Using a similarly simple tactic to unremarkably grant
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Give it a few weeks, and we'll likely have new vids from Honest Trailers and How It Should Have Ended about 300: Rise of an Empire. Can you spot anything worthy of barbs in the movie's trailer?
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Of course, Honest Trailers isn't the first movie-mocking web series to pierce the brawny exterior of 300. A couple of years back, the crew from How It Should Have Ended gave this garish epic a re-watch, and offered a few critiques of their own:
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Many prestigious films come from unforgettable true stories, but there are even more that get lost in the critical mix and become mere footnotes. Should Steve McQueenís 12 Years a Slave indeed beat out the other nominees for Best Picture, it will not be a crime against movies, and I will applaud a little harder than I would for most of the other nominees. This film is no footnote, but a rewarding chapter of filmmaking, with strong performances and gorgeous cinematography laying out a troubling tale of historical ignorance. It is indeed one of the best films of 2013. Just not THE best.
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One cannot consider the best film of an entire year without thinking ahead, wondering if a particular choice will retain its glory and sit high atop the mountain of cinema through future generations. A Best Picture should be so memorable that its name should come up instantly when asked. Through hindsight, weíve often seen the Academy pick the "wrong films" to award its top honors, even when there arenít any other clear frontrunners. If Iím feeling less interested in this pic after only two months, I canít imagine the dwindling fondness Iíll feel for it twelve years down the road.
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And no, Iím not comparing this movie to direct-to-video schlock, but that comparison points at how important context is when considering 12 Years as a Best Picture. This is a film whose importance needs at least a sliver of independence from the subject matter it is talking about, without letting the heavy hand of slavery overwhelm the details of its merits. Is this film really the sum of so many amazing parts that it outperforms everything else weíve seen this year?
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Itís a refreshing change of pace to have such a gutting drama told without the stereotypical villain inevitably facing off against the lead in some showdown, and it allows for a more realistic string of biased *******s to come in and out of Northupís life with varying levels of intensity. But without a major conflict to grasp onto, my attention span was free from any feeling of anticipation. Calling this "one manís fight against a million menís plight" is certainly Best Picture-worthy, but weíre never really taken to an edge in 12 Years a Slave. I suppose you could count seeing nude, scarred-up slaves bathing edgy, or the unflinching scenes of whip-fueled abuse. But that material, when taken out of context, is no more disturbing than something in the climax of an indie horror. The tolerance of the viewer factors in here, of course.
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To qualify that as a sub-genre of film sounds callous and reductive, as one probably wouldnít limit their descriptions of other nominees The Wolf of Wall Street to "an addiction movie" and Gravity to "a space movie." But when all the unspecific adjectives like gripping, emotional and strengthening are taken away, the description is pretty much limited to the obvious. I blame my hatred of film loglines for this reliance on multi-threaded plotlines.
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But no, thatís ridiculous, because I didnít actually experience anything nearly as shattering as the malicious treatment Northup endured for his twelve-year servitude. In fact, with the two-month cushion sitting between now and my first viewing, I can barely recall the mental anguish I felt while watching it. And Iím not sure where this sense of diminishing emotion comes from.
Perhaps because McQueen didnít over-dramatize Northupís violent thrust away from his life as a free man, using a similarly simple tactic to unremarkably grant him back his freedom by the end of the film. These shifts werenít jarring enough for me to feel a connection to his life before or after. I completely respect McQueen sticking to the memoirís non-melodramatic nature, for it is this contemplative (rather than exploitative) approach to the material where 12 Years angles away from its parallels with slavery films and miniseries that weíve seen in the past. But when the viewer is only given time to sit with its main character and think about the things that are happening to him, thatís when it stops transcending the material and reminds us that this is a movie about slavery.