12 Years a Slave has largely been viewed as the film to beat in this year’s awards races, but some early snubs by influential critics groups might suggest the movie isn’t the shoo-in for the best picture Oscar many pundits predicted it would be.
Although neither organization has a perfect track record of predicting who will take home the prestigious Oscar, they do play a big role in persuading on-the-fence Academy voters.
And while the New York critics did award 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen, the other major contenders — Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o and the film itself — were passed over. David O’Russell’s star-studded American Hustle took home their best picture and supporting actress awards. And the legendary Robert Redford won best actor for his acclaimed performance in the indie film All Is Lost.
12 Years a Slave fared even worse with the NBR. While the movie was included in their annual best films of the year list, it didn’t win a single individual award for acting or directing. Spike Jonze’s offbeat drama Her ended up the surprise choice as the year’s best movie.
McQueen’s drama also went home empty handed at Gotham Independent Film Awards, despite entering that competition with the most nominations.
Still, African-American filmgoers can rejoice over a resurgence of support for Fruitvale Station, the powerful recreation of Oscar Grant’s final days, which had largely been forgotten in the Oscar conversation. It took home best supporting actress (Octavia Spencer) and breakthrough performance honors (Michael B. Jordan) from NBR.
Did the movie peak too son? Did all the press crowning the movie an Academy Award frontrunner backfire? Did the film’s only modest box office success hurt it? Or did the intense slavery scenes of the film turn off predominately white, older film critics?
The answer to all of these questions may be yes. Only time will tell.
Some movie fans will remember the fate of The Color Purple one of the last predominately black-cast films to be a best picture frontrunner. Despite being a blockbuster hit and scoring 11 Oscar noms, the movie didn’t win a single one back in 1986.
At the time the NAACP called the results a “slap in the face.” To this day, some believe the racial subject matter and make-up of the racial make-up of its cast may have played a role in that film’s defeat.
Golden Globe nominations come out next Thursday and if 12 Years a Slave has a good showing it could go a long way to establishing its status as the most likely best picture winner at Hollywood’s highest honors — the Academy Awards.