Original Proposal - 12 Years A Slave


Ellen Birrell and her husband, Jim Hutchins, were stalwarts of Reading Liberally during its first 2-3 years of existence, whereupon they "pulled up stakes" the end of 2008 to sail the world on their yacht, Boldly Go.

They are in town for other matters but will attend our Feb 12th meeting.

Since Ellen and Jim still have so many friends in the area (for example, Ellen was on the Board of the Salt Lake County Democrats), it is respectfully requested that anyone planning to come on Feb 12th RSVP so we know how many “fatted calves” to kill for our post-meeting celebration of Ellen and Jim joining us (traditional fruit pizza and the first round of drinks at Cannella’s on John Karls), and whether to request the library to provide a meeting room for more than 20.

Simply e-mail ReadingLiberally-SaltLake@johnkarls.com with "I will attend Feb 12th (with guest(s) John Doe (and Jane Roe))."


The movie version of 12 Years A Slave won the 2014 Golden Globe for Best Picture and on Jan 16, it received 9 Academy Award Nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Leading Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

The movie is based on the autobiography of/by Solomon Northrup which is available from your local library or from Amazon.com for $6.99 + shipping - 152 pages.

"12 Years A Slave" is the 1853 autobiography of a free black man who had been both a husband and father until he was kidnapped in Washington DC in 1841 and sold into slavery.

The autobiography became famous immediately and was a center-piece of the Abolitionist Movement leading to the Civil War.

It is important in painting a realistic picture of slavery.

NOT the "Gone With The Wind" happy servants of friendly masters!!!

BUT RATHER the treatment of slaves as work animals who could be (and frequently were) raped or tortured or killed at will and whose families were routinely ripped apart as children and spouses were sold to other slave masters on distant plantations!!!

Further information, including a PBS Newshour interview of John Ridley, the script-writer for the movie, are contained in the Original Proposal which is posted in this section.
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Original Proposal - 12 Years A Slave

Post by johnkarls »

Originally posted by johnkarls Thu Nov 21, 2013 5:14 am -- 188 views before being transplanted here.

I propose that we focus on both the book and the recently-released movie. The book (released in paperback 11/21/2013) is available from Amazon.com for $6.29 + shipping, and is 152 pages.

There follow (1) excerpts from the Wikipedia article on the movie and (2) the 11/19/2013 PBS Newshour interview of John Ridley who wrote the screenplay for the movie.

For those of you who think you recognize the name of the film’s director, Steve McQueen, as the same as the famous American actor of the 1970’s and 1980’s, Terence Steven McQueen, the American actor appears to be no relation to film’s director, Steven Rodney McQueen, a British director and film writer born 10/9/1969 in London of African heritage via Grenada.

Does anyone want to bet the movie doesn’t take the Best Picture Oscar???

Excerpts from Wikipedia article

12 Years a Slave is a 2013 British-American epic historical drama film, an adaptation of the 1853 autobiography Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C. in 1841 and sold into slavery. He worked on plantations in the state of Louisiana for 12 years before his release. The first scholarly edition of Northup's memoir, co-edited by Sue Eakin and Joseph Logsdon in 1968, carefully retraced and validated his account, finding it to be remarkably accurate.

The film is directed by Steve McQueen, his third feature, and written by John Ridley. Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Solomon Northup; Ejiofor has received universal praise for his work. Principal photography took place in New Orleans, Louisiana June 27 - August 13, 2012, on a production budget of $20 million, and the locations used were four historic antebellum plantations: Felicity, Magnolia Plantation, Bocage, and Destrehan, one of these close to the actual plantation in which Northup was held.

12 Years a Slave premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on August 30, 2013 and has been near-universally lauded by critics. The film began its release in the US on October 18, 2013 and is scheduled to be released in the UK on January 24, 2014.

Critical response

12 Years a Slave had its world premiere at the 40th Telluride Film Festival on August 30, and, more significantly, at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, where it received universal acclaim by critics and audiences, who greatly praised the film for its acting (particularly for Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, and Lupita Nyong'o), Steve McQueen's direction, screenplay, production values, and its extreme faithfulness to Solomon Northup's eponymous autobiography. Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 97% of critics gave the film a "fresh" rating, based on 172 reviews with an average score of 9/10, with the site's consensus stating, "It's far from comfortable viewing, but 12 Years a Slave's unflinchingly brutal look at American slavery is also brilliant -- and quite possibly essential -- cinema."[52] Metacritic, another review aggregator, assigned the film a weighted average score of 97 (out of 100) based on 46 reviews from mainstream critics, considered to be "universal acclaim". This is one of the sites highest rated films. Notably, 34 of Metacritic's reviewers gave the film a score of 100, which (as of this writing) is more than any other film has on the site.[53] CinemaScore reported that audiences gave the film an "A" grade.[54]

Richard Corliss of TIME heralds the film and its director, Steve McQueen, by stating: "Indeed, McQueen’s film is closer in its storytelling particulars to such 1970s exploitation-exposés of slavery as Mandingo and Goodbye, Uncle Tom. Except that McQueen is not a schlockmeister sensationalist but a remorseless artist." Corliss draws parallels with Nazi Germany, saying, "McQueen shows that racism, aside from its barbarous inhumanity, is insanely inefficient. It can be argued that Nazi Germany lost the war both because it diverted so much manpower to the killing of Jews and because it did not exploit the brilliance of Jewish scientists in building smarter weapons. So the slave owners dilute the energy of their slaves by whipping them for sadistic sport and, as Epps does, waking them at night to dance for his wife’s cruel pleasure."[55] Gregory Ellwood of HitFix gave the film an "A-" rating, stating, "12 Years is a powerful drama driven by McQueen's bold direction and the finest performance of Chiwetel Ejiofor's career." He continued by praising the performances of Fassbender and Nyong'o, citing Nyong'o as "the film's breakthrough performance [that] may find Nyong'o making her way to the Dolby Theater next March." He also admired the film's "gorgeous" cinematography and the musical score, as "one of Hans Zimmer's more moving scores in some time."[56] Paul MacInnes of The Guardian scored the film five out of five stars, writing, "Stark, visceral and unrelenting, 12 Years a Slave is not just a great film but a necessary one."[57] The reviewers of Spill.com gave it high acclaim as well, with two reviewers giving it a "Better Than Sex," their highest rating. However, the reviewers agreed that it wasn't a film they'd watch again anytime soon. When comparing it to the miniseries version of Roots, reviewer Cyrus stated that "Roots is the Care Bears Movie in comparison to this."[58]

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly praised it as "a new movie landmark of cruelty and transcendence" and as "a movie about a life that gets taken away, and that’s why it lets us touch what life is." He also commented very positively about Ejiofor's performance, while further stating, "12 Years a Slave lets us stare at the primal sin of America with open eyes, and at moments it is hard to watch, yet it’s a movie of such humanity and grace that at every moment, you feel you’re seeing something essential. It is Chiwetel Ejiofor’s extraordinary performance that holds the movie together, and that allows us to watch it without blinking. He plays Solomon with a powerful inner strength, yet he never soft-pedals the silent nightmare that is Solomon’s daily existence."[59] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone, gave the film a four-star rating and said: "you won't be able to tuck this powder keg in the corner of your mind and forget it. What we have here is a blistering, brilliant, straight-up classic."[60] Manohla Dargis wrote, in her review for The New York Times, "the genius of 12 Years a Slave is its insistence on banal evil, and on terror, that seeped into souls, bound bodies and reaped an enduring, terrible price."[61] The Daily Telegraph's Tim Robey granted the film a maximum score of five stars, stating that "it's the nobility of this remarkable film that pierces the soul," whilst praising Ejiofor and Nyong'o performances.[62] Tina Hassannia of Slant Magazine said that "using his signature visual composition and deafening sound design, Steve McQueen portrays the harrowing realism of Northup's experience and the complicated relationships between master and slave, master and master, slave and slave, and so on."[63]

The film was not without its criticisms. Stephanie Zacharek of The Village Voice was more critical of the film: While praising Ejiofor's work, stated, "It's a picture that stays more than a few safe steps away from anything so dangerous as raw feeling. Even when it depicts inhuman cruelty, as it often does, it never compromises its aesthetic purity."[64] Peter Malamud Smith of Slate criticized the story, saying, "12 Years a Slave is constructed as a story of a man trying to return to his family, offering every viewer a way into empathizing with its protagonist. Maybe we need a story framed on that individual scale in order to understand it. But it has a distorting effect all the same. We're more invested in one hero than in millions of victims; if we’re forced to imagine ourselves enslaved, we want to imagine ourselves as Northup, a special person who miraculously escaped the system that attempted to crush him." Describing this as "the hero problem", Malamud Smith concluded his review explaining, "We can handle 12 Years a Slave. But don’t expect 60 Years a Slave any time soon. And 200 Years, Millions of Slaves? Forget about it."[65]

The film's producers, director McQueen, lead actor Ejiofor, supporting actors Fassbender and Nyong'o, and writer Ridley were widely tipped for award season success. When commenting on the film's Oscar buzz, Ejiofor said, "I love the film. I think it's a really strong piece of work. But I also want people to come to it without all the buzz and the hype and this and that. It's a story of a man going through an extraordinary circumstance. And I do feel it needs to be engaged with in its own quiet, reflective way."[66]

“12 Years A Slave” Restores Historic Firsthand Account to Cultural Consciousness
PBS News Hour Transcript – 11/19/2013

GWEN IFILL: A recently released movie about the peculiar institution known as slavery in America is drawing attention and praise for an emotional and brutal portrayal largely unseen in Hollywood. "12 Years a Slave," directed by Steve McQueen, is based on an 1853 autobiography of free man turned slave Solomon Northup. Jeffrey Brown has our conversation with one of the filmmakers.

JEFFREY BROWN: When we first meet Northup, he's a well-educated carpenter and musician living with his wife and children in Saratoga Springs, New York. The film follows as he's kidnapped and sold into slavery, experiencing all its brutality and forced to hide his identity and education, for fear of punishment or death. In this scene, he encounters the wife of a cruel Louisiana plantation owner.

ACTRESS: This is a list of goods and sundries. You will take it to be filled and return immediately. Take the tag. Tell Bartholomew to add it to our debt.

CHIWETEL EJIOFOR, actor: Yes, missus.

ACTRESS: Where you from?


ACTRESS: Tell me again.


ACTRESS: Who were your master?

CHIWETEL EJIOFOR: Master name of Freeman.

ACTRESS: Was he a learned man?


ACTRESS: He learn to you read?

CHIWETEL EJIOFOR: A word here or there, but I have no understanding of the written text.

ACTRESS: Well, don't trouble yourself with it. Same as the rest, master brought you here to work. That's all. Any more will earn you a hundred lashes.

JEFFREY BROWN: John Ridley wrote the screenplay for "12 Years a Slave." He's also written for television, authored several novels, and directed two films of his own. Well, welcome to you. Tell us first about this person, Solomon Northup, and the book it is based on, and your own experience of encountering it for the first time.

JOHN RIDLEY, "12 Years a Slave": Solomon is a truly remarkable individual. And one of the interesting things is, after he was freed from slavery for 12 years, his story, his memoir called "12 Years a Slave" was really quite well-known here in America. It sold nearly 30,000 copies. He toured. He talked about it. Many abolitionists credit his story with helping drive their movement. And then it really -- it disappeared from the cultural consciousness. Steve McQueen and I, the director of the film, we sat down about four or five years ago and had breakfast, talked about many things. And in the course of this discussion, he stumbled upon the book. He gave it to me. I read it and thought it was a really singular document in how evocative it was, how the clarity of how Solomon talked about his experience. And we both decided that this story in particular was worth telling and in a way that really introduced in some ways America to slavery, in the sense that it had not been excavated the way that Steve in particular wanted to do with this film and the story.

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, tell us a little bit more about that, because what were you -- what were you after in telling the story, what kind of portrait that you felt needed to be told?

JOHN RIDLEY: I think two things. For me, as a writer, there was an emotional honesty and emotional velocity with Solomon and his story. You have to understand, at that time, for a lot of people of color, particularly slaves, as you saw in that clip, to read and write was a death sentence. So, comparatively, there were very few first-person narratives of what it was like to live through and to survive slavery. I think, for Steve as a filmmaker, he wanted to render these images, the beautiful ones, the difficult ones, with a level of authenticity that for a lot of people has not been seen in film or in television. For most people, their visual experiences with slavery were "Gone With the Wind,' things like that, or "Django," which may be an entertaining film, but went at slavery with a very -- a different mind-set. For us, again, we wanted an emotional honesty. And that's what we tried to achieve in every step of the way in every department, with the look, with the performances, and certainly for me from the script.

JEFFREY BROWN: You mentioned something like "Gone With the Wind." A lot of people have noted the -- there is a long history here and a tradition of looking at the Civil War and at slavery in particular. Were you consciously working for it again in some case or against that portrayal in others?

JOHN RIDLEY: For me, it was trying to be honest to the source material. But since the film has started to roll out -- and we're just reaching a national density at this point -- one of the things that has really surprised me -- and this is not for any kind of person in particular or any race of people -- but I was shocked at how many people really didn't understand how brutal the system of slavery was, how pervasive it was in its indoctrination of all individuals. And I think that's because, here in Hollywood, we have done a really poor job of representing the facts of slavery. So, yes, you go to big costume dramas like "Gone With the Wind' that over the decades has really reached a point that that is folks' reference force slavery. Slavery was not a bad day on the job. It was not your boss yelling at you. It was not hard work for little pay. This was a full system of human subjugation. And to do that, you have to get everyone to be complicit. And, look, we're not prisoners to the past, but when you see where we are in 2013 and why some of our views about race are so calcified, you have to understand that the indoctrination of slavery in this country for such a long time, it's the reason we are, unfortunately, still where we are about race relations.

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, and having seen the film, I know that you do not spare the audience. You do not spare us much of the -- it's the daily violence, the whippings, the rape that were almost routine. I wonder, were there discussions among you and Steve McQueen and others about how far to go? I mean, you're trying to be realistic, but you also -- it's a film that people are going to see.

JOHN RIDLEY: Yes, I think in some ways you have to compare where the language of cinema is. We have just come out of a summer season -- and I don't say this in an overly disparaging way -- but where entire cities were torn down and people just shrugged because of the level of violence and the scale of destruction and within that language of cinema. With this film, I think it's because you care about the people and because we take so much time to show these lives and show these individuals as humans that, on the occasion -- and, really, when you break down the film, there are three or four moments that are very difficult -- it means that much more because we see these individuals as people. And we never wanted to flinch from these moments either, the beauty, the humanity, the family nature that is going on here, or things that are difficult, by the way, that aren't very barbaric in terms of the physicality. But when you see a mother being torn away from her children and somebody's response is, have a meal and you will forget about them, that hurts because we care. And that was our objective at every moment, to humanize these very dehumanizing moments in the history of slavery.

JEFFREY BROWN: Just in our last 30 seconds here, but I am wondering, given the response to it, the very positive response, do you think this signals a new openness to looking at difficult parts of our history?

JOHN RIDLEY: I think it's an openness to looking at our history and looking at history at not just being African-American history or white American history. This is our history. And to move forward in it, we have got to learn and we have got to grow. And I'm very gratified that people are willing to sit and learn.

JEFFREY BROWN: John Ridley is screenwriter of "12 Years a Slave." Thanks so much.

JOHN RIDLEY: Thank you for having me.

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12 Years A Slave - The Golden-Globe-Nomination Favorite

Post by solutions »

Originally posted by solutions Thu Dec 12, 2013 9:30 pm
CNN – 12/12/2013

5 things we learned from the Golden Globe nominations
By Todd Leopold, CNN

Lots of love for "12 Years a Slave." A big push for "American Hustle." Nothing for "Lee Daniels' The Butler."

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the little group (about 100 members) with the outsized influence, presented the nominations for the 71st Annual Golden Globes on Thursday morning, and some trends quickly became obvious.

Given that the Globes are often used as tea leaf samples with which to forecast the Big Daddy of awards shows -- the Oscars -- what do they indicate?

1) "12 Years a Slave" and "American Hustle" are the front-runners.

"Slave," the Steve McQueen film about a free man taken into slavery in 19th-century America, dominated the proceedings among dramatic films. (The Globes spread the wealth by having categories for both film dramas and film comedies, and do the same for television shows.) It received seven nominations, including nods for best drama, best director, best actor in a drama (Chiwetel Ejiofor), best supporting actor (Michael Fassbender) and best supporting actress (Lupita Nyong'o).

"Hustle" matched that number, earning nominations for best comedy or musical, best director (David O. Russell), best actor in a comedy/musical (Christian Bale), best actress in a comedy/musical (Amy Adams), best supporting actor (Bradley Cooper) and best supporting actress (Jennifer Lawrence). Expect a lot of the same when the Oscar nominations are announced January 16.

2) You call these comedies?

Of the five films nominated for best comedy or musical, none is an out-and-out laugh riot. In fact, a couple are as dark as they come -- and probably richer than the nominated dramas. "Inside Llewyn Davis," the Coen brothers film about a struggling folksinger in early-'60s New York, features an unpleasant lead character who mooches off some friends and alienates others. "Nebraska," directed by Alexander Payne ("Sideways"), stars Bruce Dern as a curmudgeonly old man convinced he's won a big cash prize; like all of Payne's films, it has plenty of bitter with the sweet. "The Wolf of Wall Street" is a three-hour Martin Scorsese film about a crooked financial trader on a headlong rush to trouble. There's no "Bridesmaids"-like film in the bunch -- nor, for that matter, a "Secret Life of Walter Mitty."

3) "The Butler" got shown the door.

In the Screen Actors Guild nominations, announced Wednesday, "Lee Daniels' The Butler" did surprisingly well, earning nominations for ensemble (the equivalent of best film) and performers Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey. None of them was nominated for a Globe -- and this despite the fact that the Globes often appear to hand out nominations based as much on star power as quality. Sorry, Oprah: You'll have to be invited like any other guest.

Also getting short shrift from the Hollywood Foreign Press: Scorsese, who missed out on a directing nod; "August: Osage County," which picked up two acting nominations but nothing for film, director or screenplay; and Woody Allen, though two of his "Blue Jasmine" stars got nominated. Not that Woody would have shown -- the awards-show curmudgeon, who never goes to the Oscars either, will receive the Cecil B. DeMille Award from the HFPA, but Diane Keaton is scheduled to accept on his behalf.

4) No SAG Award nomination? No problem!

OK, so "The Butler" got stiffed by the Globes. Not so for "Rush," which earned a nomination not only for Daniel Bruhl -- who did get a SAG nod -- but also for the film itself. And how about Kate Winslet? There's been little chatter about Jason Retman's "Labor Day," but she earned a best actress (drama) nomination.

Robert Redford also got tabbed. The venerable 77-year-old actor, who's a one-man show in "All Is Lost," picked up a best actor nomination. His snub by the SAGs may have been Wednesday's biggest surprise.

5) Watch out for "Gravity."

Alfonso Cuaron's film has a spare screenplay and a small cast. Indeed, its lack of a true ensemble could have possibly hurt it with the SAGs. But Sandra Bullock got an acting nod (as she did from the SAGs), and the film also earned Globe nominations for drama, director Cuaron and its score. Oscarologists still consider it a front-runner for best picture, and the Globes did nothing to dispel that belief.

Incidentally, for all the attention paid to the Globes, their real attraction is as a raucous, celebrity-studded party. The liquor flows freely and there's generally a loose, devil-may-care vibe from the winners. (No surprise -- this is the award that once gave Pia Zadora a "new star of the year" honor for the immortal film "Butterfly.")

The hosts, once again, will be Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, so expect a good time -- and terrible singing.

The Golden Globes will be broadcast on Sunday, January 12. The program will air on NBC.

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