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Harriet . . . Hurry it up and See It! | MOVIE REVIEW

Harriet Tubman is a name like Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglas; all were courageous members of the abolitionist movement. Ms. Tubman, short in stature, barely five feet tall, is a giant in history. And, the film, Harriet, tells the story of Ms. Tubman, the most well-known of all the Underground Railroad's "conductors” and her amazing ability to move in and out of the south. According to the PBS’ Africans in America series, Ms. Tubman made 19 trips into the South and escorted over 300 enslaved Africans to freedom and without capture.

Harriet brings to life a character whose story, without any embellishment, is amazing. Cynthia Erivo in the title role nails it. She’s authentic, credible and exceptional. There was some pushback over Director Kasi Lemmons’ selection of Erivo, a British actress, in the role of an African American icon. But no one can legitimately challenge that choice after seeing the film.

Ms. Tubman created her own true-life Mission Impossible scenarios. Once she alone escaped to Philadelphia, her accomplishment was widely celebrated in anti-slavery circles. But ignoring warnings about repeating the incredible feat, she made multiple returns, and as her reputation grew, each trip became more dangerous.

At first, it was believed that the person who had become known and wanted as “Moses” was a white male abolitionist in blackface. Because only a white male would be capable of pulling off such cunning and dangerous exploits. But once it was learned that Moses was black and female the outrage and determination to capture her grew.

The film opens with one of the claims associated with Harriet. She prays for her owner’s death. His son, Gideon (Joe Alwyn) overhears Harriet’s imploring to the heavens and tells her God doesn’t listen to Ni. . . people like her. Gideon’s father dies that night.

Harriet and Gideon grew up together and as was often the case with enslaved people and their slaveholders, their relationship was complicated.

Maybe I am a coward. But if I had seen Harriet pray for the death of someone and that someone died shortly thereafter, unlike Gideon, I would have been very kind to her from then on.

One feature of Director Kasi Lemmons’ films that I like is her black characters have depth. They fall in love, make emotional connections with each other and pursue hopes and dreams.

But this film also has the typical Hollywood fairytale gloss. There were always perfectly timed messages from above directing Harriet throughout her journeys. Also, as was the case in another story from that period, 12 Years a Slave, blacks in the North are portrayed as full and equal citizens, dressing in the finest wear, living comfortably and interacting with whites as friends and colleagues. And that was simply not the case.

While blacks were free in the North, they were neither the social nor the professional equals of whites and rampant discrimination was the norm.

As to cast diversity, Harriet follows the racial demographics of that time.

Harriet, also starring Leslie Odom, Jr. and Janelle Monae, is a historical, educational and entertaining event, and you should See It! It’s rated, PG-13 for thematic content throughout, violent material and language including racial epithets. Harriet is 125 minutes in length.


12 Years A Slave Secures Nine Academy Award Nominations

Pharrell Williams Earns His First Oscar Nomination; American Hustle and Gravity Lead the field with 10 Noms

The Oscar nominations are in.

Amid a fairly vocal crowd, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first African-American president of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and actor Chris Hemsworth, today announced the 2014 Oscar nominations, which was held at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre at 5:38 a.m. PT.

The film, 12 Years A Slave, grabbed the following nine nominations:

1. Best Picture (Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen and Anthony Katagas)
2. Best Director (Steve McQueen)
3. Best Actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor)
4. Best Supporting Actor (Michael Fassbender)
5. Best Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong'o)
6. Best Adapted Screenplay (John Ridley)
7. Best Production Design (Adam Stockhausen and Alice Baker)
8. Best Costume Design (Patricia Norris)
9. Best Film Editing (Joe Walker)

More Oscar Contenders

Gravity and American Hustle top the Academy Award nominations with 10 each.

In addition to 12 Years A Slave, eight other films are Best Picture contenders. They are: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, and The Wolf of Wall Street.

Pharrell Williams received an Oscar nom for the song, Happy; from the movie, Despicable Me 2.

Happy, written and performed by Pharrell, was one of five songs nominated for a Best Song Academy Award. Also nominated in this category are Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, also known as U2 for their song Ordinary Love from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Paul Hewson also known as Bono wrote the lyrics.

Barkhad Abdi received a nomination for Best Actor for his role as a Somali pirate in Captain Phillips.

In the Best Documentary category, 20 Feet from Stardom, a film about the lives of backup singers to some of the music industry's biggest names, also secured an Oscar nom.

Hollywood celebrities, actress Jennifer Lawrence received a nomination for Best Supporting Actress in American Hustle; Leonardo DiCaprio earned his fifth nomination for Best Actor for The Wolf of Wall Street; Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto both received nominations for Dallas Buyers Club, in the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories respectively.

The Oscar Shut-Out

Oddly enough, Lee Daniels who received a nomination for Best Director for Precious, did not get nominated for his critically acclaimed film, Lee Daniels' The Butler, and neither did any other actors associated with The Butler. Sorry, Ms. Oprah Winfrey and Mr. Forest Whitaker.

Fruitvale Station and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom were also shut out from Academy Award nominations for acting, Best Director or Best Picture. Many were hoping that Idris Elba would get a nod for his role as the late South African president, Nelson Mandela, in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

To see the entire list of Oscar nominations, visit

Find out who will win an Oscar when the 86th Academy Awards ceremony, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, airs live on Sunday, March 2, 2014, at 7:00 p.m. ET.

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