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Old 01-16-2014, 09:52 PM   #31
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Middlebrow is still a couple stages above unibrow; MadForIt territory.
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Old 01-16-2014, 09:54 PM   #32
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12 Years of Middlebrow Pap

I mean it's ok but I'd rather see American Hustle win because even though I haven't seen an O Russel film I've liked since Three Kings and haven't seen this one it at least looks to have something of a pulse.

I thought you would have appreciated the restraint. Some great work with long takes as well as some of the more natural images/cutaways (the churning of the boat paddle wheel, the burning embers of the discarded letter).

I also think it's odd to call it "middlebrow" considering McQueen's background, and this certainly feels like an extension of his first two works, albeit on a larger canvas.

There's no justification for rooting for Scorsese Lite.
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Old 01-16-2014, 10:07 PM   #33
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I'm being kind of facetious. It's not quite middlebrow, it's highbrow artist catering to middlebrow "art" tastes. Restraint I admire, but not a great deal when it mainly turns material dry. Which is subjective but this film didn't have an worthwhile style for my tastes. Too "restrained" to be expressive, too classical for a truly observational or imressionistic angle, and ultimately too flat for its own classicism. I feel like McQueen could have made this more interesting if he'd indulged more in his own stylistic whims, which is exactly what I saw him praised a lot for NOT doing. Fair enough, but I feel this film could have been more fierce and affecting if more... I don't even know. More dynamic or subjectively shot even. Outside of a few parts it was too clynial for me.

But lol no I really don't way Russels film to win. Wolf is easily my favorite in the bracket.
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Old 01-16-2014, 10:28 PM   #34
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Wait, what? 12 Years A Slave is wonderfully/horribly alive. It's incredibly visceral, has fantastic cinematography and many stylistic flourishes (the long takes that were mentioned). I think over-stylizing runs the risk of trivializing the material; we already have Django Unchained (which was fantastic). Or it could come across as being manipulative to evoke sympathy, and this is one film that needs to do nothing to make the audience sympathize with its protagonist. I'd argue the matter of fact depiction of the subject matter gives it an even greater impact.
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Old 01-16-2014, 10:40 PM   #35
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Well yeah that's what everyone says about it. But it struck me as horribly bland. I'm as it a fan of long takes as anybody, but look to the Taiwanese masters on how to properly used duration and aesthetic in harmony to crack through to the truth or realism of a subject. My problem still lies in the film's classicism drawn out to lengths where I only see the movieness of it, not the representation it's trying to achieve. I really don't know how to explain thig properly though without debasing my own opinion to "it's prententious trying-to-be-what-art-fims-are drudgery." Which is a worthless piece of criticism but it's kind of how I feel. Icky.
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Old 01-16-2014, 10:53 PM   #36
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OK, but it sounds like you'd rather it be more stylized as well as a more realistic verite/Dogme 95 type thing, which I feel are two opposite poles.

The criticism you describe does remind me of my reaction to Lincoln, which I felt was unbearably dry and the sort of boring and overly tasteful history film that will put high school students to sleep for decades to come (I give Spielberg credit for not over-sentimentalizing, at least by his standards) I thought 12 Years made the history it was depicting feel very much real.
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Old 01-16-2014, 10:54 PM   #37
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I'll also just say, I like McQueen, but hardly think he's great. Shame really worked for me where Hunger didn't so much, and this obviously, stripped down of some of the characteristics that make me like him. I don't find the image-making or editing of 12 Years a Slave particularly noteworthy honestly. I mean maybe for your run of the mill historical bait-piece it's competent above average, but I feel the film is aspiring to be a hell of a lot more than that and misses the boat in a number of parallel ways and ends up being a lot of nothing. I went in really expecting to love this though so whatever.
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Old 01-16-2014, 10:57 PM   #38
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OK, but it sounds like you'd rather it be more stylized as well as a more realistic verite/Dogme 95 type thing, which I feel are two opposite poles.

The criticism you describe does remind me of my reaction to Lincoln, which I felt was unbearably dry and the sort of boring and overly tasteful history film that will put high school students to sleep for decades to come (I give Spielberg credit for not over-sentimentalizing, at least by his standards) I thought 12 Years made the history it was depicting feel very much real.
Well, I'm not saying it needs to be both. But it could certainly benefit from a little of one or the other. Or not necessarily stylization even (dogme verite is very much a heavy style itself for the sake of categorization), but I feel a lot of the elements which make a film worth even watching are stripped down in the name of that "matter-of-factness" instead of trying to find a focused and powerful form with which to communicate this story.

It's funny. A lot of people find Lincoln the same as yourself, but that film, to me, has a fully realized form, distinct to Spielberg for better or worse, and actively pursues and delivers on that form. Personally, I find it gorgeous and pleasurable to watch, and I get why a lot of people didn't respond positively at all. If 12 Years a Slave has an formal approach to it, it strikes me as pretty misguided and highfalutin with a great lack of either expressive style to enhance the content or a convincingly meaningfully structured document of history/events which benefits from such aesthetic restraint. I just don't think it's a very powerful story the way it's chosen to be presented here either honestly. Ehh. Anyway my main point isn't so much that it's aesthetically restrained so much as devoid of meaningful aesthetic altogether. Which kind of makes it middlebrow-ish and easily digestible in a sense.
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Old 01-16-2014, 11:01 PM   #39
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Wow, I HATED Shame, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being its complete hollowness. Yes, I realize the film is about existential emptiness, but it just failed to make me care about its characters at all.
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Old 01-16-2014, 11:04 PM   #40
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Yeah, I couldn't give two shits about Shame's characters. Can't say I do about those in his other films either.
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Old 01-16-2014, 11:06 PM   #41
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I'm sorry though, I'm not good as discussing things I'm indifferent towards.
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Old 01-16-2014, 11:07 PM   #42
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I was going to ask about McQueen's other works...not great?
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Old 01-16-2014, 11:09 PM   #43
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I wouldn't say so. As I said, I really like Shame, but i'm very much in the minority in preferring that to his other two.
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Old 01-16-2014, 11:25 PM   #44
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Yeah, I guess it's just that character writing is a dealbreaker for me. There are exceptions, but I can't love a movie with characters that I don't give a shit about. I can casually appreciate them, but that's it.

Not saying this is the case with McQueen's films, as I haven't seen them.
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Old 01-16-2014, 11:55 PM   #45
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OK, but it sounds like you'd rather it be more stylized as well as a more realistic verite/Dogme 95 type thing, which I feel are two opposite poles.

The criticism you describe does remind me of my reaction to Lincoln, which I felt was unbearably dry and the sort of boring and overly tasteful history film that will put high school students to sleep for decades to come (I give Spielberg credit for not over-sentimentalizing, at least by his standards) I thought 12 Years made the history it was depicting feel very much real.
Spielberg losing to Ang Lee last year is easily in my Top 10 Oscar moments of all time (that I saw happen live).

Let's revisit some others:

1. Marty!
2. Spirited Away
3. Shakespeare In Love beating Saving Private Ryan
4. Woody Allen surprise appearance post-9/11
5. Steven Soderbergh for Traffic
6. Almodovar wins Original Screenplay for Talk To Her (great anti-war speech at beginning of Iraq War)
7. Ang Lee for Brokeback Mountain
8. Muhammad Ali takes the stage when When We Were Kings wins Doc Feature
9. Stephen Gaghan wins for Traffic screenplay (moving speech)


Had I seen The English Patient a second time before the telecast I would have been over the moon with its big sweep, as it was on this repeat viewing when I really fell in love with the film.
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