Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Indiewire logo

Is "12 Years A Slave" Too Brutal for Oscar?

ReelPolitik By Anthony Kaufman | ReelPolitik September 7, 2013 at 8:28AM

Is "12 Years A Slave" Too Brutal for Oscar?
1

Steven McQueen's "12 Years A Slave" is a stunner. Twitter lit up on fire after Friday's world premiere and newspapers around the world are touting its Oscar Best Picture chances. But is the movie too good for Oscar voters and mainstream viewers? Unlike Quentin Tarantino's more surreal take on slavery in "Django Unchained," which, perhaps, made it easier to digest, "12 Years A Slave" presents an unrelenting nightmare of subjugation, torture and suffering. Don't get me wrong: I think it deserves all the hype it's getting. But McQueen, for the most part, avoids the tear-jerking appeal of a "Schindler's List"--which the movie is now being compared to--and goes straight for gut-wrenching horrors in long static takes than can feel like an eternity.

Even though it's been more than 35 years since 1977's "Roots" brought an (accessibly) unflinching portrait of slavery to the masses on television, I'm still not sure mainstream moviegoers or Oscar voters are ready for this kind of thing. But I'd like to be proven wrong.

One of the things that interests me most about the film is what McQueen was able to get away with aesthetically in a film that's being marketed as this year's Oscar front-runner. Hans Zimmer's dissonant score--filled with resonant bellowing horns--is as experimental as it is effective, and editor Joe Walker's crosscutting, cross-fading, and flashbacks create an enveloping curious temporality that seems more at home within the avant-garde than a Hollywood vehicle. If McQueen can get away with all these daring stylistic decisions--not to mention all those intense scenes of sadness and madness--then the Studio System must have more guts than I thought.

This article is related to: Racial Issues, Steve McQueen

Follow us

E-Mail Updates



Recent Comments

By Bob Connors: The thing to remember is the video has some actual data but it's conclusions are far fetched and inaccurate. This is a Progressive propaghand…

Who is "Politizane" and What's Next for the Income Inequality Viral Video

Mar 21th, 2015 8:47am

By Ostlee: This makes very sad reading - i feel for the people of Maldives. Everyone should boycott the island as a holiday destination until Nasheed…

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 13th, 2015 5:35pm

By Ahmed Shahid: Release the first democratically elected president. The only president of Maldives who has reached the people of Maldives, heard them and…

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 12th, 2015 9:37am

By Hanne Neve: Please take care of your country and the climate by freeing your real selektet president.

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 11th, 2015 9:09am

By Iqbal: Please release President Nasheed

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 10th, 2015 10:27pm

By Martha Robertson: I strongly urge the immediate release of Nasheed!

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 10th, 2015 9:37pm

By Ned Rollins: Bad business, going to bite you.

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 10th, 2015 3:47pm

By John Painter: The guy isnt a terrorist.

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 10th, 2015 12:00pm

By Sofia Vera: I support Presdient Nasheed and add my name to this letter of support for his release.

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 10th, 2015 11:14am

By Margarett R Mulkey: A civilized society is required of the current government of the Maldives. The world is watching injustice and crimes, and many realized thes…

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 10th, 2015 10:53am