Gravity or 12 Years A Slave: Making Oscar History Either Way

Gravity-12-years-a-slave

As discussed in yesterday’s final Oscar Predictions entry, this year’s top prize comes to two major frontrunners. It’s so close that honestly nobody really knows how it will turn out. (Some will guess right, but they don’t have any more insight than anybody else.) It’s the closest race we’ve seen since 2000’s Gladiator vs Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon vs Traffic. It could conceivably be even closer, but American Hustle seems to have lost a little steam in recent weeks. Still we’re left with two generation-defining films, both of which would make history if they were to win.

Gravity would make history by being the first 3D film ever to win Best Picture. It would also be the first sci-fi/space movie. Genre films tend to get a bad rap with the Academy elite, but that’s not impossible to over come. A decade ago the third Lord of the Rings movie became the first fantasy film to win. The 3D thing is the bigger get. It’s the new(ish) technology that seems determined to change the way audiences approach movies, possibly at the expense of films with smaller budgets. It’s understandable that industry voters might be wary. But then again, it’s movies like this, that go so far beyond their technical achievements to touch something primal and human in all of us, that have the ability to move us forward. It’s no surprise that a director like Alfonso Cuarón is behind this – he has always had an amazing talent for bringing humanity to genre.

12 Years a Slave would make history be being the first film to win written and directed by back filmmakers and starring a mostly black cast. It would also be the first film since Gone With the Wind to even touch on the subject of slavery. In 86 years of Oscar history, this is an embarrassing statistic. Slavery isn’t just a “black thing”; it’s a huge tragic piece of history for every American. Not only that, but modern-day slavery continues throughout the world. Like Gravity, it takes a film like this that touches on universal human themes to bring us all together, to move forward as one.

As unlikely and rare as it would be, I’m predicting a split: 12 Years a Slave will win Picture and Cuarón will win Director. That could mean the history-making story of either could be seen as being a little stunted. We would still be 86 years into Oscar history without a single black director having won. (Steve McQueen is only the 3rd ever even nominated.) And we would still not have a 3D sci-fi/space Film in the list of Best Pictures.

That may be how we remember this year in the future, but that’s also missing the picture entirely. 2013 was a truly incredible year for filmmaking. There were literally dozens of amazing films, any of which would have made worthy winners. That no fewer than two groundbreaking works of art have made it this close to the big prize is nothing short of astounding.

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