Tag Archive | movie review

Pinot Gris, Gumbo and a Movie Review

Last night, Jon took me on a date and I generously allowed him to pick the movie.  We walked downtown and had dinner at our local southern Cajun restaurant, Bayou on the Bay.  It is one of my favorite restaurants in town, with a good variety of southern favorites, like fried okra, hush puppies, gumbo and jambalaya.

We started out with one oyster shooter each, served in a shot glass with cocktail sauce.  You can add vodka if you would like, and perhaps one day I’ll try that high-octane version, but I love the non-alcohol version.  Jon had the vegan jambalaya with an IPA, which he thought was great, and spicy!  I had the gumbo with a Duck Pond Pinot Gris.  My gumbo was wonderful, with the sweetness of the Pinot Gris balancing the spice of the andouille sausage and other spices in the gumbo.  Our service was friendly and quick, and we had plenty of time to get to our movie.

Jon has a penchant for odd, indie movies, and his pick kept up with tradition.  We saw Anomalisa.  I’m still pondering it.  It is an animated film created with puppets about a middle aged man who wrote a book on giving great customer service, and he is giving a speech on his book in Cincinnati.  In his world, everyone is the same; everyone he sees has the same face and voice, with only differences in their hair and clothing.  He is clearly depressed, irritable and hopeless – exactly the opposite of the persona he portrays in his book.  Then he meets a woman who is different…

Jon and I took away very different messages from the film, and spent a while chatting on the way home (I don’t want to give it away in case you plan to see it).  We could each see the other’s perspective, and were intrigued by each other’s differing opinions.  From that perspective, it was an interesting film, and it did stimulate quite a bit of dialogue, but I’m not sure I could say I “liked” it.  But perhaps not all movies are intended to entertain – and instead we need to search for the learning opportunity.

So, I put it out to readers – have you seen Anomalisa?  What did you think?


12 Years a Slave

Last night, Jon and I went to the movies.  Admittedly, we aren’t big movie goers (who can afford to be!), but we both saw the previews for this film and were instantly hooked.  You have to see it.  I won’t give all the details, but if you are like me and don’t want to know the story before you watch it, then don’t read on…

12 Years a Slave is based on the true story and book written by Solomon Northup in 1853.  Northup was a free black man living in Saratoga Springs, NY, with his wife and three children.  He made a living working various construction jobs, and supplementing his income working as a violinist.  The book details his experience of being lured to Washington, D.C. with the promise of an employment offer, and his subsequent kidnapping and sale into the slave trade.  Northup was taken to Richmond, VA and sold as a slave, where he spent the next 12 years working on several Louisiana plantations.

The film begins with Northup’s life as a free man, and then quickly escalates to his luring and kidnapping.  His free papers are stolen, and he is stripped and dressed in rags, effectively making it impossible for him to convince anybody that he is actually a free man.  He is beaten violently each time he tries to protest and insist on his freedom, and his name is changed to Platt Hamilton to prevent him from being traced.  Eventually he concludes that the best course of action is to keep his cool and stay alive until he can formulate a plan to escape.

Sadly, keeping his cool and staying alive puts him in the same no win situation that most slaves faced.  First he is sold to a reasonably benevolent preacher who owns a plantation, where he is treated fairly well.  That isn’t to say that the preacher doesn’t have his flaws; another kidnapped free woman is sold away from the plantation when she can’t contain her grief over having her children stolen from her.  Soon enough though, the overseer’s contempt for Solomon’s intelligence gets him into trouble – the preacher sells Solomon in order to prevent the conflict from ending in tragedy (in reality, the relationship was more complicated than that; with the overseer owning a significant share of Plat and indebted to the preacher for the remainder).

His next owner is a harsh, religious lunatic.  While spouting Bible verses, Edwin Epps drinks heavily, sexually assaults Patsey, one of his female slaves, and forces the slaves to participate in bizarre middle of the night dances.  He frequently beats and whips his slaves, and his lunatic wife, who can’t contain her jealousy, is an active participant in abusing Patsey.  The brutality in the film is raw and realistic.

Years in, Solomon meets a traveling carpenter from Canada named Bass, who voices his concerns about the institution of slavery.  Solomon decides to take a huge risk and tell Bass his story, and asks him to write a letter to his family and friends back in New York, so they can rescue him.  Bass is aware of the risk to himself and Solomon, but agrees to help.

Solomon is rescued, but the reality is that very few free blacks and mulattoes who were kidnapped and sold into slavery ever regained their freedom.  We’ll never really know, but by some estimates thousands of free blacks were kidnapped and sold each year. When you understand that a slave sold for prices of $400 on up, which was more than a many people earned in a year at the time, it seems less surprising.  Not less revolting though…

The movie is very well done – but it is not for the faint of heart.  The portrayal is honest and violent, and leaves little to the imagination.  You can feel the pain and desperation.  Do see it and bring the tissues.