Amoeblog

American Monomyth: 12 Years a Slave (2013)

Posted by Charles Reece, November 5, 2013 09:51am | Post a Comment
12 years a slave poster

It should no longer be necessary to defend Richard Fleischer's Mandingo, not after the eloquent and thorough defenses proffered by Andrew Britton and Robin Wood. Anyone who dismisses the film as exploitative trash hasn't read their essays. I say read them if in doubt about its substance. What's interesting to me about the film here is the great amount of narrative overlap it shares with the current slavery epic, Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave: the brutal whippings, the race-horse inspection of prospective slaves, a castrated slave uprising, the decimation of black families by separating children from their parents across plantations, enforced illiteracy, hangings, the demeaning and ambivalent status of the house negro, the rape of a young slave girl by her master and the subsequent jealousy and violent reprisal from his wife, who is herself much abused. The latter film even suggests a Mandingo-type vengeful desire on the part of the plantation mistress, Epps, towards a slave, Solomon Northrup, through a couple of closeups (one occurs as Solomon hangs from a tree). This desire is much more than mere suggestion in Mandingo, of couse (cf. poster below), but it's the master-slave sexual attraction that's always served as the locus classicus for the dismissive reading of the film as mere exploitation.

Despite these many commonalities, 12 Years a Slave is being celebrated as a primary Oscar contender and demanding of serious respect by the majority of critics writing about it. It's a decent film, but doesn't say anything more than Mandingo did. Indeed, it says (or attempts to say) a good deal less, since Mandingo was much more concerned with exploring the structural relations of slavery to other features of American life, particularly sexual politics (as both Britton and Wood detail, the purpose of women and children are linked with that of the slave, devices by which the system ensured the spread of capital through space and time, i.e.,  the plantation and its generations of familial owners). Ownership of others is endemic to the country's development, not an evil otherness that can be put to the side as something we now reject. And that structural concern has a lot to do with why Mandingo has been largely rejected as exploitation, but the psychological analysis of 12 Years a Slave is celebrated. The latter mostly puts the model viewer into the place of the slave, Solomon, which is a morally comfortable place to be: owning others as property is something someone else would do, I (the model viewer) am on the side of the oppressed. Slavery is almost entirely subjective in the film. Mandingo, as "exploitation" tends to do, has the viewer principally identify with the morally compromised position, that of the slaver Ham, who both partakes in and guiltily rejects the advantages of his position. There is no Schindler's List sort of redemption awaiting audience identification with him. His position in the peculiar institution, although inherited, implicates all of his choices, even when he's attempting some bit of kindness as he sees it. By aligning the film with his point of view, the institution isn't pure otherness and we aren't allowed to run away from it. All actions are read through the evil of slavery.

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What Do You Want for Xmas (Hanukkah / Kwanzaa / Festivus)? A Few Ideas from Around the Interwebs

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, December 16, 2011 05:00pm | Post a Comment
xmas christmas space baby jesus alien rocket ship ufo christ
Tis the season to freak out about what to get our loved ones.

It seems to get harder every year, as -- thanks to the internet -- the world becomes smaller and choice becomes more vast. How can you find that perfect gift for someone that not only has everything, but can get whatever they want online in a matter of minutes?

Here's the answer: outsmart them. Use this guide to scoop them on their own desires. They may not yet know they lust after these amazing items, but with the Amoeblog's help, you will reign victorious as this year's King / Queen of Christmas / Hanukkah / Kwanzaa / Festivus /  Winter Solstice.  

For your old school punk:
San Francisco’s seminal punk band Crime was  formed in 1976 Crime band shirt merch Johnny Strike San Francisco punkand ripped post-hippie San Francisco a metaphorical new one when they released their first (and many say Punk’s first) single“Hot Wire My Heart / Baby You're So Repulsive.” They mixed a rebellious and sexually-charged image (they were most often seen flaunting their vampiric, just-outta-rehab good looks in tight leather, regulation police uniforms, or old-time gangster duds) with their unique blend of intellectual and furious lo-fi rock and roll. Crime found local refuge at the now legendary Mabuhay Gardens, but became nationally notorious after playing a gig at San Quentin Penitentiary in full police uniforms. (Read more about them on the Amoeblog.)

Now, after many years, you can purchase official Crime merch directly from original member Johnny Strike and his business partner Faustino Mendonça. Bootleggers be damned! Get some stunning shirts, posters, and pins from the source!

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SAN FRANCISCO BY CAR...WITH STEVE McQUEEN

Posted by Billyjam, August 5, 2007 03:15pm | Post a Comment
Although it is almost forty years old now, the Steve McQueen cops-and-bad-guys thriller Bullitt, featuring its famous San Francisco car-chase scene, is still a true classic, one that I could re-watch a hundred times. The 1968 film, directed by Peter Yates and available on DVD, in which McQueen plays tough SF police lieutenant Frank Bullitt, has not only great car-chase cinematography that makes you really feel like you are riding in the car, but if you are familiar with San Francisco, it is just so much fun to watch and try to figure out exactly which part of the city the cars are racing through (and they cover a lot of territory) or to note the changes in some parts of SF since they shot the film in '68. Check out the nine and a half minute car chase below, but if you want to see the whole movie on the big screen, there is an opportunity to do so tonight at 8PM (Sunday August 5th) at The Cannery in San Francisco at Del Monte Square, 2801 Leavenworth Street -- and the best part -- the tickets are FREE for the showing in the outdoor courtyard by the Fisherman's Wharf. To get further details either call first (415-771-3112) or go online (www.thecannery.com). The screening of Bullitt will mark the kickoff of the month long Movie Nights At the Cannery series.