Tag Archives: Steve McQueen

2013’s Top Nine


So here they are, my best of 2013. I’ll allow my two-month demurral and the list’s incompleteness (who does a top nine?) to speak for the sort of year I had in the theaters. Still, I saw enough to have an opinion and I’m going to share it with you.


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12 Years a Slave (2013)



Steve McQueen probably hated Django Unchained. Where Tarantino’s Django Unchained toyed with history’s facts to make the horrors of slavery a plot point, 12 Years a Slave is a film about a torture perpetrated on millions of black men, women and children. McQueen’s third feature isn’t interested in the audience’s comfort or catharsis, and tells a story full of vicious, hard violence and fractured souls. McQueen brings you as close as he possibly can to the horrors of antebellum slavery, not shying from bloody truths, and ultimately reminds us that far, far too often, history’s mad men and their ugly horrors go unpunished and unredressed.

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Shame (2011)

There’s a better version of Shame on the cutting room floor. Somewhere in the hours of unseen footage shot by Director Steve McQueen exists a film that lives up to the hype. A film less ambiguous, with a concrete arch, and character exchanges that don’t feel piecemeal. A film less dependent on intuition and more respectful of storytelling. A film not so thoroughly entrenched in a mood. And that would be a hell of a film to see, because Shame is built on some pretty powerful stuff as it is. The performance of Michael Fassbender will certainly get everyone talking, and almost as certainly garner a nomination. And there are things McQueen does as a director that prove he deserves the job. But the unfortunate reality is that Shame is only some of what it should have been, and simply not as good as it could have been.

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Bullitt (1968)

Though quantifying “cool” is and will always be more guesswork than anything, we seem to nonetheless know it when we see it. Certainly people knew it’s presence in Steve McQueen, the penultimate “cool guy” of the late 60s/early 70s. McQueen was nonchalant and effortlessly charming both in his films and real life, and with his affinity for cars and bikes, became the figurehead for celebrity leisure. Like James Dean before him, McQueen seemed to get by mostly on not giving a fuck, though McQueen’s mellow aloofness seems more natural than Dean’s cultivated independence. With Bullitt, McQueen and Director Peter Yates seem intent on bottling this charm and pouring it in large doses over the entirety of the film; a style that works pretty well, until you start worrying about those pesky little nuances like plot and character.

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