This was just a spectacular year for film, dear blog readers. Even the blockbusters were better than they had any right to be. Self enjoyed Pacific Rim and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. But she also watched a lot of smaller films that moved her, like The Way, Way Back and Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing and Nebraska.
Self was really looking forward to seeing Charlie Hunnam in Fifty Shades of Grey (She hasn’t read the book but Hunnam showed plenty of charisma in Pacific Rim). He backed away from the role and that, she feels, is just too bad.
But the movie whose scenes self just cannot get out of her mind (and she has no intention of ever watching it again; the experience is just too harrowing) is 12 Years a Slave: She remembers the way it began, the awfulness of the sex scene, the anguish on the face of both people, and then the fade-away to a memory of real physical intimacy between a man and a woman who obviously love each other. That was, in a nutshell, how good the movie was at showing the erasure of the main character’s identity.
Self will never forget the slave girl, Patsey, portrayed by Lupita Nyong’o with such intensity and conviction. Self felt the movie was as much hers as it was Chiwetel Ejiofor’s.
Self couldn’t get over the fact that the last time the viewers see Patsey is when Solomon, her best friend, is being taken away (“freed”) from the plantation, and she calls out his name sharply, realizes she will never see him again, and drops away in a dead faint. What is going to happen to her? The movie never returns to that plantation. In all the terrible moments in the movie, self thinks that moment, the last glimpse of Patsey, in a dead faint, is the most terrible. The question it poses can never be answered. And it fills self with such dissatisfaction. Isn’t the fate of that woman just as terrible — no, more terrible — than Solomon’s? Yes, it is.
The other scene in the movie she can’t seem to erase from her mind is the one of a drawing room, where elegant men and women wander around, remarking on the stark naked slaves displayed in abject humiliation in the various rooms. The women titter, not ashamed to look at the slaves’ bodies, and the men leer at the women, and it is just — unspeakable. Unspeakable! It made self so angry.
She knows of course that slavery is an abomination that didn’t necessarily, in many parts of the world, have anything to do with race. A conquered people became the conqueror’s slaves. In her home country, the Philippines, there are records of slavery — the victorious tribe using its prisoners as slaves. But the scene in 12 Years a Slave was about hypocrisy, and cruelty. It’s seared forever in her memory.
There were so many other scenes that stayed with her: June Squibb’s scenes in Nebraska, Sandra Bullock in boy-shorts curling up like a fetus (for some reason, self liked Bullock best in the scenes where she wasn’t talking so much), all Peeta’s scenes in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (after seeing the movie, self re-read the books in the space of one weekend).
It was really a great year for film, which makes self exceedingly happy.