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Podcast: 12 Years A Slave To Horrors

Nick and Joe join Nathaniel to discuss the Chicago Film Festival where they're catching movies like August: Osage County during the day and falling asleep watching old Oscar broadcasts chez Nick (1991 and 2006 make vital cameo appearances in this 'cast). That's our kind of weekend!

We all share the love for Steve McQueen's amazingly powerful 12 Years a Slave which Nathaniel has just seen a second time. Then we're on to discussing some horror classics which we've been thinking about due to our recent Team Top Ten lists of the best of that genre. Horror films briefly discussed include: Carrie, Rosemary's Baby, The Night of the Living Dead, Carnival of Souls, Misery and Suspiria

You can listen at the bottom of the post or download it on iTunes. Join in the conversation in the comments.

12 Years a Slave to Horror

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Reader Comments (28)

Totally agree re 12 Years. f possible it is even better the second time around. Chiwetel transcendent in his astonishing performance. Gut wrenching.

Also noticed that a lot of scenes play in complete silence rendering them even more powerful, before the score - as you mentioned - come charging in in others.

October 21, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermurtada

So glad that you guys appreciated Le Week-End too! It totally caught me off guard at NYFF.

October 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSquasher88

This podcast makes me want to do my best Raising Arizona impression: I just love it so much! I've been waiting for you to talk about 12 Years A Slave from the moment my screening ended last week, and as always your discussion is insightful, illuminating, and well worth the wait. Nathaniel, THANK YOU for that comment about people who think it's hard to watch.

It's amazing with 12 Years A Slave just how complete that film feels. I went into the film excited, but very nervous because I think the story is so important and the moment is so important, but it exceeded my expectations in just about every way. Do I have quibbles with the film? Yes, I suppose. I wasn't a huge fan of Cumberbatch or Pitt, and I agree with Nick that the quality of the dialogue can be a bit distracting, although I do want to say that I found it PERFECT in the scene with Alfre Woodard--talk about a character I could have spent a whole movie with! But those feel like laughably small complaints in comparison with what the film achieves. It is titanic, the kind of film that proves and expands the possibilities of film as a medium, truly a privilege to get to watch. Do I feel like I admire it a bit more than I love it? Yes I think that's true too, but I wonder at what a second viewing would do. The first time around I was so busy paying attention to the nuances of the filmmaking and really of the history being presented that I think I took myself out of the affective state of the film a bit.

October 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTB

I have a question about people's audiences with 12 Years A Slave. Mine was very respectful, very attentive, but there was one truly weird moment that made me wonder if other people's screenings had odd moments. In the scene where Chiwetel Ejiofor faces off with Paul Dano, this guy in the front row, blonde hair, I think there with his girlfriend, just started raucously cheering. There was just such a total disconnect between what I think the film is doing in that moment and what that guy's response was, that for about 15 seconds, the mood in the theater totally shifted. You could feel the discomfort.

October 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTB

The only audible laughter I remember was a line reading of Sarah Paulson's. Declaring to Micheal Fassbender that her bed was too holy and sanctified for him.

October 21, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

This is perhaps the first podcast I've listened to where I disagreed with all participants on a movie, and it made for a really interesting experience.

I saw 12 Years a Slave this weekend and was rather shocked to find that I didn't connect with it. It was beautifully shot to be sure and, aside from Brad, I found the performances all satisfactory to great (Fassbender being the best in show for me). But ultimately, I walked away feeling like I knew far more about the emotional journeys of everyone but Solomon. We hear how Patsy and Eliza are feeling and we get that fascinating look at the Epps marriage, but Solomon's narrative was rather one-note for me, I'm almost embarrassed to share.

Regarding audiences, the reactions I remember most vividly involve moments of hate shown on the screen-- one character telling Eliza that she'd soon forget her children and of course the vase(?)-throwing scene. There were audible gasps. I admit that those scenes catch you off-guard, but I kept thinking that they shouldn't really be shocking to anyone who's ever heard about slavery. Maybe it was just the vibe in my audience, but these reactions began to make me think that the film was taking the shock value route, which disappointed me further. I felt as though it were investing more in the physical pain of slavery than the emotional aspect that one would expect from a memoir.

All this is to say (and I'm sorry I wasn't brief about it) that it was fascinating to hear you guys share why you loved it. Some aspects of the conversation-- the bits about the steamboat's wheel and the vase-throwing scene's editing, for instance-- helped me to appreciate the film more; others-- like the "purple language"-- helped give me the vocabulary to express why it felt a bit trumped-up at times for me. So thank you guys, as per your usual, for having such a thoughtful discussion on one of the year's most hyped films.

October 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEvan
October 21, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

So... were do we start collecting signatures to get you guys to produce the Oscars?

October 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarlos

So much fun! Thanks, guys.

October 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

There were no cheers or loud outbursts during my screening (at least none that I recall). There was one hushed but firm rebuke to someone whose cell phone was vibrating too loudly, and a woman sobbed audibly during the last two scenes. Scattered chuckles at not surprising moments relieved some of the tension throughout.

I believe what was thrown was a heavy glass container with brandy or whiskey in it, Evan. And after reading your comments here and elsewhere about Solomon's emotional journey and totally disagreeing, I have questions about you the viewer—your cultural perspective (age, ethnicity, gender, nationality, etc.). I don't want to presume anything, but I am curious.

October 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Seeing 12YAS tonight and saving this for later. I really hope I will not cry a Carrie Mathieson. Also going to a reception for the Underground Railroad Project after the movie so I shelled out some money for a free screening of it. That reception is going to be so quiet.

"Maybe it was just the vibe in my audience, but these reactions began to make me think that the film was taking the shock value route, which disappointed me further. I felt as though it were investing more in the physical pain of slavery than the emotional aspect that one would expect from a memoir."

The memoir is actually pretty much intact in the film from what I have read on the film but read the book. Northup wrote this before the Civil War and when such a narrative was necessary when something like an Uncle Tom's Cabin was out but could easily be disregarded for being written by a 'Yankee' and being a fictionalized account. I think McQueen and Ridley could've added retrospective context to Solomon's story but I can easily see why they chose not to.

October 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Paul, I'm not sure what you're implying, but I'm a gay American male WASP and I connected just fine to Patsy and Eliza's stories.

October 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

P.S. So if Joe and Nick get to produce the Oscars, does Sophie Okonedo get to announce the Best Picture winner?

October 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Ugh- double post. Sorry about that. There's no way to kill a good joke than to tell it twice.

October 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

evan. i removed one.

i am still giggling about Nick's Gene M Aul name-dropping. lordy, he is funny sometimes.

October 21, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Sorry, 3rtful, but I avoid that site at all costs. What does Ridley say about the dialogue? (I assume that's why youre bringing up the link.) Don't mean to be all king's-taster about this but I do draw some lines about where I send my traffic.

October 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

@Nathaniel What's up with "sometimes"? Please to explain.

October 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

Saw 12 Years a Slave. A masterpiece, emotionally powerful, almost unbearably so. Prediction right now: Best Picture, Best Actor.

Carrie--ugh. Only good thing I can say about this is how cool to think of casting Judy Greer as the coach. Everything else--an annoying lack of inspiration.

October 21, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Hear, hear, Nick (re: where you choose to send your traffic). The guy I saw 12 Years with did laugh at the elevated way of speaking in the movie. In his defense, he was surfing Grindr on his phone for most of the movie. To be fair.

Everything Nathaniel said re: the staging of certain scenes went over very well with my audience for the most part. Particularly the scene where Sarah Paulson throws the liquor bottle...that scene got such an audible, visceral reaction from the audience that kind of lingered and continued long after the actual moment. I wager the reaction would not have been as deeply felt had that scene been staged and framed in a more straight-down-the-middle/what you would expect kind of way.

I'm curious if any of you three (Nathaniel,Joe and Nick) consider The Devils to be a horror film?

So I am at work and totally burst out laughing when the den of kangaroos came up. I did my best to turn it into a fake cough. These podcasts are amazing.

October 21, 2013 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

Evan, as an African American man, I found Solomon's emotional journey very compelling, layered and shattering, and wonder(ed) if the same things in the portrayal that resonated with me would seem "impenetrable" or "one-note" to someone with a different background. Sorry if I'm not as articulate as I would like to be—still processing the experience in all its apects.

October 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Paul -- I was absolutely mesmerized and am of course lily white. and enough people think it's a masterpiece that I think it's about artistic temperament rather than background. Just thinking aloud.

I think why some people might find it impenetrable is in how blank slate Chiwetel's character is (arguably). We learn very little about Solomon other than his family situation and that he's educated.I think this lack of info / backstory helps us be inside him -- (i LOVE that he's filmed in shadow with his opressors lit at the beginning of the terrors which puts you, the viewer, if you're willing, into his skin)-- but for other people maybe it's too scary to put themselves there ? or maybe they need to experience a movie with a well defined character rather than through him/her as a vessel? i'm not sure. It's interesting but I've rarely felt that connected to an onscreen characters experience.

so i think artistic temperament. I know i OFTEN feel like i know too much about characters (i hate the obsessive backstory in screenwriting) and need to have a little more room to interpret the character. perhaps that's why i dug it?

October 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

And after seeing 12YAS, let me just say Hans Zimmer's score could just not have existed at all. Like if somebody with more skills than me did a recut of movie Abrahams and Holmes who did the score for Hunger of all their greatest score hits for this movie and it would have been a lot more subtle than this Inception/Thin Red Line mutant child that was a real turn-off in the first half.

Otherwise this is an impressive film. Great all-around acting though the script and performance for the Pitt character felt like there was no other way for the character to function other than as a device. But the cinematography, long-takes, and the way the script managed to keep it as Solomon's story while introducing these different shades of the slave experience remains one of the best parts of the movie.

October 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Oscar question guys:

After realizing Quvenzhane Wallis is in 12 Years A Slave, I had a thought:
If this film is nominated for Best Pic (which of course is a big yes), is Wallis the youngest person to be in 2 Best Picture nominees?

October 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Mike... hmmm good i will be forced to research. shirley temple was only ever in one. And Q would have definitely done it before Natalie Wood or Jodie Foster who didn't manage their second appearance in a BP nom until their 20s.

October 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

Mike-she would not. Jackie Cooper has that record right now, I believe:

Cooper was 3717 days old when The Champ got a Best Picture nomination (Skippy had received one the previous year).

Wallis will be 3859 on the night of the ceremony. I can't find the exact date when the 5th Academy Awards were announced, but even if you go from the ceremony date, Cooper would have still been younger than Wallis.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Nat and John: thanks for answering.

I looked up on Wikipedia and saw that both Skippy and The Champ were released in the same year but nominated at different years. Nevertheless, I think our winner here is Cooper for youngest actor to star in at least 2 BP nominees.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermike

OMG-- Nathaniel! If you are freaked out by kangaroos, you MUST see "Wake in Fright". It's a great film anyway, but the kangaroo hunt scene will FREAK you out.
There is also some really nice blonde 70s male nudity to take the edge off (what an ass Gary Bond had!)

please see it.

November 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTroy

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