Oscars®: Get to know a Best Picture nominee: “12 Years a Slave”

12 years a slave  Chiwetel Ejiofor Lupita Nyong'o MIchael Fassbender

12 Years a Slave

Directed by: Steve McQueen

Written by: John Ridley

Main cast members: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Scoot McNairy, and Alfre Woodard

Number of Oscar nominations in total: Nine

Other nominations besides Best Picture: Best Director (McQueen), Best Actor (Ejiofor), Best Supporting Actor (Fassbender), Best Supporting Actress (Nyong’o), Best Adapted Screenplay (Ridley), Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, and Best Film Editing

Notable precursor wins: Tied for Best Picture at the Producers Guild of America Awards, won Best Drama at the Golden Globe Awards, won Best Supporting Actress at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, won Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay at the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards and and USC Scripter Award.

Chances at winning Best Picture: One of the top three contenders and main frontrunners for the award

Chances at other Academy Award wins: Frontrunner in the Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay races

12 Years a Slave is the first film in my “get to know a Best Picture nominee” series, and it’s one of the main contenders in the category. The film is about the true life tale of Solomon Northrup, a free black man who was tricked into slavery and kept for the dozen years that gives the movie its name. Ever since it was announced that the film was being made, pundits like myself speculated that it was going to be an awards juggernaut. Well, it didn’t disappoint and after being the most cited flick among the precursor season, it’s now one of the most nominated films by the Academy and deep in the fight for Best Picture.

Working in 12 Years a Slave’s favor is that it is basically a universally beloved film. There might be more passionate support for other contenders, but it’s almost impossible to find someone who doesn’t think that the movie is at least very good, if not great. That creates a situation where voters are basically assured of placing it high up on their ballot. Consensus is the key to victory in this category, and this is a flick that will not want for number one votes. The question is simply if the other two main competitors (American Hustle and Gravity) can amass a wider range of Academy members to vote for them as opposed to this one.

If you’re looking for something that’s not in this film’s favor, it’s the simple fact that it didn’t dominate the season like it was expected to. Yes, it was mentioned nearly everywhere, but that didn’t always translate into wins. Both American Hustle and Gravity picked up major guild victories as well (SAG for the former, half of PGA and the DGA award for the latter), while 12 Years a Slave only has a share of the PGA prize. Yes, it took Best Drama from the Golden Globes, but Globe voters aren’t Oscar voters, and by that same token, American Hustle took the Comedy/Musical category there too. This creates a split decision for sure, far from the certain victory that this flick was anticipating months ago.

So will this movie win Best Picture? Currently, it’s ahead of American Hustle by my estimation, but a bit behind Gravity, so it could win just as easily as lose. Voters are still making up their minds, so it will come down to which of these three contenders gets the most support when voting comes to an end this month. 12 Years a Slave is definitely a frontrunner for Best Picture…it’s just not the only frontrunner.

Stay tuned for the rest of my “get to know a Best Picture nominee” pieces in the days to come, with American Hustle up next!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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