Update: ’12 Years a Slave’ Wins Best Picture at the Oscars

"Twelve Years a Slave" stars Chiwetel Ejiofor (far left) and Lupita Nyong'o (center) with director Steve McQueen (far right) at the Mill Valley Film Festival. Flickr photo by Steve Rhodes

“Twelve Years a Slave” stars Chiwetel Ejiofor (far left) and Lupita Nyong’o (center) with director Steve McQueen (far right) at the Mill Valley Film Festival. Flickr photo by Steve Rhodes

 

I wish to extend my hearty congratulations to those involved with the film 12 Years a Slave after its success at the Academy Awards last night, taking home the trophies for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It was a not a clean sweep, and the Academy members rightly wanted to honor another ground breaking film, Gravity, with a slew of technical awards, Best Original Score for Steven Price, and the Best Director prize for Alfonso Cuarón. Interestingly, American Hustle got completely shut out. (A full list of winners can be found here.)

Back in November, after seeing 12 Years a Slave, I wrote a rather extensive analysis of the film.  If you are interested in reading it, click on this link. I have to say, it was refreshing to see for once that the Academy actually chose their Best Picture winner based on merit (at least in my opinion). The voters have a habit of going for feel good sentiment, or movies that seem to praise movie making, while shying away from films that are darker or deal with difficult subject matter. Well, not this year! Perhaps host Ellen DeGeneres was right: the Academy members’ only choices were to choose 12 Years a Slave or look like a bunch of racists.

One final note: the presenters for the Best Director award were Angelina Jolie and living legend Sidney Poitier, who was celebrating the 50th anniversary of his win for Best Actor, the first ever by an African-American. The main rival in this category to eventual winner Cuarón was Steve McQueen, the director of 12 Years a Slave. If McQueen had won, he would have become the first black director to win Hollywood’s top prize, and he would have received the statue from Sidney Poitier. I cannot help but think that this had something to do with the choice of presenter (as they could have easily had Poitier introduce another category), but it was not meant to be.

2014 Oscars Best Dressed List

If it’s the Oscars, you know that I have to be putting together a best dressed list for the ten most beautifully attired females in attendance. In order to avoid copyright violations, I am going to be linking to pictures of the garments in question rather than stealing them and posting them here. Just click on the name of any of these ladies to see what I am talking about.

10. Jennifer Lawrence – A classic red peplum dress; nice and glamorous, though it could have done with some more glitzy jewelry. (It’s the Oscars: if you’re not going to go with the glitz here, then where else?)

9. Naomi Watts – She played Princess Diana this year in a film that was widely panned, but this dress, which looks as if it could have been worn by Di herself, gets an ‘A’ grade from me. Continue reading

Update: Oscar Nomination Reactions

"The Wolf of Wall Street" did better than pretty much anyone expected.  Movie poster copyright Paramount Pictures, used for commentary purposes only.

“The Wolf of Wall Street” did better than pretty much anyone expected. Movie poster copyright Paramount Pictures, used for commentary purposes only.

 

For those of you who read my Oscar nomination predictions for this year and were curious to know how I did, I thought I would provide a brief rundown of how things went. I was 4/5 in every category, except for Best Picture, where I correctly predicted all nine nominees. Because the number of Best Picture nominees cannot be known for sure ahead of time, I provided a total of ten predictions, so one of them was incorrect. However, since I did predict all of the ones that were nominated, I think we should consider this one a perfect 9/9, no?

As for who will win the big award, today’s announcement changes nothing. It is still a three-way race between American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years a Slave.

Full list of nominees from Variety. Continue reading

Oscar Nomination Predictions

The red carpet rolled out in front of the Kodak Theatre (now the Dolby Theatre) for the 2009 Academy Awards. Flickr photo by  Greg Hernandez ("Greg in Hollywood")

The red carpet rolled out in front of the Kodak Theatre (now the Dolby Theatre) for the 2009 Academy Awards. Flickr photo by Greg Hernandez (“Greg in Hollywood”)

It is that time of year again: the time for Hollywood to engage in its annual orgy of self-congratulation.  The Oscar nominations are set to be announced this coming Thursday, January 16, at a time early enough in the morning for all the nominated actors and actresses to insist –

“Oh, I was sound asleep when my agent called me to tell me the good news!  I was so surprised!  This is such an honor!  Not that I think you can really compare art.  I mean, there were so many amazing films this year.  It’s an honor just to be mentioned among these other men/women. I suppose I’ll have to find something in the closet to wear…” Continue reading

“12 Years a Slave”: Thoughts on America’s Darkest Chapter

An examination of some of the issues raised by director Steve McQueen’s newest film, including its historical, cultural, and spiritual implications.

I did not go to see 12 Years a Slave intending to write about it, but as much for myself as for others, I feel a need to do so now.  What I saw was not an ordinary film.  I knew before I went in that it would prompt a great deal of philosophical pondering, but perhaps even this expectation has proved to be too small.

The film tells the story of Solomon Northrup according to his 1853 autobiography.  A free black man living in New York state, he was deceived and abducted into slavery while on a trip to Washington, D.C.  For the next twelve years, he witnessed the horrors of slavery on multiple plantations in Louisiana, until finally a chance encounter allowed him to press his legal case and earn back his freedom.  It’s the kind of amazing true story that screenwriters would normally dream about, but the darkness of the subject matter is likely part of the reason that no filmmaker has attempted the feat until now. Continue reading