Saturday, March 1, 2014

And the Oscar for Best Picture (Will Go) To... "12 Years a Slave"

Left to right: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Paul Dano
Ladies and gentlemen, we are very close to finally seeing who is going to win at the Oscars. It has been an exciting time with speculation of potential upsets and even the fact that there are three front runners at the moment for Best Picture. While Gravity is likely to be the biggest winner, there's potential for American Hustle to become a crowd favorite and steal the show. However, none of them compare to the best of them all. The one that in 20 years, we'll still be talking about and critiquing. Many have compared it to Schindler's List in terms of overall relevancy, and while that is a little hyperbolic for a film not even a year old, I agree with its powerful imagery and messages. I am of course talking about 12 Years a Slave.
Of the nine nominees in the category, there hasn't been another film that has challenged an infrastructure from history. It also is the epitome of a period of film making in which Civil Rights have been heavily in discussion. Consider that we're living in a period where the films The Help, Django Unchained, 42, Fruitvale Station, and The Butler are all quality films meant to appeal to mass audiences. We're living in an era where race is dominant in conversation, and at the top of the pile is the prestige film that was made with a delicate hand that exploits slavery in all of its horrifying manners. 
It encapsulates a lot of important messages missing from every other nominee here. The direction moves slowly in a meditative fashion that asks you to pay attention. It lingers until it becomes uncomfortable and forces the reality to be analyzed. Director Steve McQueen's vision may be the slowest of the nine, but it is also the most striking. Consider the amazing performances by Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, and Lupita Nyong'o. There is something to be said when a dominant portion of the film's most powerful moments are from close-up of Ejiofor's face, reacting to the horrors. Fassbender's hellish slave owner is one of the most violent and memorable performances of this year or any recent year for that manner.
The film's significance has already began to seep into the culture. Starting this September, the film as well as Solomon Northup's memoir will be part of high school curriculum in order to better study slavery. The film's exploration of humanity in a haunting place is a story that helps to better understand racism and will help to shape how slavery is seen by future generations. It will not be a caricature or some old literature, but an actual haunting image of people hanging from ropes or being whipped. It isn't right, but it does give the overall subject a definitive vision. There have been many films about the Holocaust that have since become part of the conversation, and it is only a few years before this film is likely to join it.
12 Years a Slave is going to win because it is a culturally relevant film exploring themes important to now as well as America's history. Racism continues to exist and while tolerance has become more prominent, it is important to keep informing those who can be lead astray. As fun and great as Gravity was, it doesn't have the weight in narrative or cultural significance. Even if the film's slight pacing will cause it to possibly lose out on some fields, the images painted in the film are something phenomenal, and to excuse it from the Best Picture trophy is to excuse films that aim for something higher and make a difference to the cultural conversation.

Here are my official votes for the Academy Awards. Click here to read them

There's my selections. Also make sure to check out Mike's and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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