good is “12 Years A Slave?” – Movie Review(with NO spoilers)

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Slavery is a rough, evil & dark piece of world history.  Like others before him, Director Steve McQueen (Shame) tries his hand at bringing the monstrosity that was slavery in the United States to the big screen. 12 Years a Slave is not only a look of the domestic slave trade in the United States, but also a view of the great cotton boom that flooded the deep south and deepened the pockets of many a slave trader.

Although 12 Years a Slave will be compared to Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained(2012), they are very different films. Django was escapism at its finest. A film focused on slavery  that managed to lean more on the cartoonish side and still remained entertaining.  12 Years is the realistic account of Solomon Northup, a free and educated black man living in New York, who gets kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South. The story of Northup’s kidnapping is not totally common but is something that was documented to have actually happened to free black men.

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Solomon is played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, a British actor best known for his work in films such as American Gangster, 2012 & Children of Men. This may be the film that propels his career to new heights. Ejiofor was amazing as Solomon, able to convey a wide range of emotion without using long-form speech. It was his large eyes and body language that told the story of what Solomon was feeling, as most of the time his mouth would earn him lashes. The thought of revealing his true identity and then being resold into further obscurity was too much for Solomon to bear. As stated more than once in the movie, a literate slave was a dangerous one. Amongst a cast full of more notable names, Ejiofor was able to stand out on his own.

Michael Fassbender, a frequent collaborator of Steve McQueen’s, gives his finest performance of his career as the cruel slavemaster Edwynn Epps. As horrible of a person Epps appears on screen, appparently this was only the tip of the iceberg as he was reportedly a much worse person in reality. The character of Edwynn Epps is McQueen’s example of a deeply flawed man somehow in charge of other human beings. It doesn’t help that his character is constantly berated by his wife, played by Sarah Paulson of American Horror Story fame. In my opinion, Paulson was the most cruel character in the movie;  she spends each minute of her on-screen time showing no positive human emotion. As a fan of Paulson’s work, it was refreshing to see her play someone totally different from her usual roles.

There are many other actors and actresses who make an appearance, including Brad Pitt, who is also one of the producers of the film.  Lipita Nyong’o may invoke some Academy Award murmuring after her astounding performance as the slave “Patsey,” the object of Epps’ desire and anger.

One of my favorite things about this movie was the imagery. There were several long and steady camera shots that really let emotion sink in with viewers. If there was a painful reaction shot of Solomon, you felt the emotional pain also.

Warning to those with simple stomachs, the movie doesn’t hold back. The reality of slavery was harsh and 12 Years doesn’t hold back on the violence or language. It also takes a look at slavery not only from the slave point-of-view but also the view from the plantation owners.

I believe in confronting problems head on, versus ignoring issues. As harsh and real as slavery was, it’s a part of history and I applaud filmmakers who attempt to tell the story without holding back.  There will be cringe-worthy moments and points where you wonder if you will remain haunted by the brutal images on screen. I urge you not to turn away or skip out on this film. If you do, you’ll miss an almost masterpiece from Steve McQueen and one of the most powerful films released this this decade.

Final Grade: A-

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When Quarterbacks and TV Personalities Act Out: My thoughts on the benching of Mark Sanchez & Rob Parker

Rex Ryan didn’t even wait until the team had left Nashville to inform Mark Sanchez that he had lost his job. Never mind the fact that the Jets skipped over Tim Tebow to start Greg McElroy, Jets fans should be rejoicing. The emotional, turnover machine will be taking his talents to the bench, where he should have been two seasons ago. Crazy thing is, the guy is owed $8 million next season. EIGHT MILLION DOLLARS.

Here were my two main issues with Mark Sanchez:

1. I’ve never saw any signs

Signs of what you might ask? Signs of him having potential to be a great quarterback. As a NY Jet fan, how do you watch Andrew Luck, RGIII, Russell Wilson and to some extent Ryan Tannehill and not be disappointed about your quarterback situation. When the ball is released from Sanchez’s hand, sure it looks pretty. But all of those pretty thoughts wash away once you watch it land ten yards away from the nearest receiver. And I’ll admit, he doesn’t have the greatest supporting cast (Shonn Greene is terrible) this season. I’ve also said from the beginning that the signing of Tim Tebow would have an effect on the psyche of Sanchez so him having his worst season as a pro is no surprise to me. But with Mark Sanchez, did anyone expect anything much better than a career game-manager?

2. He turns the ball over at an alarming rate

The guy has 80 turnovers over the past two seasons. EIGHTY. Including one of the worst I’ve ever seen. If I hear the Jets lost a football game, there are two things I always know: He’s thrown an interception and his total passing yards are under 250. It’s like death and taxes, Mark Sanchez turnovers are certain. Rex Ryan warned him after the Cardinals game two weeks ago that turnovers would not be allowed. Since then, Sanchez has had six turnovers….FIVE in last night’s Titans game.

 

Do I think Mark Sanchez’s career as a pro is over? No. But he has a tough, long long way to go before his career is defined by his skill set and not what the rest of his team was able to do for him.

 

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Last week, the world heard Rob Parker talking out of the wrong hole again.

I’m not the biggest fan of ESPN’s First Take. An avid viewer from the Cold Pizza days, the show lost me once they hired Stephen A. Smith full time. I have no serious issue with Stephen A, I just preferred the former format which involved bringing in other opinions to combat Skip Bayless. My favorite guests: The 2 Live Stews. My least favorite? Rob Parker.

I’ve never cared for any of his opinions. He always seemed as if he was coming from left field on any issue for the sole purpose of shock. Last Wednesday was the worst example of this as he described Washington Redskins star Robert Griffin III as maybe being a “cornball brother” and not “down with the cause.”  He also said Griffin doesn’t seem like the type of brother anyone wants to hang with although his jersey sales say otherwise. This is what he says is being discussed in the barbershops. His reasoning? He has a white wife and he THINKS he might be a republican.

 

I‘ve already explained why I don’t listen to anything in barber shops. There is no rich and poor barbershop, there is just the barbershop downtown, everyone goes to the same shops. So all kinds of opinions will come up. As I’m sure some idiot somewhere had this opinion, I’m sure someone else in whatever shop Rob goes to said the opposite.

Now…..Cornball brother?

Stop. For those who didn’t get it, Rob Parker was trying to see if Robert Griffin was an “Uncle Tom” or “sellout.” A black person who has forgotten where they came from and will do anything to support the white man over the black man, essentially putting down his people. It’s a very offensive term as no one wants to be called something with such a deep history behind it without any evidence. This was my main problem with Parker’s comments – He doesn’t know Robert Griffin. One of the main reasons I’ve been a fan of Robert Griffin is because he’s a black quarterback that actually looked like he had potential to be truly great. If he came out and said he didn’t want to be black, it would hurt me. But when did he say this? Not one time did he say he didn’t want to be black. He only said he wants to be recognized for being a great quarterback and not just a great quarterback. Is there something wrong with that? Is there something really wrong with wanting to be compared with Steve Young(who is the best comparison) rather than Warren Moon? When someone compares RG3 to Michael Vick, I just assume they haven’t watched him play football.

Robert Griffin has a white girl by his side. So what, who really cares about that? You should get your mental priorities right if you’re worried about who some man you don’t know is going to bed with. Fact remains is he wants to marry someone who he loves. Much better than some other ball players who can’t seem to keep “it” to themselves and have multiple children by multiple women. And the notion that Robert Griffin is a Republican is ridiculous because he’s specifically said he’ll never comment on his political allegiance, and even if he was, what does that matter? Just because you have different beliefs doesn’t make you an Uncle Tom.

If anything, we should all want to be more like the guy. He seems to have his head on straight, is exceptional on the field and seems to be a great oral communicator. Thankfully most people realized Rob Parker is ridiculous and not an accurate representation of the black community. Sad when you have to see a black man trying to take another black man down.

 

 

R.I.P. to the victims in the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy.

Hopefully we as a nation can come together and figure out why psychotic sociopaths keep slipping through the cracks.

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