Twelve Years a Slave

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Twelve Years a Slave tells the true tale of Solomon Northrop, a freeman from New York who is drugged and betrayed and illegally sold into slavery in Louisiana of the 1850’s. There, stripped of his dignity and personhood, he endures the entire gobsmacking, nauseating gamut of white racism (from careless to sadistic), and survives, albeit barely, with a massive and insurmountable scar on his psyche.

It’s a fierce, burning film and absolutely necessary. It is brutal and razor-sharp and unstinting in its observations of white supremacism, and it gives the audience none of those characters Hollywood usually throws out as a sop for whites to identify with and to assuage their guilt. Continue reading “Twelve Years a Slave”

The Counsellor

Oh lord, The Counsellor is an awful film. Cormac McCarthy wrote it, for God’s sake, and he’s one of my favourite authors ever ever ever. (If you haven’t read his Blood Meridian….well, you should is all I’m saying.) But his own script here – about a sleazy lawyer who gets in over his head when a drug deal goes wrong – is just dreadful: bloated, plodding, pompous, overblown and stodgy.

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Several tens of minutes of dialogue – where they talk about women or recount jokes – should have been stripped from the film, the sex scenes are excruciating, and all of the actors, ALL of them, seem like they’ve realised, too late and with a bit of a shock, that this Ridley Scott – Cormac McCarthy vehicle is a cringe-making embarrassment. The Counsellor does look spectacular though – and it filmed all over the place, a lot in England, which surprised me. I think Alicante stood in for Mexico.

Jonah Hex

Jonah Hex is the live action movie of the comic book tale of the same name. Set in the years after the US Civil War, it features a horribly scarred anti-hero, played by Josh Brolin, who’s able to communicate with the dead. This nifty trick allows him to track down the dastardly, mass-murderous Quintin Turnbull – the man who killed Hex’s family, has kidnapped his spunky mistress and is coincidentally planning to murder American president Grant.

Remember the excruciating Wild Wild West – with its fiendish villains, its louche showgirls, and its anachronistic weapons of mass destruction? It was rubbish, wasn’t it? And Hex is similar in some ways. But it’s saved from comparison with that earlier dross by being really beautifully filmed; every daylight scene is saturated in rich primary colours of remarkable intensity (though the less we talk about the night scenes the better – you just can’t see what’s going on.) The special effects are chilling, the performances are consistent and all in all I didn’t think it deserved the absolute panning it received from the critics.

In spite of the Western subject matter, Jonah Hex filmed mostly in Louisiana – an interesting showcase, I thought, of the variety and diversity of locations. The New Orleans City Park does stand in for Mexico, and there’s even a prairie scene with a locomotive steaming across the plain, that was filmed in the town of Raceland.