12 Years A Slave | Steve McQueen
Winning the Best Picture award this year is going to be quite a feat, as the past year has been full of phenomenal films. I can’t remember a year in recent memory that has been as good for movies as this one. Maybe, its just that I’ve been paying closer attention but I think the year 2013 will go down as one of the greats. If you’ve been following my Oscar pick posts, you should have seen this one coming. If you don’t agree with me, watch again and listen closely, I’m sure you will find something there that you didn’t the first time. There are convincing arguments to be made several of the nominees, so lets begin with the one’s that shouldn’t have been nominated to begin with.
Captain Phillips: No.
Philomena and Nebraska: These two are essentially the same movie. Middle aged man accompanies old person on a journey and learns something about life along the way. They were boring, uninspired, not funny, and unoriginal. Old people act old. Middle aged people act middle aged. Midwesterners act midwestern. I get it, they depict real life but so do movies like Inside Llewyn Davis and Before Midnight. Anyone who tells me Philomena was better than Inside Llewyn Davis is either a boldface liar or a really really big fan of The Dame. Simply put, neither Philomena or Nebraska were the year’s Best Picture.
American Hustle: The movie would have been better if they didn’t have the characters explain the entire plot to me. Do you like cool con artist movies? Do you like people pretending to be someone they’re not? Watch Catch Me If You Can. American Hustle has a lot of wasted screen time and it drags the movie out to the point where I began to lose interest. It still managed to be entertaining but a year like this demands perfection.
The Wolf of Wall Street: Wolf runs into the same problem as American Hustle, its a tad too long for its own good and ends up dragging us through relatively pointless scenes. That said, Wolf was probably the most entertaining movie of the year. And even, what are in my opinion the “pointless scenes”, add to the feeling of decadence and opulence. In addition to all its entertainment value, a clear critique of Wall Street’s corruption underlies the film. Again a year like this demands perfection and I feel that Wolf doesn’t quite measure up to some of the other nominees. However, it is amongst those truly deserving of its Oscar nod.
Gravity: Cuaròn is going to win for Directing, as he should. The movie is a spectacular spectacle and is visually appealing space journey mixed with elements of an existential drama and themes of birth, life, and death. In another year, it would have been a runaway winner. This year, if you’re going to talk about Gravity, you have to talk about All Is Lost. All Is Lost, is a better movie. Redford blows Bullock out of the water, pun very much intended. Oscar worthy as it may be, Gravity is not the Best Picture of the year.
Dallas Buyers Club: I wish the Academy would make a new category for Most Improved Actor, because McConaughey needs to get something for the amazing work he’s done in the past year. Its been tough to continually pick 12 Years over Dallas Buyers Club, because I think Dallas Buyers an exceptional film with important cultural commentary. The only justification I have is that the story and dialogue in Dallas Buyers Club wasn’t as much of a creative stretch as in movies like Her and 12 Years A Slave. Nevertheless, I think Dallas Buyers Club is one of those “perfect” movies.
Her: Is not going to win. Her deserves to win. Her gets relationships. It shows us how people communicate and connect from by taking different angle. Her shows us how important communication is in relationships and starts letting us believe physicality is animalistic, crude, and unnecessary. At the same time, there is longing, need for touch, and affection that cannot be communicated through words or exchange of ideas. Her shows us true love strikes a serendipitous balance between the physical and emotional. The soundtrack alone brought me near tears. Blaise posted it earlier but I’ll post it at the bottom of mine, Arcade Fire’s Photograph/Song on the Beach is as poignant as it is emotionally powerful. It captures the essence of the scenes in a way music shouldn’t be allowed to. Spike Jonze gave us a masterpiece when he gave us Her.
12 Years A Slave: I was crying within twenty minutes of starting the movie. It’s so hopeless, so brutal, and so true, it overwhelmed me. I can’t say enough about the dialogue. So, I’ll let this scene say it for itself:
Oh my God. Its poetry. Listen to their voices. Surrender yourself and let yourself be moved by the characters’ despair. The beauty of 12 Years A Slave is juxtaposed with its brutality to the point where you’re not sure where one ends and the other begins. See below:
You are hanging with him. The hanging scene alone is worthy of the Oscar.
Chiwetel Ejiofor is in command of his acting like no other actor or actress this year. And the cast supporting him all deliver extraordinary roles. Nyong’o. Fassbender. Cumberbatch. Pitt. Giamatti. Dano. Paulson. The list goes on.
The shots of Spanish Moss on trees and overgrowth on the river are on one hand breathtaking, on the other threatening, adding to the overall contrast between beauty and brutality.
Don’t sleep on the music in 12 Years either:
Oh yeah, Eijofor can sing. Listen to his voice. Look at his face. The anguish. The passion.
12 Years does not waste a breath, word, or shot. Some might call it contrived and overdone but I think it makes for an immersive experience.
I said it when I finished it for the first time and I stand by it, 12 Years A Slave is the most powerful movie since Saving Private Ryan.
So c’mon Academy and don’t pick another Shakespeare in Love.