I’m socked in by the flu, so I may not be able express myself with my accustomed clarity of thought. But this conversation has gone many whack directions, I feel a need to step in and try to cool things down.
On the narrow issue of Lupita Nyong’o’s role…I early on expressed my feeling the role might be a bit too small for an Oscar. Saying, well, Beatrice Straight won for an even smaller role isn’t a very convincing counter-argument. Straight won because Talia Shire, the probable easy winner that year, was bumped to lead, and the rest of the slate consisted of a godawful performance from the actress who’d won just a year prior; a role just as small from another best picture nominee; a Gothic performance that’s very popular among fans but was as far from Oscar taste at the time as could be imagined; and, what should have been the winner, a young teenager in a role that made voters queasy, in a movie a lot of them loathed. Straight was the least objectionable choice that year. In 2013, we have plenty of options – though not one obvious alternative, which is what makes this an interesting race.
Back to Nyong’o: though I do think the size of role may hurt her, I can’t remotely countenance the criticism she’s getting here. I think she’s quite terrific with what she’s been given to do, and I’m surprised to see such venom directed at her.
But that may come back to something about the film itself. I think now you’re starting to hear out-of-proportion criticism of the film in response to the wild enthusiasm of not just the film’s reviews, but also the bordering-on-cult quality of its online support. Not here, of course, but at other Oscar centered sites, it became an article of faith early on that 12 Years was going to be the easy best picture choice. This was true even before anyone had seen the film, which I thought was odd – first, because I of course don’t believe in doing such things, but more because I thought McQueen’s filmography till then was, in Oscar-friendliness terms, virtual anti-matter. But afterwards it got worse: site after site declared 12 Years an unmistakable masterpiece, and if you didn’t fall in line for it/accept it as the certain best picture winner, you were, per Jeff Wells, a pussy who couldn’t handle tough drama, or, per the inevitable Sasha, a racist (she really links to fling that around), or, by most of the crowd at GoldDerby or AwardWatch, in denial about an historic inevitability. This despite the fact that it was unusually bountiful year, with about half a dozen films that might win top honors, from critics or the Academy, in most years.
Oh, and it’s the same under best actor: if you don’t agree that Chiwetel Ejiofor does transcendent work that should waltz to a best actor win – if you think that his performance, like Redford’s, is a bit too internalized, and you prefer DiCaprio or McConnaughey or Dern…well, you’re denying the evidence of your senses, or maybe proving that you prefer hambone performances like Pacino in Scent of a Woman.
I saw my old college roommate last week, and he volunteered that the movie that’s disappointed him most all year is 12 Years. This is a guy with perfectly good taste, and he didn’t dislike the movie: he just thought it fell well short of what he’d been promised -- and what most the Oscar bloggers continue to say every day. I think this film is slipping into Brokeback Mountain/Social Network territory – so highly praised that many fans just find the actual film disappointing by comparison. (I know it’s holy writ in many places, including here, that homophobia killed Brokeback, and it no doubt played a part. But don’t discount people like my brother -- miles from being a homophobe, but someone who told me Brokeback was one of the most overrated movies he’d ever seen)
To finally answer a question Oscar Guy posed the other day: if I thought all those midget critics’ groups were expressing genuine individual love for McQueen’s film, I could respect it – but the fact that they all churned out virtually the same winners, a list that by miraculous coincidence matched the blogger pre-season template (and this isn’t the first time these groups have done the same), makes me think it’s a regurgitation, not a thought process. It’s their attempt to insinuate themselves into the Oscar process by falling in line for what they’re telling each other is a sure thing.
Which they’re still doing over at Awards Watch – telling themselves that, in the end, 12 Years will recover to sweep through the Oscars. Which is still very much a possibility (as Heksagon predicted today); perhaps developments over the next weeks will make the film’s trajectory a more positive one. But, to date, nothing has happened to make 12 Years a Slave into the front-runner, let alone an inevitability. I think Academy voters would love to split their best director vote two ways this year: honor McQueen, for his film and as the first black best director winner, but also choose Cuaron, for his dazzling directorial style (and he’d be an ethnic first, as well). Best picture widens even further, to include American Hustle. And best actor will be fought over by, at minimum, Dern and McConnaughey as well as Ejiofor. It’s entirely possible 12 Years goes home with a very disappointing haul…which wouldn’t be so disappointing if its adherents were not so adamant that it’s essentially the only choice out there.
Okay: flu brain is now taking me under. I think I said most of what I meant to. If I fumbled some fine points, please be kind.
Last edited by Mister Tee
on Mon Jan 06, 2014 11:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.