So, look: 12 Years a Slave is a powerful and important movie but not a great one. It is basically the antebellum south version of Forrest Gump, a film that watches passive protagonist Solomon Northup stumble through the lowlights of slavery’s horror—Whippings! Rapes! Slave auctions tearing families apart! The “good” owner who still has slaves and therefore isn’t “good” at all! The bad owner who is a sadist!—before a beneficent white dude comes along to save him. It is, as Armond White noted, more akin to torture porn than great filmmaking.* Searing imagery alone does not a great film make.
That a film can be both “powerful” and “not great” is causing some distress amongst its fans, a distress that is manifesting itself in odd ways. For instance, you wind up with David Simon stripping 12 Years a Slave of its status as art, reducing it to a political tool, and writing it is “not intelligently assailable by anyone.” Over at Pajiba, Dustin Rowles wrote the following about Michael Fassbender’s performance as the aforementioned bad owner:Read More