Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave, once the Oscar frontrunner and perhaps still, has nine nominations. As we move into the final days of voting (ballots are due on Tuesday the 25th), how many of its categories can it win? I'm thinking about 12 Years again today due to Harvey Weinstein's awful potshot at it over at Deadline where he suggested that Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained was better at covering slavery.
I liked 12 Years A Slave, but Quentin covered a lot of that ground first, and dealt with violence, slavery and oppression, shining a light on the American holocaust, as he called it.
I'll flesh out some of the following thoughts in the "final predictions" article a week from now but until then, let's discuss it's upcoming Oscar battles...
I kid. I kid. Oscar outlawed those early in its history but it seems a shame that it's not competing for makeup and hairstyling, score, sound (all of the film's craft elements are quite enveloping) or cinematography the last of which was undeniably its most egregious snub. Sean Bobbit is one of the curiously many fresh stars of this field that are struggling to be 'let into the club' if you will. (Hoyt van Hoytema and Bradford Young have even more cause to bitch while still awaiting their first nod) But let's stick to the film's real nominations...
PROBABLY NOT BUT SHOULD LINCOLN GIVE US HOPE?
Recent years point to a hard to miss trend: Oscar voters adore tacky in this category so that's good news for The Great Gatsby. But if they wanted to give 12 Years a craft prize this wouldn't be a bad place and the win for Lincoln last year was a shock and hopefully a sign that voters are finally wising up to the fact that physical constructed and dressed sets as opposed to heavily computerized gaudy ones are sometimes worth honoring. This is Adam Stockhausen's first nomination and it's quite an about face from the great work he's been doing for Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel) indicating a broad range of Oscar-worthy gifts. He's relatively young so we can hope for many more Oscar nominations to come if he loses.
A PLEA FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT!
Patricia Norris is this year's oldest nominee (11 months older than John Williams! They're both 82) -- who isn't named June Squibb (84) -- and she's yet to win an Oscar but the costumes here are realistic rather than showy which is often a problem when you want to win. We'll have an interview with Norris up soon and discuss this category in more detail!
Look, it's anyone's guess in this category. Seriously. Precursors have been all over the place. Captain Phillips, 12 Years, American Hustle, and Gravity all have cause to cross their fingers and hope. Dallas Buyers Club is the only nominee that would be a true and utter shocker if its name were called and that's largely because it was the biggest shocker among the editing nominations to begin with.
McQueen has spoken at length about wanting Solomon Northup's memoirs in school curriculum and attention paid to important historic source material is a plus. But despite that the screenplay by John Ridley has not actually become a defacto frontrunner. He has tough competition from The Wolf of Wall Street a film that could rally the same voters who made the also raucuous, profane, and comic Django Unchained into an odd winner in the original category last year. And Captain Phillips won the WGA.
Result: I'm torn. What'cha think?
NOPE. Have you voted on this category?
In this were 2006 or 2010, on either side of Oscar's three year torrid love affair with evil men (Anton Chigurh, The Joker, Colonel Hans Landa) than Michael Fassbender's terrifyingly self-righteous and self-loathing Master Epps who is all around despicable would have a real shot at the win. But Fassbender did not campaign, he's not a co-lead (which helped Barkhad Abdi win the BAFTA) and his name isn't Jared Leto who's been (almost) sweeping.
Result: Nope. Can't win this one.
Unless the Jennifer Lawrence devotees within AMPAS, and they do exist, have to have her at the podium again, this one's going to Lupita. Read our interview with Lupita Nyong'o.
Precursor season wants what it wants and people want Alfonso Cuaron on the stage this year. We've previously raved about his filmography on the podcast so even if you don't love Gravity (like me) you can rejoice that such a talent is finally getting his due. Either way, we have a first this year: A first latino director winner or a first black winner (if McQueen surprises) in this particular category. FWIW: Ang Lee is currently the only director of color to have ever won the prize and he's won it twice (Brokeback Mountain and The Life of Pi).
My concerns about passionate Gravity fans torpedoing its chances here by ranking it very low on their ballots (Best Picture balloting uses "preferential voting" while the other categories go by simple vote count) were assuaged but this instructive video by Steve Pond at the Wrap. If you are a visual learner like me, it's the best way I've yet seen to understand it.
See, you can't really vote against something. If the votes are very tight between American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years a Slave (the presumed favorites) what's going to matter is not how low any picture ranks on any of those ballots but how high those three pictures rank on the ballots of Academy members who aren't passionately in support of one of the frontrunners. In other words, what's going to matter IF and only if voting is tight is what the diehard fans of Her, Dallas Buyers Club or Philomena like second and third most, you know?
Conclusion. 12 Years a Slave is going to win between 0 and 3 Oscars but I'm leaning towards 2 or 3. Haha. I'm so helpful right? It's worth noting that Best Pictures usually win baseline 4 Oscars in the modern era, 4-5 statues being fairly common. In the last fifty years there are only five exceptions: Argo, Crash, Rocky, Midnight Cowboy, The Godfather which all won 3. You have to go back much further to find less than 3 wins for a Best Picture. There are only seven Best Pictures that won less and all but two of them are from the 1930s when there were fewer categories in play. They are: The Greatest Show on Earth (1952, 5 noms/2 wins), Rebecca (1940, 11 noms/ 2 wins), You Can't Take It With You (1938, 7 noms / 2 wins), All Quiet on the Western Front (1930, 4 noms/2 wins), Wings (1928, 2 noms / 2 wins). The only films to have ever won ONLY Best Picture are: Mutiny on the Bounty (1935, 8 noms / 1 win) and Grand Hotel (1932, 1 nom / 1 win)
My final predictions will be up in a week.