12 Years a Slave

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Drama
, Biography, History
2013

Director: Steve McQueen Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, Alfre Woodard, Dwight Henry, Adepero Oduye, Michael Kenneth Williams, Kelsey Scott, Quvenzhané Wallis, Cameron Zeigler, Tom Proctor, Scoot McNairy, Tony Bentley, Taran Killam, Chris Chalk, Craig Tate, Storm Reid, Liza J. Bennett, Bill Camp

Academy Awards: Best Picture; Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Lupita Nyong’o); Best Adapted Screenplay (John Ridley)

Also Nominated For: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Chiwetel Ejiofor); Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Michael Fassbender); Best Director (Steve McQueen); Best Costume Design; Best Film Editing; Best Production Design

I First Saw In: 2013

Synopsis: In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.

Did You Know? The tree where Solomon sees several men being lynched was actually used for lynching and is surrounded by the graves of murdered slaves.

Quotables: PATSEY: I got this from Mistress Shaw. Mistress Epps won’t even grant me no soap ta clean with. Stink so much I make myself gag. Five hundred pounds ‘a cotton day in, day out. More than any man here. And ‘fo that I will be clean; that all I ax. Dis here what I went to Shaw’s ‘fo.

And now a Word from the Guise:
In the 87 years of the Academy Awards, there have only been seven Best Picture winners that featured leading actors that weren’t white. Five of these films had dual leading roles where one of the leads was white. This is the second of two Best Picture winners to solely feature a person of colour in the lead role, the first being The Last Emperor, 16 years prior.

There have been 14 black actors to win Oscars for acting, the most recent being Lupita Nyong’o. Only one of these actors has won twice, Denzel Washington. Only two black actresses have been nominated more than once, Whoopi Goldberg and Viola Davis; they’ve both only received two nominations.

Last year, the Academy stirred up a lot of controversy by failing to nominate any persons of colour for acting. It cannot be said that there weren’t worthy contenders: David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo definitely deserved nominations for Selma. Racism is still inauspiciously rampant in Hollywood. While I think it is mostly unconscious racism, that doesn’t make it any more acceptable.

Few actors have given performances of a calibre greater than that which was given by both Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave. While Nyong’o most deservedly took home Oscar gold, Ejiofor was cheated. Don’t get me wrong, Matthew McConaughey gave a solid and moving performance in Dallas Buyers Club, something that I never expected from him. But Chiwetel Ejiofor deserved the Oscar that year, and I can’t help but think that his race played a part in his loss.

When Will Smith took the Oscar stage to announce the winner of the 86th Best Picture, I was genuinely concerned that it would go to one of the films I genuinely did not care for: American Hustle, or much worse, Nebraska or The Wolf of Wall Street. I was hoping against hope that either Her or 12 Years a Slave would win, being my absolute favourites of the year. Hell, I’d have even been happen for one of the other four nominees to win as long as it wasn’t one of those terrible films! I was so overjoyed when 12 Years a Slave was announced that I cheered and clapped for probably a good 5 minutes.

Oscar Madness Ranking – ??? out of 233