It might be premature to predict that 12 Years A Slave will win the Best Picture Oscar and that its director, star and female costar — Steve McQueen, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o — could take the Best Director, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress trophies. But having seen Slave I can say without question that it’s not crazy or unreasonable to imagine this. At all. And if you throw in those other spitball noms for The Butler‘s Forrest Whitaker (Best Actor) and Oprah Winfrey (Best Supporting Actress) and Fruitvale Station‘s Ryan Coogler (Best Director) and Michael Jordan (Best Actor) you’re talking about the strongest Afro-centric presence at the Oscars in Hollywood history.
Grantland‘s Mark Harris isn’t saying yea or nay to this trend or emergence or what-have-you, but he is saying the following: (1) “It’s September, for God’s sake”; (2) “I haven’t seen 12 Years a Slave“; (3) “You haven’t seen 12 Years a Slave“; (4) “Oscar observers are not the same as critics, the paying public, or Academy members, all of whose verdicts will be more important to the fate of the movie than the thoughts of anybody who’s talking about it today, and as of this writing, most of the people who will matter the most cannot spell Chiwetel Ejiofor without Google”; (5) “This whole discussion has not really been about the content or quality of 12 Years a Slave at all (when it opens, we can have a real conversation).
“It’s a long road to the Oscars, and even if 12 Years a Slave ends up crossing the finish line first, no movie makes it from September to February without hitting some speed bumps — other movies, backlash, op-ed page harrumphing, hype fatigue.”
And you know what? Harris is right. Some form of 12 Years pushback (which may or may not be ushered in by an underwhelming box-office response…we’ll see) is almost inevitable.
Closing Harris thought: “The problem with settling too soon on a ‘year of the black movie’ Oscar narrative is that it erodes distinctions within a set of films whose power lies in how unique each one is; it’s a diminishment disguised as a celebration. Proceed with caution.”