12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave. Not sure how to talk about this one. Hard to watch. At times it is very, very on-the-nose. If you’ve seen Steve McQueen’s Shame and Hunger, this will be no surprise. But it’s strange that it doesn’t feel… dramatic. It is focused. It is facts. It also makes you feel some of the same unease (the score is a huge contributor here). The movie is all in the protagonist’s perspective, which unfortunately means everyone else can seem a little flat (despite the cast being awesome), or merely functional. But it also puts you in the center, witnessing the moral bargains and compromises, comparing and contrasting how each person manages an impossible situation, and perhaps suggesting the futility of passing judgment on how each copes. A couple more things to note. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but you don’t get the sense of time passing, though it’s ostensibly twelve years we see. Could definitely be by design – the monotony and sameness by design – I’m just not sure. And I gotta say, I’m not thrilled with Brad Pitt’s late appearance. He’s got too much star power to show up so late, in such a role, for so short a period. I couldn’t quite get used to him. It’s not his fault, though. Anyway, good movie. The contrast with Django Unchained could not be more stark.

Star Trek: First Contact

Star Trek: First Contact. I hear this is the best of the TNG cast, and it is good, but doesn’t measure up to the best of the original cast. Definitely darker. Some of that innocence and optimism is gone (which makes some of the humor and goofiness just… awkward), though thankfully the special effects are finally worthy of the setting. Highlights? I loved the editing and cuts between the scenes on Earth and the various ship scenes–so fluid. Patrick Stewart breaks out of Shatner’s shadow at last. The scenes with Data and the Borg are really good. The spacewalk scene is one of the most typically movie-theater-type fun set pieces in the whole series. There’s also a thematically appropriate opera reference in the solid soundtrack. I liked it.