Tag Archives: Historical Drama

Battle of Surabaya (2015)

Most of the animation I watch is either from the US, or from Japan with everything else being a detour. Korea, China, Britain, Russia, and a few others I can name you at least one piece of animation that I liked from those countries. One of the many places I currently can’t do that for is Indonesia. Be it they don’t have much of a animation industry, or they’re just don’t get US distribution makes the experience of watching Battle of Surabaya (also known as November 10th in some places) all the more sour.

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Out in the horizon, there’s a better animated movie.

Acting more like a cliff notes version of complex politics, and history Battle of Surabaya never finds it footing. This stems from the fact the historical events is merely a backdrop for half of the movie in favor of Musa’s coming of age story. Unless you’re familiar with this portion of this post WW2 history you’re likely to be loss in the all important events that take place. All of it feels rushed since the film doesn’t properly establish a semblance of time when all these events happen. In other cases provides too much information at the cost of a coherent story while rushing through significant moments. Making it difficult to figure how one event naturally lead to another major event.

You have the Japanese, the Dutch army, you have the Indonesian Rebel group, the BKR, TKR, the Allied forces, and the Kipas Hitam. I’m pretty sure I forgot a few other groups involved in the revolution because of how much is crammed in. All the while not including the possibly fictional, and real historical figures used in the story. With all of this going on in the background there’s no time to give important events they need to develop naturally. Instead of recounting history it has a subplot about ninja warfare which as far I can tell from my limited research did not happen. Using all the violent events, and turn Indonesian take to deliver a hamfisted message that war is bad. If the movie didn’t tell me war was bad I would have thought war was good thing seeing how Musa lose so many people close to him in the war.

When the movie is focused on our shoe shiner lead Musa everything is still as clumsy. Consistently being unable to transition between tones properly when shifting from the prominent romance to the background war of Indonesia. There’s a sequence that is setup to imply Musa is being chased by someone who wants to kill him only to reveal it’s his friend/love interest Yumna. This falsely build up tension scene is followed by a cheesy romantic stroll Indonesia with yes a even cheesier pop song. Unlike every other connection Musa has in the movie his relationship with Yumna works in service of the story.

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Man, this sequence as painful to watch

The comedy on the other hand is just plain bad. Taking inspiration from anime for its sense of humor. At best the humor is questionable since what passes off for jokes in the movie will leave one wondering if they were meant to laugh. One sequence includes Musa uncle allowing Musa to fire a gun at a military base. When Musa fires the gun he nearly kills another soldier, and the movie cheery music tries to pass it up as a joke. I find it hard to laugh at a man nearly getting shot dead by Musa considering it also wants me to feel sad when Musa loses people close to him.

There’s another scene in the movie where Musa is running away from some soldiers. During this sequence that is meant to be filled with high tension you’ll get a comedic prat fall out of nowhere. That’s not the only time either, towards the finale of the movie when Musa is being chased by adults who want to kill him the insertion of comedy kills any tension. Why someone thought in the English dub the act of riding a cow was funny is about baffling as to why not all the dialogue is dubbed into English!

The forefront romance is also lacking in being an emotional pull. This mostly falls on Musa who doesn’t have much to him as a character. Musa mother for instant eventually dies in the movie, but Musa hardly spend any time with her making his mother death lack impact. His mother death isn’t delved into, nor does it have much effect on Musa. His love for his country isn’t properly developed since it doesn’t spend enough time on him soaking in the joys of Indonesia. Biggest drawback from this is the lack of progression of Musa losing his innocent view of the world when the war takes everything away from him. He merely accepts it, and that’s all.

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When still, there’s still so much to pick on

Yumna is the only character in the movie who comes out unscathed by the bad writing. She gets a complete arc, a sympathetic backstory, and is more in touch with her love for her country. Providing a clear understanding of how much she cherish Indonesia compared to Musa where it doesn’t come across as strongly. While she might be in a supporting role she has a lot going on in her storyline that doesn’t merely involve her moving around places.

Side characters are typically one dimensional. Resulting in some questionable development that out of left field. One of them includes an adult, Danu, having romantic feelings for a young girl. Don’t worry, the young girl friendzone him, and it’s forgotten about. The film’s villain, John Wright is silly. He’s meant to be the embodiment of someone purely using violence to end all wars. This could have been interesting, but instead there’s a series of questionable decisions that come with all badly written villains.

Lastly, I have to take about one specific scene in the movie because it came out of nowhere. So a group of military soldiers (can’t remember which because there’s so many factions) driving by a food stand. John Wright stops the car, and takes out a type of machine gun. He proceeds to shoot a jar of rice with the word freedom written on it because it’s the quickest way to get across he’s the villain. A regular movie would have stopped here, but the scene continue with John Wright pulling out a grenade, and destroying the food stand! It was unintentionally hilarious, and I laughed in the utter shock of it.

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Oh man, the horror of this bad animation.

Directed by Aryanto Yuniawan, and animated by MSV Pictures brings us some very choppy animation. You’ll be accustomed to seeing missing frames in animation, characters changing position or size whenever there’s a cut, and can not forget the 3D that sticks out a like a sore thumb. Copy, and pasting obvious 3D models, and multiplying similar looking models to ensure it’s hard to miss.

Rarely does the animation move smoothly leaving plenty to be desired. Especially on the character designs since they lack shading, and details in the hair are regularly missing. It’s an ugly movie to look at, especially in the climax where everything that can go wrong in animation does go wrong. When too much to handle, playing missing continuity adds to the fun. If you’re not distracted by the frequently misplaced, or distorted characters designs in different cuts of the same scene.

The only aspect of the animation that’s remotely passable are the environments. Since the background doesn’t have to move the animators put some details into the background to look okay. Other times the lack in depth of perspective make everything flat, even the characters interacting with the environment.

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Even in SD, this hurts my eyes!

Aryanto biggest failure aside from the poor mixture of romance, comedy, and war drama is his handling of scenes. Instead of opting for something possible within his studio capability you’ll get some ugly, and ambition scenes. One of these include Yumna in a ninja outfit breaking into a military stronghold taking out other ninja with badly rendered 3D environment. This specific sequence makes it impossible to believe that the 2D character is moving in a 3D plain.

The English dub is downright terrible! None of the actors sounded convincing in their roles. Musa voice actor, Alistair Hendry, can’t figure out what accent to give to Musa changing it every so couple of scenes. Would have been forgivable if he didn’t sound monotone through the whole thing. Surprisingly, none of the main cast are actually the worst actors, but it’s the ones in bit roles. These bit role voice actors come out of nowhere to have some awful line delivery. Generally sounding like they use the first take, and didn’t bother with doing any more.

Indonesian animation is an area that’s completely unexplored for me, but at one point so was anime. In the same way my first exposure to Chinese animation (a movie called 10,000 Years Later) wasn’t a good one I’m still keeping an open mind about Indonesia animation. Assuming I can ever find another animated film Indonesia made with some viewable access. If not, well, Battle of Surabaya still wouldn’t be something I would recommend for anyone.

Rating: 2/10

Cinema-Maniac: Stonewall (2015)

In the early hours of June 28, 1968, began a series of violent demonstration by members of the LGBT community in Manhattan, New York City at the Stonewall Inn. These riots are the most famous, and often cited as the most important event leading to the gay liberation movement. Since the movie itself, even if taken as a work of pure fiction, doesn’t provide context for the significance of the Stonewall riots. Before Stonewall riots, incidents like the Portland Vice Scandal which basically forced sexual sterilization laws in Portland when nineteen-year-old Benjamin Trout revealed details about homosexual activity in the city. This would lead to police probing around the local area arresting anyone for simply being gay, or doing anything resembling gay activity. This was also many in the US first learned about homosexuality, and thus many profession would simply be able to fire you for being gay.

During one of the movie’s many misguided scene a character talks about serving in the Navy completely missing the opportunity to provide insight on history. For some reason, the scene doesn’t bother to even mention the mere existence of something called The Blue Discharge. What this basically did was get rid off gay soldiers, and stated in the GI Bill anyone with a Blue Discharge couldn’t receive any benefits during world war one, and world war two. Homosexuals had it rough during this era, but unfortunately something called the Red Scare post world war two included homosexuals on that list with this second wave being called the Lavender Scare. Assumed by many during the 1950s that homosexuals were more susceptible to blackmail. Ever met a person who thought the FBI, or government was after them? Well, if they were homosexual during the 1950s that’s exactly happened. The collective impact of these events would last decades, and wouldn’t be until the Stonewall riot that a swift in gay rights was reaching a turning point for gaining the rights they so desired.

This streamlined history of what homosexuals suffer before Stonewall is obviously too much for one movie cram into a single feature. However, it’s not impossible to provide some level of insight of these events, and the impact they made on society. A brief sequence, or snippets of dialogue dedicated to illustrating the pent up frustration some felt about this unfair treatment would have suffice. The Stonewall riot is set the piece were some finally had enough of being mistreated, and stood up for themselves. Sadly, you’ll learn more in these previous paragraphs about the significance the Stonewall riot than you will watching this movie. That is just sad on so many level. Only thing possibly sadder than that is simply calling this a bad movie ain’t doing justice how incompetent it is on nearly every conceivable level. Here’s a head scratcher before I go into the actual movie, apparently this was director Roland Emmerich passion project. You know, the director of Mel Gibson’s The Patriot (2000), and 10,000 BC (2008) which are consider some of the most historically inaccurate movies ever made.

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Brace yourself, it’s going to be a long one.

Stonewall follows the fictitious character of Danny Winters (Jeremy Irvine), a small town teenager outcasted in Indiana by his own father moving to New York in the months leading up the Stonewall Inn riots. For starter, Danny is purely a work of fiction, and using him as surrogate is fine to establish the treatment society gave to homosexual during that time. However, that’s about all it gets right on that front, and even then it doesn’t go into details how badly homosexuals had it during this time. I already mentioned a few examples in my previous paragraphs so I’ll skip the rehash here. I will add that before we see any homosexuals receive any beating from police officers; Danny first introduction to Ray (Jonny Beauchamp), and his group by a multiracial group of young, gay, and genderfluid street kids and drag queens vandalizing the neighborhood! Why would the film thought you would sympathize with a group of teens, regardless of sexual orientation, and what they identify as, whom throw a brick at a store to steal a hat, and go out disrupting people in the neighborhood is beyond me. Forget the fact they’re homosexuals, if this is how Ray, and his friends regularly act no wonder nobody likes them.

With Danny being our lead character it means actual characters based around actual activists during this time get sideline in favor of a coming of age, and young love storyline. A questionable decision cemented in the fact that those fictional portions of the movie are terrible. Exploration of Danny coming to terms with his sexuality is absent from the film. He goes from being ashamed of it to embracing his sexuality just like that. There’s little to talk about Danny character in any tangible form. It relies too much on the idea of the era, and how those in the LGBT community were treated to bother developing its characters. Danny comes off more like Roland Emmerich self inserting himself into Danny, and being the one who started the Stonewall riots. A significant event in the movie that isn’t impactful; Danny, nor the audience know the true length politics held back LGBT people, and simply claiming it was bad during this time isn’t good enough when it think it’s a important film. There’s also Danny highschool love, which the audience doesn’t get to see blossom. Therefore, making it’s bittersweet message in the movie bring hollow since, you guessed it, hardly appears in the movie. 

When it comes to depicting romance this movie fails in that too. Every person Danny falls in love with are poorly defined as individual characters. Ray for instance, a love interest that Danny can’t love (Danny says this himself) is tonal whiplash. One scene has him crying to Danny telling him about how he got a beating, and how things won’t seem like they’ll ever change. Next scene, Ray wakes up getting angry at Danny for finding a flyer for a gay rights meeting in Danny pocket. Trevor (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is another one of these love interest with a confusing portrayal. Part of the blame can be taken by the bad direction, but in terms of writing he didn’t come off as unreasonable. Sure, Trevor cheating on him is justified in Danny hating him, but at the same time that’s about it. The relationship is so spontaneous, and rushed through feeling sorry for Danny is impossible. Trevor is established to be fighting for gay rights since his introduction, and all Danny cares about is his heart got broken despite the fact he experienced, and witness first hand the LGBT community face!

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This movie in one still; it’s not pretty to look at

Leading into Danny is boring. He doesn’t take an interest in the political side of gay rights rendering whatever mention of activism purely be lip service. All he seems to care about is making a good life for himself. As a badly written character you won’t know what he aspired to become, nor understand how heart he is that he seemingly can’t patch things up with his Christian father. Reminding me of another plot point. One of the few defining traits of Danny is he loves his family, but the movie hardly shows him communicating to them. Being more wrapped up in the events of New York, and finding other like him. This becomes a bigger issue in the ending when Danny’s mother shows up to a gay pride march when she didn’t speak much to her own son. You know, possibly using Danny mother to get across that acceptance is slow, but can come.

Now the biggest nail in the coffin for Danny is the film gives him the first throw in Stonewall shouting “Gay Power!”. A fictitious character who mostly mopes around about a broken hearts takes away something that real people experience by giving the first brick throw to him. This wouldn’t be an issue if some of the film’s characters weren’t based around real people. Instead of being empowering, it comes across as pure cheese, and at worst possible insult that a teenage boy started a riot that would be the big push towards gay right all because he was sexually frustrated.

On top of a terrible leading character, the film writing has characters that disappear for long periods of time. Only bringing them back when it’s stuck to generate conflict in an artificial way despite the fact the movie is based around true events. One of these character is Ed Murphy (Ron Pearlman, I’m shocked too) is just bad, and that’s about it. He appears in one scene, disappears, and sells Danny into sex slave. A topic that isn’t explored either among the other number things that aren’t explored.

If I even bother to break apart the many aspects of history it gets wrong there would be no feasible end in sight. I will pick on the fact Danny sister is happily accepting that her brother is gay. It’s the 1960s, and homophobia is rampant during this time. The most exposure that Danny’s sister would get of homosexuals would be primarily negative. Maybe Danny told his sister he was gay when he was younger, but no such thing exist, even in throwaway dialogue!

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One of the many joyful scenes of police brutality. Physical abuse is the main way this movie can generate sympathy.

It’s much quicker to run down it gets accurate like the sex work depiction that did happen, and the mention of mafias owning bars serving gay people is right. However, the whole sex slave plot point is pointless as it contributes nothing to the actual movie. It does have activists like Marsha P. Johnson, Bob Kohler, and Frank Kameny in the movie, but more as decorations than important characters. Downplaying their roles in gay rights activism, and relegating what their did into a brief text crawl at the end.

The closest the film ever gets to being humanized is a brief scene where Ray sleeps next to Danny in a crowded apartment. Ray goes on about a better life for them, and Danny pretends to be sleeping smiling of such prospect. It’s the most subtle the movie ever gets. Just one scene in a movie that slightly goes over two hours! Filled with stereotypes of LGBT of all being negatively flamboyant, or obnoxious. Doing just about nothing in that time to make viewer understand them. As a pure work of fiction it’s simplistic depiction of complicated real world issues works against it. Discrimination that LGBT people face, and the battle they face to get their rights is something that needs a mindful approach. Not just a “people mistreat us! Let’s riot, and we get our rights!” approach which is sadly an accurate way to summarize this movie. When taken as a historical film, well, mentioned earlier, simply implying the Stonewall one riot automatically gave LGBT their rights in the US is astonishingly stupid! It glosses over so many facts you’re simply better off reading books, or watching documentary on the subject of gay rights. This movie doesn’t understand what makes a good story in a fictitious sense so entrusting it to discuss real world issues beyond some minor details is beyond its capability.

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Gay power! Or attempted murder. Both work.

On a technical side it doesn’t fare any better either. Roland Emmerich is insecure about his direction that it’s difficult to read what exactly he wants the audience to feel. For instance, it would be nice to actually see Jeremy Irvine who portrays Danny to actually show him be comfortable sexually. Nearly all of Jeremy Irvine sexual encounters is played off as tragic. Inadvertently implying homosexuality is a something bad instead of a part of a person that feels natural to them.

His biggest misjudgment is his representation of LGBT characters. With the exception of Jeremy Irvine, every actor is either the stereotype flamboyant gay person, or evil. Having his actors overact every scene. Leaving no room for substance, especially the opening text that is meant to establish a harsh mood, but doesn’t because of the over acting. The color filtered makes things either too dark, or too yellow. Emmerich is unable to hide the cheap look of his sound stage. This one block in the movie is simply filmed in different angle, and takes you out of the illusion. Music choices are fine, but don’t do anything special. The original on the other hand, lack subtlety in its bomb static sound. As for the riot itself it’s pretty lame to see. Police push forward, and LGBT people slowly back off. That’s basically all that happens in the riot. Cars, and windows are destroyed I presume because of the sound effects, but this portion of the movie is poorly done.

Stonewall is a cinematic that gets nothing. As a work fiction it’s too simplistic on discussing complicated issues with poorly defined characters. As a historical film it gets so many things wrong viewers will leave with possibly less understanding on the significant on the Stonewall riot. It’s a movie that is meant to appeal to everyone, but will end up satisfying no one except for Emmerich who inserts himself into the lead character. There’s history worth remembering, and being proud off, yet this movie does everything it can to not capture that. Failing to understand people, the community it represents, and the history behind it.

Rating: 0/10

Anime-Breakdown: Nitaboh (2004)

When it comes to the instrument of the Shamisen my first introduction to it was through the Japanese pop band Monkey Majik. It was with the song titled “Change”, in collaboration with the Yoshida Brothers (brothers performers of the Tsugaru-jamisen style), became a song I instantly liked a lot. A main reason this being Shamisen gave the song a unique sound that stood out to other music I listened too from Japan. However, other than that I simply didn’t care to listen to other pieces of Shamisen music since it’s not the sort of thing I would listen to regularly. Monkey Majik on the other hand I like their stuff a lot. For some who choose to venture into the 2004 anime film Nitaboh will probably be their first introduction to the Shamisen. While the film has plenty to offer on the music side there’s not much else that’ll stick with you once the film ends.

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Insert: “You’re the best, around! No one ever gonna keep you down!”

Nitaboh follows blind musician Nitaro through his life as he discover his passion for the Samisen, and honing his skill. Narratively, the film somewhat avoids the pitfall that musical biopics would go with. The formula usually has the lead character discover a passion for music after a performance of some kind, this performance inspires the young lead to become a musician, rising to fame through small performances, and eventually having a rival to compete against. Thankfully Nitaboh doesn’t have the whole fame getting to musician head, hitting rock bottom, and eventually reigniting their passion for music. However, it doesn’t do anything wholly different from a music biopic either by remaining with the basics. It also has a passive leading character which for a story that doesn’t much in terms of conflict won’t be shown struggling through much either in his life story.

One standout feature about the story is the setting taking place during 19th century Japan at the end of the Edo era, and the story somewhat touches on the change Japan was experiencing at that time. The changes occurring during that time, like the change in the way music is played, are far more interesting than what film actually intends to cover. It brings up how unorthodox people thought the idea of a blind man becoming a musician was to people during this era, western influence on Japanese culture that is simply mention, and partially mentions the changing landscape of Japan. However, it’s only ever on the surface, and since it’s not the main focus I can’t really knock it down for that.

Nitaboh biggest flaw is simply not trying enough to flesh things outside of Nitario, which is ironic given it’s main character Nitaro survived through many hardship as a child into adulthood. Hardships that aren’t shown pulling the classic montage into eventual timeskip to get pass the boring stuff of seeing a young Nitaro struggling to support himself on his own, and right into adulthood where he seems better off with hardly anything resembling a conflict. This timeskip cheapens the journey, and ultimately detract from its portrayal of Nitaro dedication to his crafts. Lending to make Nitaro overcoming the stigma he faced of being a blind Shamisen player fall severely short of resonate. By not establishing much in the way of some kind viewpoint there isn’t much growth to discuss from when Nitario was a child who was enraptured playing the Shamisen to an adult who desires to do more with his love playing the Shamisen. Most you’ll get in terms of depth in this area is the times of changing line.

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The film’s character had a harder time staying awake than I did.

Another issue with the storytelling would simply be it’s modest aim. It doesn’t tell a grand story, nor sensationalize it events through any means making it a down to earth in its depiction. At the same time for something that demands you pay attention to it for 100 minutes there isn’t a whole lot to take in. If the film was half of its current runtime you could have gotten the same story. It wants to express the power of music, and how it touches people hearts, but Nitaro impact on these people lives, or his interaction with the town folks isn’t shown much. People gather to listen to Nitaro play the Shamisen, and that’s about it. Only once does the film has a character speak about how Nitaro dedication to pursue his craft influenced him to do the same. Aside from this one character, hardly anyone else in the film expresses the same gratitude.

The one area Nitaboh is successful in is characterization. No one in the film is complex to any degree, though that’s mostly because how modest it is. Nitaro has a conflict, learns from it, and pushes himself physically, and mentally to resolve it. There isn’t much to him, but his arc is competently written, and doesn’t come across as half baked in his journey. Some aspects of his characters, like the lack of focus of him dealing with his blindness, or quickly getting over the death of a love one hurt Nitaro in the long term. Making him come off as impersonal when it comes to his friends, and bonds, but what is shown successfully is his love for the Shamisen, and his passion for it. While it’s hardly expanded upon, there are several point in the movie Nitaro does point out the unfairness of the world he lives in, and his philosophy on his style.

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Picture here a nice moment, and a relationship that doesn’t evolve much.

Side characters on the other hand hardly add much to the film’s narrative. There’s sorta a romance between Nitaro, and Yuki whom meet each other when they’re children. They show some feeling towards each other, but neither of them over confront the other about these feelings. Another aspect to this sorta being a romance is these characters friendship generally spend little time with each other before spending a long amount of time apart from each other. When they are together, only the first thirty minutes is successful in setting up their friendship, and the rest of the film doesn’t bother to evolve it much. Other than Yuki, the other two supporting character Nitaro interact with simply enjoy his music, and help him out. Only one gets influence by him to do something while the other one is just there to help progress the story. Much like some of the world events it brings up throughout the film, side characters just help push the story forward, and that’s all.

Nitaboh is animated by WAO World studio, and in terms of animation its fine. Character designs are simple, but unique enough to tell apart through the entire film. Movement is okay, and backgrounds are pretty much okay too. The animation doesn’t have much happening visually on screen keeping things simple for the most part. There’s one exception to this rule in during the first act that has Nitaro father riding through a storm on his boat, but other than that the animation isn’t lively. It is cheap at times like having a large crowd listening to Nitaboh play the Shamisen just remain still. The direction of Akio Nishizawa is exactly what the film needed. He over play, or senatalizie any aspect of the story that doesn’t need it. Of course, parts of the third act are debatable for being somewhat silly like Nitaro talking to his dead loved ones through a shaman, or the extreme training regimen he went through. Luckily, the film doesn’t venture into over the top territory with those moments.

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With the power I hardness from Amidarmu, I shall became the Shamisen King!

Sounds though is the one area it excels in. While not much of a listener to traditional Japanese music it gives the film it’s own identity where it can’t stand out in other areas. The noteworthy pieces of music in the film is obviously whenever the Shamisen is in used, and letting the viewer absorb the music. Besides being a cool sounding instrument it has such a commanding presence. Going heavily for an atmospheric approach to its sound design which it soars in flying color. In terms of acting only Satoshi Hino, who plays Nitaro stands out. Easily because he gets the most screen time, but also because he come across as the most understanding of his character. It could have been easy for Satoshi to over act his performance since he’s playing a blind character. Hino approach to the character is not portraying him any different than he would from any other character with eyesight. Bringing out some likable aspect of Nitaro personality that over acting could have overshadowed.

Nitaboh is a modest movie with modest aims, but with modest handling of its material it never tries to make something of itself. What is here isn’t enough to justify a general recommendation to view the movie, especially with some of the more important aspects of Nitaro life aren’t developed much. Simply coming off as a history lesson instead of a engrossing look into a man’s life, and how never he gave up on his passion. If you want a down to earth story that is somewhat difficult to find anime Nitaboh has you cover, but in general it’s a piece of anime that unlike the person its based after, doesn’t have as much going for it.

Rating: 4/10

Cinema-Maniac: 12 Years a Slave (2013) Review

Slavery remains a troubling issue so much in fact that we feel more comfortable viewing dozen Holocaust films than a single film on slavery. It’s an certain period in human history no one is proud off and willingly attempt to prevent from ever occurring again. However, simply labeling this film with a single intention is saying very little of its true power. What many hailed as being the greatest film about slavery I dare say is an essential statement on humanity. It’s not just a film about slavery, but rather about the common man.

12 Years A Slave is set in antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Its biggest strength is being able to depict slavery how it is without feeling exploitative. This film always walks on a thin line of being one hanging, one whiplashing, one beating from being deemed tasteless. All the more praiseworthy when its difficult depiction is pulled off successfully. On paper it’s easy to sympathize for Solomon Northup just as a slave, but that was not the intention. Solomon is not just a free black man; he’s a common man, with common features, common dreams, sharing a common will for the desire to live in his harrowing endeavor. Sympathizing with Solomon for who he is and not what he became. Enduring as much as the human spirit could living and entrapped in a cruel world that coexist with his former one. Much like Solomon, we never forget the freedom we have while attempting not to lose the shred of humanity we have left as the world around become engulfed in seemingly never ending tragedies. We feel what Solomon feels and think what Solomon’s thinking. Reflecting upon Solomon with ourselves of how something like freedom no matter the world around you can be taken for granted.

Interpreted directly “12 Years A Slave” is a harrowing and even inspiring story. Beyond that interpretation are many metaphorical meanings both simplistic and in depth. The “N” word for example is not simply use as a profane word. Its first usage in the film is profoundly powerful. Perhaps for some it will be the first time ever truly understanding the strength behind this single word. Being able to reduce a loving father, skilled musician, husband, and highly intelligent human into an animal to be bought and sold. Another subtle use of metaphorical symbolism is a fiddle. What it represents is rather simple and difficult to miss. On the surface the fiddle represents freedom; however, music present another form of hidden expression. What you hear can be calmly and joyous while in context that piece of music being played comes across differently. As a form to remind slaves of their oppressive position, provide a small taste of freedom, or further reminds them of the consequences if attempting to run away. Music expresses many emotions and has the same power to conceal truth; it can be use to hide the ugly nature of the person’s intention or in this film as a form to defeat racism.

Steve McQueen direction is relentless and one of sheer brilliance. His decision in not telling the audience the passage of time directly is genius. Only giving audiences subtle visual clues on how long has time has past never eliminating the sameness of Solomon endeavor. Getting across that perhaps there is no end in sight in this dehumanizing time. Utilizing long, steady single shots to emphasize various emotions. When events on screen become their most horrifying and ugly is when his camera becomes the most unflinching. One powerful scene involves an excruciatingly long shot of a punished Solomon. When Solomon is hanging on the tree the other slaves go on with their business, seemingly oblivious to the man literally hanging in their midst, until one slave woman gives him a glass of water and meekly scurries away. Showing the true fear and power the slave owners possessed over them. Agonizing scenes like these can make audiences become increasingly uncomfortable in a situation we desire to be removed, but powerless and unable to realizing the outcome if we do. Capturing the rawest of human emotion feeling, thoughts, and seeing how Solomon views things. Even when it draws to a close were left to ponder the long forgotten thought of what does freedom mean to a free man?

Chiwetel Ejiofor’s acting excels with facial expressions you realize when he succumbed to his situation versus how he emotionally fought his sudden twist of fate. A mentally and physically challenging role becoming cold himself and attempting to conceal his own emotions completely understanding and sympathizing him. Spacing out in despair as the camera lingers onto him for solid minutes at times with no spoken words. Ejiofor I’ll dare even say provides one of the best performances not just in his career, but in one of the best of the decade. Benedict Cumberbatch portrays a slave owner yet he treats his slaves humanely. He makes you ask yourself if neutral people like him are good or bad for progress. Michael Fassbender is a raving dog one minute, and calmly ordering everyone to dance the next, he knows he can make these slaves do anything, they are toys to him, puppets. It is that controlled rage that makes his performance have an eerily threatening presence even when he’s not on screen. Lupita Nyong’o gives one of the most devastating performances. She retains a level of innocence that only heightens the tragedy of her character. The cast is flawless no matter how small or big the role is.

12 Years A Slave is brutally honest and heart wrenching for a that does not chooses to play by traditional rules. It’s more than a film about slavery and more so a statement on humanity in its gloomiest state never losing sight of one’s self. For some it’ll be difficult to watch, but even harder to accept the honest truth that McQueen presented to the world. With all the hype surrounding “12 Years A Slave” it might be easy to forget that it’s a humble film. Truly deserving of its praise, but should be seen without the hype for it never presents itself to be bigger than life. Rather it presents itself honestly with good intentions and heartfelt emotions for many who can’t share a similar story.

10/10