Episode 152: 12 Years a Slave

In this episode we’re closing out February with the month’s Donor Pick. Our Patrons voted and chose Steve McQueen’s Best Picture winning historical biopic for us to cover and we have an emotional, but meaningful conversation about this very important film. It’s a doozy, as any of you’ve who have seen it well know, so settle in with your comfort food of choice or a warm blanket and wrestle with history alongside us.

12 Years a Slave Review – 0:00:55

The Connecting Point – 1:02:34

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You Should Be Watching: November 15-21

Welcome to You Should Be Watching, my weekly opportunity to introduce you to a variety of great films, gems of the past and present, available for you to stream from Netflix, Amazon Prime, FilmStruck, and anywhere else streams are found.

Just a couple weeks of FilmStruck availability left, so watch while you still can. Thankfully, Kanopy also offers a couple of this week’s featured picks, so you can watch there as well.


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


8 1/2

  

Year: 1963

Director: Federico Fellini

Genre: Fantasy, Drama

Cast: Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimée, Sandra Milo, Rossella Falk, Barbara Steele, Madeleine Lebeau, Caterina Boratto, Eddra Gale, Guido Alberti, Mario Conocchia, Bruno Agostini, Cesarino Miceli Picardi, Jean Rougeul, Mario Pisu, Yvonne Casadei, Ian Dallas, Mino Doro, Nadia Sanders

When the time came for Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini to follow up his 8th feature film, the highly acclaimed La Dolce Vita, he found himself with an extreme case of writer’s block. Rather than fight it, he embraced it and instead put it on film. The end result is one of the most fascinating, surreal, and frankly educational movies that blends reality with fantasy to immerse the viewer into the mind and creative process of a master artist. The main character of 8 ½ is Guido (Marcello Mastroianni), a famous filmmaker suffering from writer’s block, clearly a stand-in for Fellini himself.

The opening dream sequence makes it clear that this film will be nowhere near conventional. The man who is later revealed as Guido finds himself trapped in a car in the midst of a major traffic jam. Everyone else stares at him as he is being choked to death by gas pouring into his vehicle as he tries frantically to escape out the window. This representation of the emotions Guido is enduring are also mashed up into other aspects of the thought process–dreams, memories, hopes, fears, fantasies, regrets, and attempts to make sense of life. And as in a series of dreams, he jumps back and forth through the experiences and emotions of the past and present, from his Roman Catholic upbringing to the complicated feelings of puberty and struggles with lust as he visually and verbally attempts to process it all.


Secrets & Lies

Year: 1996

Director: Mike Leigh

Genre: Drama

Cast: Timothy Spall, Brenda Blethyn, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Phyllis Logan, Claire Rushbrook, Lee Ross, Lesley Manville, Elizabeth Berrington, Michele Austin, Ron Cook, Trevor Laird, Brian Bovell, Emma Amos, Clare Perkins, Elias Perkins McCook, Jane Mitchell, Janice Acquah, Keylee Jade Flanders

Throughout this painful yet touching 1996 British family drama, director Mike Leigh demonstrates an understanding for what makes people tick. He gets their fears and foibles, their hurts and prejudices, their tendencies to hide uncomfortable truths from their loved ones, the struggles of both parents and children to connect, the way bottled up emotions can wreak havoc on a marriage. Quite simply, he gets people.

It doesn’t matter whether that person is an accomplished mixed race optometrist named Hortense Cumberbatch (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) who was adopted at birth and is now seeking her birth parents or whether that person is Hortense’s birth mother Cynthia Rose Purley (Brenda Blethyn), who is emotionally fragile and struggling to connect with the nearly 21-year-old Roxanne (Claire Rushbrook), the only daughter she’s ever known. Or then there’s Maurice, Cynthia’s brother, played by Timothy Spall, who finds himself trying to bear the weight of both Cynthia’s problems and his own frustrations and weariness with continually trying to care for his wife’s needs while simultaneously bear up under the emotional abuse he’s receiving from her due to her strained physical and emotional state. Everyone is going to great effort to keep uncomfortable truths hidden, with the effect that there is an ever present tension that is begging to be released.

The technical qualities of the filmmaking are brilliant, from the contrasts set up in the frame and between characters to the choreography of a tension-filled birthday dinner. And quite simply, it’s beautiful, thought-provoking storytelling and extremely relevant to anyone who might be tempted to go it alone.


Sansho the Bailiff

  

Year: 1954

Director: Kenji Mizoguchi

Genre: Drama

Cast: Kinuyo Tanaka, Yoshiaki Hanayagi, Kyôko Kagawa, Eitarô Shindô, Akitake Kôno, Masao Shimizu, Ken Mitsuda, Kazukimi Okuni, Yôko Kozono, Noriko Tachibana, Ichirô Sugai, Teruko Omi, Chieko Naniwa, Kikue Môri, Ryôsuke Kagawa, Kanji Koshiba, Shinobu Araki, Reiko Kongo, Shôzô Nanbu

Kenji Mizoguchi directs this dark, tragic tale revealing the harsh realities of life in feudal Japan and how often what is lost can never be regained. This story of a family separated and its children sold into slavery to the titular Sansho brings to mind the far more recent film 12 Years A Slave and the thought of how hopeless it must feel to find yourself a victim of betrayal and suddenly a slave with no advocate, no way to prove you are actually a free person. Through the continued enslavement of the children Zushiō and Anju into adulthood, we see how alone a victim of atrocity could have their humanity crushed until they are inhuman themselves.

Mizoguchi’s production design details the contrasts between the comforts and abundance of humanity surrounding the haves and the austerity of the have nots. He also makes dramatic use of the depth of his frame to show distance, background activity or to fill it with a variety of characters and interactions. The returning motif Mizoguchi uses of the mother’s call and song, a symbol of her ongoing lamentation and desperate hope to see her children again is haunting and heartbreaking.


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

November 15
Paddington (2014)

November 18
Girlhood (2014)

November 20
Gates of Heaven (1978)
The Thin Blue Line (1988)

AMAZON PRIME

November 15
Me Before You (2016)

November 19
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Support Your Local Sheriff (1969)

November 20
1984 (1984)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
The Great Escape (1963)
Hotel Rwanda (2004)
House of Games (1987)
In the Heat of the Night (1967)
Lenny (1974)
The Magnificent Seven (1960)
Mississippi Burning (1988)
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)
Valkyrie (2008)

November 21
De Palma (2015)

FILMSTRUCK

November 16
The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
Let There Be Light (1946)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

November 29
Everything else

HULU

November 30
American Psycho (2000)
Escape from New York (1981)
Get Shorty (1995)
Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Primal Fear (1996)
The Terminator (1984)
They Came Together (2014)
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)


JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

BuyBust (2018)
Green Room (2015)
Outlaw King (2018)

AMAZON PRIME

Bernie (2011)
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972)
Fox and His Friends (1975)
The General (1926)
Henri Georges Clouzot’s Inferno (2009)
Journey’s End (2017)
Orchestra Rehearsal (1978)

FILMSTRUCK

The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970)
Body Heat (1981)
Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
Dheepan (2015)
Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973)
Ride the High Country (1962)
The Wild Bunch (1969)

HULU

Frances Ha (2012)
Sami Blood (2016)
The Wolfpack (2015)


COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

November 15
May The Devil Take You– NETFLIX FILM (2018)
The Crew– NETFLIX FILM (2015)

November 16
Cam– NETFLIX FILM (2018)
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs– NETFLIX FILM (2018)
The Princess Switch– NETFLIX FILM (2018)

November 18
The Pixar Story (2007)

AMAZON PRIME

November 16
Coldplay: A Head Full of Dreams (2018)

November 17
McQueen

November 21
Box of Moonlight (1996)

HULU

November 15
Cartel Land (2015)

November 18
Hero (2002)

November 21
Box of Moonlight (1996)


Jacob Neff is a film enthusiast living east of Sacramento. In addition to his contributions as an admin of the Feelin’ Film Facebook group and website, he is an active participant in the Letterboxd community, where his film reviews can be found. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with his latest thoughts and shared content.