Pop Culture, Race & Politics, Uncategorized

VSB Goes To The Movies: ’12 Years A Slave’

12-years-a-slave-poster-405x600One of the perks of this here “for the people” writing gig thing is that once you create a name for yourself, people come to you to help spread the word about any number of things. We get LOTS of pitches for stuff, good and bad. Well, for myself, the numerous movie screening invites and Q&A’s that go with them is gangbusters. I can’t tell you how many movies I’ve gone to see in this fashion. Truly I don’t even view them as “screenings” at this point, it’s just going to the movies because it seems like everybody and their grandmother is at these things.

Such brings me to this past evening when I had the…pleasure isn’t the right word…but the fortune to attend the movie screening for 12 Years A Slave, the movie based on the true story of Solomon Northrup, a free Black man who found himself enslaved during a visit out of his home state of New York. You can imagine what the movie is about, so there’s very little need to discuss the plot. I mean…after Snakes On A Plane, 12 Years A Slave has to be one of the most appropos and telling movie titles ever. It is also the title of the book written by Solomon Northrup upon which the movie is based.

So let’s talk about feelings instead.

Quality art elicits some sort of feeling, good or bad. When you are provided with art that makes you feel no type of way, well that is a waste. Think, hotel art. 12 Years A Slave will elicit feelings. And a lot of them. Where Django Unchained looked at slavery but provided enough humor, both intentional unintentional, to not make you overly uncomfortable, 12 Years goes straight for the jugular. If you don’t leave the movie feeling something…well you are a robot.

Here’s the interesting part though…it ain’t no Rosewood. My first ever viewing of Rosewood happened when I was in high school and I can still remember how I felt watching that movie. The visceral disdain I had for white America at that moment was so real I had to move myself to the back of the house I was in for at least half an hour just to calm down.

Mind you, I was at the home of my caucasian mother and step-father at the time. Perhaps because I’ve seen so many movies about slavery at this point, and each one attempts to go where the previous one didn’t go visually, I’ve become somewhat desensitized to what I know is going to be seen on screen. It’s a movie about slavery…and this one specifically goes the hardship route. I mean this man was free and became a slave, erroneously…that’s just wrong, kicko. So the laughs are few and far between on purpose. But even being desensitized, it was still hard to watch a lot of the scenes just because…whips and chains, homey.

Going into it, I was expecting Rosewood in terms of my emotions, and I just didn’t get that. But I did have the same stress level watching it because of just how ridiculous the idea was to begin with. It was a stark reminder that as a Black person, your life was only as valuable as the decisions of the white people within reach – a lesson we’re still dealing with to this day. Rep. John Lewis is often quoted as saying that anybody who says that we haven’t seen progress need only walk in his shoes. And he’s right, we have come a long, long way. But its the basic principles that have remained the same. The methods are different, but many outcomes are the same.

Chiwetel Ejiofor did a great job as Solomon and he’s one of really only three individuals with any sort of real character development in the entire movie. There are some scenes and some quotes that will absolutely hurt to see and hear, and to some degree, I almost think that was the point.

Did you see The Passion Of The Christ? I have seen it once. Never had a desire to see it again. I feel similarly about 12 Years. And similar to The Passion, I’m not sure its a good movie. It almost wasn’t intended to be. Django was a love story. Rosewood was a story about survival. Roots was a docu-drama where the words, “The African” got thrown around more than a Saturday on Canal Street in NYC. 12 Years was a story about loneliness and perseverance, though not in the way you would expect. While I’m sure the movie intends to give you a glimpse at the human spirit in the face of adversity, let’s be real, this man’s story is as unique as they come, and even in the movie, you basically saw him get broken to the point of nearly giving up, but a little bit of luck changed his circumstance. But the portrayal of it in the movie almost seemed a bit forced. That doesn’t change the fact that the story of Solomon Northrup did end positively. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s like the ONLY cat to have that story end that way after being wrongfully “returned” to slavery.

Funny enough, while I definitely got pissed all over again at slavery and the institution whiteness of America that perpetuated I wasn’t nearly as pissed as I was at Rosewood. It’s still maintained its gold standard. And do you know how I know I wasn’t as pissed? The movie theater where I saw 12 Years is adjacent to the Verizon Center in downtown DC. Tonight was a Washington Capitals hockey game. I walked out of the theater and right into a street full of hockey fans. And I just moseyed on to my car with nary a death glare or stern facial expression towards anybody.

Should you go see it? Yes. You should. It will be one of those movies that moves you in some direction which again, is the mark of good art. It will make you feel something even if its just stress or exhaustion because there are a few scenes that will emotionally do that to you. Shouts to Patsy.

12 Years A Slave is in theaters tomorrow.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. I COULDN’T DO NO 12 YEARS OR 12 MINUTES aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

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Damon Young

Panama Jackson is pretty fly for a light guy. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. He believes the children are our future and is waiting to find out if he is the 2nd most interesting man in the world.

  • BreezyX2

    As soon as I saw the topic I knew it was you, PJ.

    • Medium Meech

      So I’m the only one that read this in Cheekie’s voice? I’m off this week.

      • BreezyX2

        It’s because you have been away too long Meechie :)

    • panamajackson

      I’m not sure what to do with this comment. lol

      • SuperStrings

        Breezy has every blog you’ve ever written in a scrap book, and she lights a candle next to pictures of you in the PJ sanctuary.

        • BreezyX2

          *screams* Stop looking in my window!!!!!!!!!! *hides photos of PJ under my twin sized bed*

  • WealthLoveBeauty

    Lord in heaven, Patsy’s story broke my spirit. The degrees of her abuse. And desperation. And where Solomon hoped someone would help him return him to a freedom he’d known, he refused to help Patsy achieve the only kind of freedom she could imagine for herself.

    • http://awordorthree.com/ A Word or Three

      You should read the book! There’s hope! ;)

      • WealthLoveBeauty

        Oh good! I definitely plan to read the book having seen this movie. The team did such a phenomenal job in creating an emotional connection for the audience. And it was, as some commenters have already mentioned, a matter of fact emotion about each individual circumstance of the characters. The screenplay felt very objective, in the way a lot of English writing is. Not to elicit anger towards a race or to cause unsettled feelings about the black condition today. Just well done.

    • Geneva Girl

      Uh, spoiler alert!

      • WealthLoveBeauty

        Surely I can’t spoil a story that’s been public record since the 1800′s.

        • panamajackson

          Public record requires people to read it. LOL. You know we read books AFTER we see the movie.

  • TheOtherJerome

    Ahh Rosewood! Boy John Singleton was on one when he made that MF-er. I saw it with a large group of Whites and Blacks. Folks…. when they killed Esther Rolle…… Woaaaah boy! The White folks d*mn near ran out the auditorium!!

    But yeah, “20 Years A Slave”, i have to see it. Likely this weekend. I’ve heard nothing but good things.

    • Sahel

      As a historian i found Rosewood lacking as it was not factual to the historical events.

      • http://TheNewEve.com/ Bunni

        A lot of the movies that cause deep visceral emotion is a lil cloudy on historical accuracy…but who the fvck cares?

        • LMNOP

          Sahel, apparently.

          • http://TheNewEve.com/ Bunni

            Hes a historian secret agent astronaut accountant pr0n star.

            • SuperStrings

              ummmmm, where do you get applications for this job? or do you have to be recruited?

              • Sahel

                You don’t because such job openings don’t exist

                • SuperStrings

                  Ahhhh like Area 51. Aliens? What Aliens??? I get it.

                • http://missrosen.wordpress.com/ esa

                  your dream job does not exist until youu create it ~*~

              • http://TheNewEve.com/ Bunni

                Its prob a dual degree fast track program…..

                • SuperStrings

                  Yeah ok, I got some words for my career placement office. wtf?!?

          • Sahel

            I do care because i have seen first hand what distortion of historical events leads to.

        • http://daratmathis.wordpress.com/ dtafakari

          True. A lot of times, in books and movies, the writers go for resonance instead of factual accuracy. The effect is the same, even though the intimate details aren’t.

      • LMNOP

        You’re a historian?

      • SuperStrings

        Do you also feel this way about Shindler’s List?

        • Sahel

          Yes,am a major history nerd and i like the story to be told as it happened. To divert from what truly happened leaves room for atrocities to be portrayed as less trivial or used to fan propaganda.

          • SuperStrings

            Gotcha. Can you give us some movies that have your stamp of approval for historical accuracy?

            • Sahel

              Sarafina was good

              • Agatha Guilluame

                I loved Sarafina.

                • Sahel

                  Rarely is the black struggle properly represented in cinema. Either they go overboard with the violence or make it seem like blacks were given freedom. Sarafina just captured the Soweto riots in how they were in actuality

                  • Agatha Guilluame

                    Rarely is the black struggle properly represented in cinema. <<<< This is its own topic.

                    Did you see LeLeti Khumalo in Yesterday? I was only aware of the AIDS epidemic in Africa in so far as I knew there was an epidemic and well that’s about it. I stayed willfully ignorant about it and then I saw this movie. Was it accurate, would you say?

              • Rachmo

                Great movie

                • Sahel

                  Your back to work i suppose. Can you read coordinates

                  • Rachmo

                    Yes finally and are we talking map coordinates?

              • SuperStrings

                I liked Sarafina.

          • panamajackson

            You must be disappointed a lot at the movies when it says, “based on a true story”

            • Sahel

              Dude,you have no idea

          • Joanna

            Y’all leave Sahel alone! It’s rough out here in these streets as a historian. It drives me NUTS when stories are told historically inaccurate. But, I’m usually down to let it go if no BIG things were changed. Like, Lincoln the Vampire Slayer? Complete and utter mierda.
            And there are jobs for historians lol! I’m actually looking to work for Mississippi’s upcoming Civil Rights Museum as a researcher post-grad

      • Rachmo

        One of my favorite historical biopic is “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” It really spoke to me.

        • SuperStrings

          The historical accuracy of that movie was astounding. They really did their research.

          • Rachmo

            Yeah, although it’s not the caliber of the other classic documentary “Clueless.” Just great stuff about the triumph of the human spirit under duress.

            • SuperStrings

              uhhhhhhhh I was with until Clueless. I’ve never seen it. lol

              • Rachmo

                I…I don’t understand

            • Michelle

              Watched “Clueless” last night. Still can’t believe that Brittany Murphy is dead.

        • Sahel

          And you wonder why there was never a sequel

          • Medium Meech

            People joke about a sequel for the Titanic, but a prequel could actually be better than the original.

      • Shamira

        Historian? So you really are Indiana Jones??

  • http://www.WordsDontDoItJustice.com/ Ruthless Wonder

    I’m glad to hear that I most likely won’t have “Rosewood flair ups,” because even now I admit to feeling like going on a Nat Turner rampage every time I see it. The first time I saw it. I will admit I had a hyper aggressive probably over-reaction when I saw Rosewood, with my Mother, and some other family, and no white people in the theater(smart move for them). I am also glad Chiwetel Ejiofor is getting to show off again how great of an actor he is. I’m curious how America and the world at large will react to the film. Micheal Fassbender seemed to be having trouble on the Daily Show when he was being interviewed. Just being in the movie had gotten to him.

    • panamajackson

      Yo…Michael Fassbender’s role…dog…I can TOTALLY see it getting to him.

      • Michelle

        Didn’t he date Nicole Beharie? And Zoe Kravitz?

    • Angel Baby

      I think Chiwetel Ejiofor is a great actor too!

  • I Am Your People

    Kind of an aside, but I’ve never liked the term “African-American” and the press for this movie has had me wanting to shank a bish. The director and stars of this movie are Black Europeans, not Americans.

    Am I the only one trying to bring N3gro back?

    • http://awordorthree.com/ A Word or Three

      The cast did a Q and A after the screening I attended today and someone asked “Was it hard playing African Americans as British actors?”

      Steve McQueen replied: The only difference between me and you is my boat went left and yours went right. This is about a collective history from the diaspora, and less about the particulars of American slavery.

      So….there’s that.

      • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

        How awesome was that answer tho

      • panamajackson

        Damn that’s a great answer. lol.

      • Medium Meech

        Clever answer and I am for anything that focuses on the shared experiences of the diaspora as opposed to a collective disassociation with all things black or African. That being said, past the pithiness and positive vibes its complete bullShit.

        The fact that the slavery experiences in each country were similar in that they were uniquely tragic does not make them interchangeable. Haiti has a beautifully unique history that is starkly different than the experience of their black American counterparts. The interplay between the southern identity and economy both based largely on depriving a group of all human dignity standing in direct opposition to the broader national concept of the inalienability of certain human rights bestowed to all individuals contrasting fully wit the equally sacrosanct national doctrine of individuals rights govern themselves within the union is a uniquely American lesson on freedom taught many times over at great expense in our history. Being a man in one state and chattel in another, your humanity affirmed and denied both in the name of freedom seems like a uniquely American experience to me.

        Quite frankly it’s as silly as saying the difference between Australians and U.S. whites is which turn the prison boats took. It probably wasn’t his intention, but saying that trivializes the depth and diversity of the diaspora.

        • blackphilo

          You spared me the trouble–and went beyond.

    • Todd

      How about just Black? That’s how I describe myself, as 1) the term “African-American” was imposed from on high and 2) calling myself that would completely disrespect my West Indian dad. In this case, the simplest, most inclusive term is the best one.

      • Geneva Girl

        I too call myself BLACK. I say it really loudly too especially because I’m really light and most people can’t figure out what I am. I want everyone to know where I stand.

        One of the reasons I don’t like AA because we don’t call white folks European Americans. And, AA is too long.

        • SuperStrings

          *Now has James Brown playing in his head*

        • Sigma_Since 93

          They would be quick (and proud) to point out that they are Irish, German, Italian, or Polish.

      • Tentpole

        I too use Black. I prefer it because it includes all people who have native African heritage no matter where they are in the world.

      • http://daratmathis.wordpress.com/ dtafakari

        I am black of black descent.

      • Sahel

        Am Grey

      • Michelle

        I also use the term ‘black’ as well. Whenever I use the term ‘African-American’, I feel like I am referring to a Nigerian, Ethiopian,etc.

    • SuperStrings

      I identify with the diaspora, so Black works for me.

    • Yonnie

      I love the term African-American, but I don’t like when Americans use it as a synonym for Black. Like I was reading a natural hair blog the other day and they kept referring to “African-American hair.” Girl, what?

      • Oshun

        I too, LOVE the term African-American. It denotes your roots….I don’t care much for black american.

  • http://awordorthree.com/ A Word or Three

    Saw it tonight as well and struggled to put into words how I felt about the movie.

    My friend and I discussed it for a while and he finally nailed it: “It put me in a beautiful uncomfortable place.”

    Agreed. Go see it, and not just because Steve McQueen needs a banging box office return to validate that we like seeing people like us on the silver screen.

    But because we are constantly told to “Never Forget” the horror of 9-11, Pearl Harbor, and the Holocaust, but often we try to push the horror of our collective slave history under the mat. I say it’s important we remember. P.S. I met Alfre Woodard at the screening!! (I’m on the left.)

    • SuperStrings

      Agreed. Cool that you met Alfre Woodard. She’s seriously underrated as an actress.

      • http://awordorthree.com/ A Word or Three

        She was super nice and gave great commentary afterwards.

    • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

      I’m here for the beautiful black women all up and through this photo!

      • http://awordorthree.com/ A Word or Three

        Man… ain’t Black beautiful?

    • Shamira

      Look at that Pretty lady! And Alfre Woodards not too shabby herself, lol

      • http://awordorthree.com/ A Word or Three

        Awww man, you got me outchea blushing!

      • Medium Meech

        Woooow. Not only do you and Agatha have to bewitch all the VSBs, now you’re plotting on the S’s too??

        • Shamira

          Pimp hand strong

    • JayIzUrGod

      Thanks for the recommendation, i will see it now

  • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

    Chiwetel Ejiofor for Black Panther.

    Anyway, I do plan on seeing this, I Didn’t care to see The Butler, never got around to seeing Fruitvale (when is that going on DVD BTW), I wont miss this.

    • Kozy

      i second. he’s the most logical choice.

    • http://awordorthree.com/ A Word or Three

      Go. See. Fruitvale.

  • IcePrincess

    I don’t have the stomach forgraphic slave movies. I just can’t. Aye peej, I kno u so happy that the shutdown is over & you’re back to work! Now lemme hold something lol….

    • LMNOP

      Me either. I mostly watch kids movies, and I’m not even looking for a babysitter to change that. For nearly $20, I want to leave feeling better about the world and humanity, not worse. I also like if I leave feeling good about my life and like I can do anything I set my mind too. I’m okay with crying during the movie though.

  • Kozy

    I’ve been a fan of Chiwetel Ejiofor since ‘Serenity’ and Michael Fassbender has impressed me in everything since ‘Inglorious Basterds’. Definitely going to see this.

  • http://TheNewEve.com/ Bunni

    Movies That Get Me Deep Inside My Feelings:
    -Rosewood
    -American History X
    -Hotel Rwanda
    -Precious
    -The Lion King
    -Set It Off
    -Jason’s Lyric
    -Glory

    • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

      American history x does nothing for me, it’s a good movie but idk bout any character

      • http://TheNewEve.com/ Bunni

        well, I watched for the first time the VERY FIRST DAY I arrived on campus at a college that had EXACTLY 34 blacks. It was bad news bears lol.

        • LMNOP

          exactly 34? lol. That is very exact.

          • http://TheNewEve.com/ Bunni

            My grandma made a note of it, she was afraid I was gonna “get schooling with the whites and lose my culture” lol

            • LMNOP

              oh okay lol. I was thinking what if one (or 15) of them left the first week? Or what if there were some mixed ambiguous race kids?

              • http://TheNewEve.com/ Bunni

                i think in my freshman year, it was 90 non-white students, and that included black, hispanic, asian, and international. Diversity wasnt my Alma Mater’s strong suit lol…theyve gotten considerably better with partnering with the Posse Foundation tho

      • panamajackson

        I like American History X, but it didnt get my in my feelings that much. I thought Edward Norton just acted his derriere off.

        • http://TheNewEve.com/ Bunni

          I think If i didnt watch it on a predominantly white, closedminded, privileged campus, it wouldnt have gotten to me either

    • Agatha Guilluame

      No Bambi?

      • http://TheNewEve.com/ Bunni

        never seent it.
        *runs and hides*

        • Agatha Guilluame

          What! You have to see Bambi.

          • http://TheNewEve.com/ Bunni

            Movies I HAVENT Seen and Have Been Told I Have To:
            -Bambi
            -Pinocchio
            -Snow White
            -Any Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie
            -Any Lethal Weapon Movie
            -The Last Dragon
            -West Side Story
            -Any gangster flick (Scarface, Carlito’s Way, Paid In Full, etc…)

            • SuperStrings

              Bunni you can knock those out in a couple weekends. I’m especially partial to West Side Story since I played Chino in our fifth grade production. lol

              • http://TheNewEve.com/ Bunni

                I am eventually gonna get around to em…..eventually lol

            • BreezyX2

              You need to see Gangs of New York too.

            • http://missrosen.wordpress.com/ esa

              we gonn add some flicks from uptown ~*~

              ~Wild Style
              ~Style Wars
              ~80 Blocks From Tiffany’s

              • Sigma_Since 93

                Ramon!!!!

            • Sahel

              I vouch for westside story. It is a true classic

              • Agatha Guilluame

                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qy6wo2wpT2

                Sahel is right. It’s Romeo and Juliet with a soundtrack. Watch this little clip.

              • Michelle

                I was nine years old, when I saw “West Side Story” for the first time. I enjoyed the movie until I saw the performance piece for the “America” song. The scene provided me with my first “Is this sh*t racist?” experience.
                It reminded me of those d*mn Siamese cats from “The Lady and The Tramp”.

            • dmcmillian72

              Carlito’s Way is the BIZNESS! And the soundtrack is EXCELLENT!

        • Sigma_Since 93

          Off you go! Now you have more time to work on my stuff…..

          • http://TheNewEve.com/ Bunni

            lmaoooo, cuz i JUST came back from the warehouse restocking on the finest butters for your goods lol :-)

        • Michelle

          I haven’t see “Bambi” either. I remember when my Kindergarten teacher decided to “treat the students with a movie” for a snow day and she had chosen this movie. I watched the first twelve minutes and was bored with it. I decided to play with the toys. But the scene with Bambi’s mother getting killed did made me laugh.