Fresh Cucumbers review
Movie: 12 Years a Slave
Runtime: 2 hours, 14 minutes
Production budget: $20 million
Opening weekend: $936,000
Domestic haul: $50.3 million
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael K. Williams, Michael Fassbender
Genre: Drama, based on a true story
Accolades: Best Picture Oscar 2014
Director: Steve McQueen
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
No. of theaters: 1,474
Believe it or not it is often easy to tell if you may like a movie based solely on the information above. Sometimes, a single data point is enough to help you decide if it’s worth plunking down your hard earned cash for, and other times it may take everything combined to clue you in. And even that’s not always enough, so enter Fresh Cucumbers. But first, let me explain the potential value of some of the pure facts as listed above. Let’s take them one at a time, as related to this movie (which we will call “Slave” here on out).
Run time: Whenever a movie is over 2 hours long you can count on being able to tell why it’s so long, while watching it. Generally, storytelling on the big screen use to abide by a simple rule of journalism called “Don’t describe sunsets.” This means, if it doesn’t advance the story, leave it out. Whenever you see that a movie’s run time is over 2 hours, you, yes, you, the untrained armchair director will be able to see what should have hit the cutting room floor. And Slave is no exception. You’ll run into scenes in which there is closups of someone’s head, and that’s it, you can literally go make a bag of popcorn in the microwave before the camera fades. There’s a few other scenes for instance where there’s about 10 buck naked actors standing around taking pretend pee’s and the camera lingers, and lingers, and lingers. Even when my lovely assistant Sarah hit the fast forward button, the scene still carried on. This is a sign of poor editing, yet is becoming more commonplace in Hollywood.
Production budget: This has been an issue of much debate, as many an Indie film with a low budget winds up being a better movie than a $300 million “Titanic” of a movie. However, low budget movies surpassing high budget movies in terms of ticket sales, is by far the exception and not the rule. Slave however would seem to be one of these exceptions because, though $20M is nothing to sneeze at, it’s take of 2.5 times that in ticket sales is another sign of a movie that works. Speaking of which, however, a haul of $50M is a sign of low popularity for a movie. Didn’t use to be that way but here about 15 years ago, the new norm for measuring a blockbuster became about $100M domestic ticket sales.
No. of theaters: Affecting ticket sales to a large degree is how many theaters a movie opens, and then expands to. Slave sold it’s way into about 1,400 theaters, which is a somewhat bad sign for a movie. It generally means that a movie didn’t have the oomph (star power, production budget, obvious wow factor) to convince distributors to make it into 2, 3, or even 4 thousand theaters like most eventual blockbusters. And theater average is another tell tale sign. Slave harvested almost $7M on wide opening, and again, this would be a sign that it’s a so-so movie at best, at least as told by people’s wallets. Per theater average is perhaps a better figure to go by and Slave picked $5,835 per theater which puts it in a so-so category. Gravity by contrast floated three times that average per-theater and had a $50 million opening. Pocketbooks generally don’t lie.
Oscar wins are always a great debate waiting to happen. In decades past, the accusation was that the big budget, big star movies were the ones to automatically win. In a response to that, the Academy now often errs the opposite way, and often picks movies that didn’t necessarily do really well in theaters, and Slave is no exception.
Hopefully some of what I’ve written here can help you to make future decisions about whether or not a movie is worth plunking down your hard earned Gummi Bears and Raisinette money for, not to mention the $11 bags of popcorn.
Now, as for the movie itself… this was a refreshing break for me from movies like Gravity which had not only zero gravity, but zero story as well. Slave had a wonderful progression of honest to goodness yarn spinning, even if however truthful yarn spinning if that’s possible. Were it not for the languishing scenes that should’ve been shortened by 2/3rds, the movie fairly kept me on the edge of my seat. Although by the end of the movie, it felt like it was real time (12 years) later, and I fairly didn’t care if the whole lot of them died from a nuclear explosion (I was ready for bed).
Now here’s a fair warning: If you don’t like meanness, don’t watch this movie. It’s mean to its core from beginning to end. What is mean about it? Oh, I don’t know, the constant slapping of people, the throwing of heavy glass into someone’s head, the bloody meat hanging off peoples backs from being whipped, the denigration of humans and the forced whipping of one another by fellow slaves. Now, I’m sure that this movie depicted actual atrocities that took place, however, I’m pretty sure no one would be left with anyone if in real life everyone was getting beat to a bloody pulp day and day out. And so, much of the violence seemed gratuitous, and perhaps a higher paid director and writer would have found more creative license in story development and relied less on just, plain, meanness. It was actually difficult to watch, and I felt guilty for being “entertained” at the concept of other’s extreme pain. We fast forwarded quite a few scenes, and not just the slaves peein’ and poopin’ scenes (yes, remember what I said, don’t describe sunsets, especially if someone’s taking a dump during one).
Based on this movies stats shown in the beginning, I would normally choose not to watch this movie, save for one stat. And that is the fact that it won best picture. I always try to watch Oscar winning movies even if it sometimes goes against my judgement. In this case I bordered on being sorry I watched it, since I get very uncomfortable witnessing other’s suffering (which is why I also can’t watch the epic fail videos, even on America’s Funniest Video). If someone gets hurt, I cannot in good faith say “Yeah, that was appealing to me, I’d recommend it.” I however do not think you can really go wrong watching this movie, because despite it’s amateurish elements, and despite it’s evil overtone of 2 hours and 14 minutes of human suffering, it somehow rises above all that, and I give it a thumbs up.
I am Mr. Cucumber for Fresh Cucumbers.
Fresh Cucumbers review