12 Years Might Be Finished, but Academy’s Rep Is Also In Trouble

Last night Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone posted a report about a Vanity Fair-sponsored Oscar bloggers panel that happened yesterday afternoon, and the “bombshell” of that event, says Stone, came when veteran publicist Peggy Siegel, who’s been staging toney Oscar-related gatherings in Manhattan for many years and who kibbitzes with Academy members and journalists constantly, “said that voters she spoke with (and remember, she goes to EVERYTHING) could not even bring themselves to watch 12 Years a Slave. You have to watch it, she would urge them. But they would hold up their hands and say ‘I can’t!'”


(l. to. r.) VF host/moderator Mike Hogan, Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson, Deadline‘s Pete Hammond, Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone, Vulture‘s Kyle Buchanan.

(l. to.r.) Peggy Siegel, Vanity Fair contributor Krysta Smith, Fandango‘s Dave Karger.

To me that sounds like bad news for Slave and the Fox Searchlight team, but what do I know?

I’ll tell you what I know. For decades members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have made themselves infamous for succumbing to soft, tepid emotional impulses in their voting for Oscar winners, but lately it’s gotten worse. It seemed for a while that they were getting braver by giving Best Picture Oscars to The Hurt Locker and No Country For Old Men, but the last three years have been crushing with Best Picture honors going to The King’s Speech, The Artist and Argo. And now (I hate to say it but it’s probably true) effing Gravity. Academy folk like what they like and don’t give a damn about what history will say or what people outside the narrow little AMPAS culture think about their mediocre aesthetic standards.

The problem with the Academy can be boiled down to the “deadwood” members — the over-the-hill crowd that doesn’t work that much (if at all) and whose tastes are conservative and smug and myopic. These people, I’m convinced, have been refusing all along to get past themselves and bow down and show 12 Years A Slave the respect and praise it absolutely deserves. Steve McQueen and John Ridley‘s film is honest and searing and, yes, at times difficult to watch, but it’s brilliantly sculpted and superbly acted and profoundly affecting if you let it in. But the old farts have been stand-offish if not hostile from the get-go. Dollars to donuts they’ve all voted for Gravity or American Hustle or even Philomena, but…well, nobody knows anything but my guess is that Siegel’s comment probably speaks volumes.

Has the old fart contingent tipped the general Academy vote toward Gravity winning Best Picture? Almost certainly. I’m sorry to say this and I’d love to be proved wrong, but I think the train has left the station and 12 Years A Slave isn’t on it, at least in terms of the top prize.

Slave believers aren’t throwing in the towel. The Hollywood Reporter‘s award-season columnist Scott Feinberg is predicting a 12 Years A Slave Best Picture win. Following Siegel’s remark Deadline‘s Pete Hammond said he wasn’t sure what film was going to prevail and that “he could detect no strong buzz for one film or the other but that it really was split between Gravity, American Hustle and 12 Years,” Stone writes, and that “the below-the-line people he talked to were all voting for Hustle.” Co-panelist Kyle Buchanan, Vulture‘s L.A.-based reporter and award-season analyst, said he was sticking to his early prediction (made during last September’s Toronto Film Festival) that Slave will take it. Co-panelists Dave Karger and Anne Thompson also said they’re sticking with Slave. But I don’t know, man. I don’t know. Siegel’s quote had a ring of finality.

Stone obviously found Siegel’s remark bracing. The word “bombshell” is not tossed about carelessly in her column. Siegel, she explained, “doesn’t have an immediate stake in the game at this point” and “was sharing her experience with those people and this movie.”

If I had attended the Vanity Fair discussion (which I had been invited to), I would have raised my hand at one point and said the following: “We’re all emotionally invested in the Oscars…we’ve been watching the show since we were kids…but the Academy is an insulated culture, notoriously so, and the world outside has long regarded the Academy and their soft, lowest-common-denominator Oscar choices as not only tedious and parochial but often deserving of scorn. The internet conversation has amplified and intensified this feeling of derision, certainly among the under-45 audience over the last decade or so, and I really don’t think the Academy can hope to sustain a respectable reputation with this much disapproval and disrespect among journalists and New Yorkers and Londoners and the young and the disaffected and fringe-y.”

You can’t put up the walls and turn off your computers and plug your ears and refuse to listen. We live in a level-playing-field world now. The Oscars are still “the Oscars”, but how will they fare culturally 10 or 20 years hence? I listen to cyber-noise every damn day and I’m telling you the Academy has largely been discredited as an elite society of smug fuddy-duddies. And yet when you listen to Academy members, when you chat with them at parties and screenings, they doen’t seem to be aware of this. They think everything is fine. They don’t get it.

For people who really care about and believe in the artistic potential of movies, to hear that many Academy members have refused to even watch 12 Years A Slave, as Peggy Siegel claimed yesterday…that is truly pathetic. The only way to save the Academy, the only way to keep it connected to the changing culture out there, is to reduce the impact of the votes of the ‘deadwood’ Academy members with some kind of weighted system based on their work activity. Things can’t go on the way they are now. If change doesn’t happen in ten years the Academy will matter a lot less than it does today. It 20 years it will be a shadow of its former self.

Do something about the deadwood…or die.

  • pretto

    Would it really be a bad thing if the Jeffrey Wells and Sasha Stones just stopped caring so much about the Oscars?

    • http://www.stlcardinalbaseball.com/ Ray DeRousse

      Without Oscar ad money, Jeff would need to find another job.

      • GigglesForGigli

        Spot on.

      • Kano’s_Razor

        He should probably be considering that, anyway, though. For the sake of his own sanity, yanno…

    • http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com/ Jeffrey Wells

      People like Pretto are really tedious. Just leave, man. You’re a drag. Just get up, put on your coat and leave.

      • JR

        Jeff, I love the Oscar stuff, too. Keep up the good work.

  • Perfect Tommy

    Just because Academy members don’t watch a film doesn’t mean they won’t vote for it.

    • http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com/ Jeffrey Wells

      That’s my hope. That a large-enough contingent has voted for 12 Years A Slave out of a sense of guilty obligation, even if they haven’t seen it.

      • HarryWarden

        That would be more shameful than anything else the Academy could do.

        • JR

          Agreed. Jeff, Sasha, and others are grasping for straws here, praying that collective white guilt (that they share) will propel 12YAS into the BP prize.

        • Michael Gebert

          Exactly, exactly right.

        • Perfect Tommy

          Can you really vote for this being the Academy’s most shameful deed unless you’ve seen all the shameful things they’ve done? (Talk about fierce competition.)

      • m_00_m

        That. Makes. No. Sense! It’s like saying, “I think this guy is the greatest boxer – I sure hope they fix the championship fight so he wins!” How can you value the result of a process when you know the process is complete bullshit?!

        • brenkilco

          “I don’t even understand what kind of question that is, Counselor.”

        • Sean Richardson

          The result of the process is a higher spotlight on a good movie and more people watching it for the rest of imaginable history, not the win itself.

          • m_00_m

            Not exactly. Sometimes all that attention gets to fall on a good movie, and sometimes it goes to “Crash”.

    • AnnaZed

      THAT is a good point. I wonder at the end of the day how many Academy members might vote for ’12 Years a Slave’ because they think that they are supposed to or are making history or something. I wouldn’t care how the votes came in though Steve McQueen well might and probably would be disdaining of winning an honor on those terms. It might make a good post ceremony question to him after his picture wins and he doesn’t (as director).

      • DuluozRedux

        Shame is, it’s easily the best picture out of those nominated.

  • http://www.stlcardinalbaseball.com/ Ray DeRousse

    This is surprising.

    THE WOLF OF WALL STREET should win this. If it can’t, then I was resigned to accept that 12 YEARS A SLAVE would be an okay replacement. If neither of those two can win, then my list of replacements goes like this:
    HER
    DALLAS BUYERS CLUB
    CAPTAIN PHILLIPS
    AMERICAN HUSTLE
    NEBRASKA
    PHILOMENA
    GRAVITY*

    *GRAVITY is a terrific rollercoaster ride, but it isn’t about anything other than creating tension and thrills. In my mind, that makes it a lesser contender for Best Picture of the Year.

    • Michael Gebert

      Watched Goodfellas not long before seeing WOWS and that really drove home how incisive Goodfellas is and how WOWS is merely a wild ride by comparison. Goodfellas is so damning about how Henry Hill deluded himself into thinking his lifestyle was ok as long as he didn’t have his hands directly on murder. You Were No Better, You Fuck it inscribes on his tombstone. When he rats out his friends we know that it is rough justice by the outside world’s standards but also that he is a hollow man.

      WOWS is Goodfellas remade as being about Jimmy Conway and rewarding him at the end for beating the people he dragged into the depths to the job of ratting first. And in the end he’s on his way back, king of the world who knows how to sell a pen when you pathetic doughfaced hapless fucks don’t. Two movies that are great rides, one has a stern apocalyptic moral center, the other has Leonardo DiCaprio showing how well he can wear a gorgeous suit.*

      * By the way, I got married in the tie that he wears in the scene where he does crack with Jonah Hill. No joke.

      • The Perils of Thinking

        To me the, stern moral message of WOWS wasn’t directed at DiCaprio’s character, it was directed at the “pathetic doughfaced hapless fucks” who see someone like him and think, “THAT’S who I want to be someday! Teach me how.”

        The film didn’t punish Dicaprio because our society doesn’t punish people like him; instead we venerate and kowtow to them. To me, that’s an even more apocalyptic message than the more narrow one in Goodfellas.

        • Ray Quick

          GOD BELFORT. Everyone watching the movie should be WHOLESALE ROOTING for Leo EVERY SECOND of the movie. He is a hero and a god.

          • The Perils of Thinking

            See? Point proven.

            • Michael Gebert

              The same tie. I had the same tie as GOD BELFORT.

          • brenkilco

            You should definitely avoid Triumph of the Will.

        • http://www.stlcardinalbaseball.com/ Ray DeRousse

          THIS is EXACTLY right!!!

          I’m not sure how people are missing this. The film roundly condemns the apathy of the general public in the STRONGEST POSSIBLE TERMS. People are upset at the movie for forgiving Belfort (even praising him?), yet the movie isn’t about that. It’s about the fact the THE WORLD lets him get away with it.

          • The Perils of Thinking

            Clearly we need a return to the mid-20th century morals code in which characters who behave badly are punished by the end of the movie so that we can reassure ourselves that justice was done and not have to think about it any harder on the way out of the theater…

          • Michael Gebert

            I don’t know, I felt it was there, but almost in the perfunctory manner of a pre-Code disavowing the previous 68 minutes in the last two. It just had more heft for me in Goodfella, where it was really the end of an era. Admittedly, the point is that the era hasn’t ended. I dunno, it didn’t have the punch and ironic insight it should for me.

          • Sean Richardson

            “the STRONGEST POSSIBLE TERMS. ”

            When? I mean, the strongest possible terms, that must mean that it is explicitly said at some point, right? Otherwise, explicitly saying something would be a stronger possible term. So when is that message explicitly said in the movie?

            • http://www.stlcardinalbaseball.com/ Ray DeRousse

              The entire movie, basically. Or did you not think three hours of over the top sex, drugs, and violence was obvious enough?

          • DuluozRedux

            Shut the fuck up.

            • http://www.stlcardinalbaseball.com/ Ray DeRousse

              I obviously wasn’t talking to you, DZ. I already know how YOU missed this point – because you’re a fucking moron.

              • DuluozRedux

                Good one.

      • Pete Miesel

        I sort of thought it all sputtered out in the last act, with a little more time to edit it might have been an A triple plus instead of a sold B plus.

  • JR

    If we put stock in what Siegel said (and I do), this elevates the chances for American Hustle for BP. Academy voters, unless they have no recent memory faculties left, have “passed over” DOR films for the top 2 non-acting prizes 2 of the previous 3 years. This is Russell’s ‘Scorsese/The Departed’ lifetime achievement moment, at least for BP.

    There will be a BP/Director split: Cuaron wins the Director Oscar, and AH wins Best Picture (or it could go the other way around, I suppose, but this order makes more sense to me).

    The only top drawer prizes in play for 12 Years: screenplay, and supporting actress, but I think JLaw slips in here as the sole actor to win for AH. Screenplay may be the bone thrown to 12 Years…and that’s all.

    What has been noticeably missing for 12 Years is any momentum in the Director race, and I believe that shows the film’s overall weakness in the BP race, too.

    • Christopher A. Otto

      God help us if 12 Years gets saddled with a “The Color Purple”-esque shutout.

    • Sean Richardson

      No, the tradition of throwing an acting win to the Best Picture winner has been largely abandoned lately. Best Supporting Actress is considerably more likely (based on previous performance) to be the *one* token award given to a movie they love but can’t give Best Picture to. Seriously, that’s more than half of the Supporting Actresses since the turn of the millenium; only once has it gone to a Best Picture winner, and that was 2001.

      I’m going with Russell on my Oscar ballot; there’s always an upset, and the only possible upsets I see (assuming that everybody agrees that ‘Hustle’ is 1 of 3 that can win) are Russell beating Cuaron or Cooper beating Leto. Russell, I think the actors branch could give him the boost he needs, he has gotten seven actors twelve nominations in four years or something ridiculous like that.

  • Ray Quick

    SHHHHHHH….. INDOOR VOICE, DON’T TELL NO ONE, BUT…

    12 Years a Slave is kinda medicinal and boring and when it ends you get up and leave having learned NOTHING and felt NOTHING whatsoever, because most people knew SLAVERY WAS BAD 160 years ago. It’s a neutered stiff of a movie, other than Dano and Fassbender, ie, TWO WHITE GUYS who bring an awesome electricity while CAPTAIN BLAND, UNCLE BEN CHEWITEL brings his trademark ZERO INTENSITY and looks really sad and gets to play DANTE FROM CLERKS, because the REAL TRAGEDY is HE WASN’T EVEN SUPPOSED TO BE THERE! ‘Cause HE’S FROM THE NORTH, HE’S A FREE MAN! So his INJUSTICE is way more important than all those workaday sadsack Southern motherfuckers who apparently, per the movie’s empathies, aren’t as important as this BLAND DANDY who got bamboozled by the guy from SNL.

    12YAS isn’t even in the TOP 40 BEST MOVIES OF 2013.

    • VicLaz2

      You’re trying to hard.

    • Big G

      I’ve said this before but it is so odd to me that Taran Killam is in this movie. Like if 1993 era Spielberg had given a small but important role in Schindler’s List to Adam Sandler.

      • Miles

        Or middle aged Ted Danson machine gunning a dozen Nazis.

    • Sean Richardson

      You are objectively wrong. It is true that this movie, as literally all slavery narratives do, begins with a person whose identity exists and is then removed from him by slavers, but that is because that is the only way modern audiences can relate to a slave narrative. But once the movie has carried you through this, there are significant moments that cinematically convey the true horror and tragedy of slavery, the generations who existed without even a proper identity to steal. I’ve never seen a slavery movie that was able to actually depict that successfully, or even try to.

    • Kano’s_Razor

      That’s being slightly reductive (esp. the top 40 part), IMHO, but you’re not wrong…

    • wordfury

      Pathetic racists like Ray Quick just sound knee-knocking, pants-wetting scared that stories about the historical experiences of Black people will start to be taken seriously, be given respect. It scares him shitless. Funny how there is no passage in the history of white people (the Holocaust, for example) that cowards like Ray Quick strain so hard to try to mock and trivialize. Only the history of Black people. Why? Because the history of Black people exposes things about the history of White people that poor, pitiful Ray would like to pretend aren’t true. He needs to feel comfortable and movies like 12 Years A Slave upset his sad little self-delusion. If he really thought so little of the movie, he’d just ignore it. He wouldn’t work so hard to try to discredit it. And still fail miserably in the attempt.

    • fishnets

      Spot on especially about blandness of Ejiofor and that the movie didn’t show us anything new. Hell, all of it was covered better in Roots and Django had more to say too.
      That said, I’m sick of Slavetards taking rumors as gospel. If some AMPAS members are refusing to watch, and you are afraid that they won’t vote, why the hell do you think Sidney Poitier is presenting Director? For Cuaron? LOL. Why do you think there’s unusual number of black presenters? 12YS is winning BP and BD at least. They wouldn’t dare put Poitier in presenter spot to read Gravity win. Or American Hustle, lmao!
      Also, anyone remember BAFTA sweep-voting for 12YS? Yep, total of 2 wins out of 9-10 noms. Big sweep indeed. So why do you think those VF rumors would be any different than BAFTA sweep-vote rumor that was obviously bogus or didn’t apply to many people?

  • Ray Quick

    Can we ascertain from this Oscar Season that seeing 12 YEARS A SLAVE in a theater was like some real HOLY SHIT KNOWLEDGE-DROP shit to Sasha Stone? The way she carries on about it, you’d think she’d NEVER ONCE in her time on earth even REMOTELY thought about slavery. Or black people.

    • http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com/ Jeffrey Wells

      It’s the singer, not the song. The singing of 12 Years A Slave is what made the difference…a HUGE difference. I was there in Telluride. I saw it again in Toronto. I know what that movie is. Either you get it or you don’t.

      • Ray Quick

        Yes, the “song” is the story of a smarmy white plantation owner horny for black pussy. THAT’S the ONLY thing in the movie McQueen cares about, because of his hots for Fassbender. The rest of the movie is kind of stiff, minus a couple Malicky nature shots and, again, Dano busting loose. McQueen is a SELF-LOATHER and it’s obvious his ONLY INTEREST IN THE ENTIRE MOVIE is in the SEXUAL OBSESSION STUFF with Fassbender, Nyongo and Paulsen. That’s when he comes alive.

        • brenkilco

          Well, without that STUFF the movie wouldn’t have a plot. Just two hours of drudgery, tedium and physical abuse. I think you underrate the film making somewhat but I’ll admit that in terms of ultimate value it could be argued the movie is just Roots with more blood. If it wins the Oscar it’s not going to be one that holds up over time.

          • VicLaz2

            ‘Roots with more blood’…Wow, just wow. Did we see the same movie?

        • Michael Gebert

          Affecting as it certainly is, the only truly original thing in 12 Years is Fassbender and his wife (and to a much smaller degree Cumberbatch) showing us how slavery’s petty tyranny bent the white people, too. Life on a farm is always boring, but at least if you’re white you’ll have the opportunity to become a world class sadist out of your sheer tedium. That was new and brilliantly played. It’s telling that the one thing I remember Ejiofor for in the movie is the scene where he lies and manipulates Fassbender by feeding faked innocence back at him. A little moment of The Servant in the middle of Sounder.

          • Kano’s_Razor

            It was “new?” Didn’t Django do that whole “isolation-cum-sadism” song-and-dance routine last year, though? Say what you will about the movie as a whole — its message seems highly conflicted, to say the very least — but the violence it portrayed (esp. the black-on-black variety) wasn’t a joke.

            • Michael Gebert

              Felt it was different the way 12YAS made the humidity hang in the air and the sadism come out of frustration and tedium.

              • Kano’s_Razor

                Yeah, that’s probably true — it was a different shading.

      • JR

        When I tallied my Top 10 of the year, 12YAS missed the cut. I saw it, and I got it, but I was not wowed by it.

        Same goes for WOWS; missed the cut. I got it (I was not offended in the way the staunchest critics were by the lack of moral certainty RE Belfort), but I found the movie way too long and poorly edited, highly repetitive.

        • Big G

          You’re not the only one. Kris Tapley, Todd McCarthy, and plenty of other critics didn’t put it on their ten best list.

      • MarkVH

        I think the reality of it falls somewhere in between where Jeff and Lex (Ray) are at with it. I think it’s a damn good film with some jaw-droppingly great things (Nyongo, for one), but it’s been overpraised to some degree for simply being that instead of this shattering, stay-in-your-seat-for-10-minutes-after kind of thing. I’m personally hoping it wins Best Pic since I think it’d be a good move for the Academy (though I think Wolf of Wall Street is absolutely the best movie of the year), but it’s not the game-changer many have painted it as.

        To be honest, in terms of sheer visceral horror, Mandingo probably gets as much right as 12 Years, even though it’s widely derided and viewed as exploitation.

    • http://www.awardsdaily.com Awardsdaily

      It isn’t about me. It’s about 86 years of Oscar history, about perpetuating black stereotypes, about rewarding only ONE film about the Civil War in 1939. It’s about only three films about race at all winning – In the Heat of the Night (awesome), Driving Miss Daisy (terrible) and Crash (terrible) – movies about black and white doing good but white is right. This is the first time in THEIR history a movie like this has come along told from the point of the slaves — THAT is groundbreaking for Hollywood and the Oscars.

      • Ray Quick

        You’re white.

        • http://www.awardsdaily.com Awardsdaily

          Six likes on that one. Must mean you really got me. So it was okay for me to advocate for Scorsese when he hadn’t yet won an Oscar because we’re both white. And also okay for me to advocate for Bigelow because we’re both white and female. But can’t advocate for the first black director because I’m white. Okay. So now on top of waiting for the “right” black film to come along we also have to wait for a black Oscar blogger to come along. Yeah, you’re right. Makes a lot of sense.

      • HarryWarden

        So, in other words, white guilt. Not a good reason to award a movie as “The Best Movie of the Year.”

        • http://www.awardsdaily.com Awardsdaily

          If you follow that thought to its conclusion you’ll see what the last three BP winners were. Look like the Best Movie of the Year to you? Do you actually think the Oscars award “best”? Or most popular, cause last time I checked it looked an awful lot like the homecoming parade.

      • Ray Quick

        it tells the story of a FREE MAN not a slave, and its only interest is in McQueen ogling his man-crush Fassbender, who is decidely lily white. It’s not like it’s fucking BELLY being up for BP.

        • HarryWarden

          Hah! Love the obscure reference to that movie. Why that movie anyway? First one that came to mind? I mean, Waist Deep was better, everyone knows that;)

          • Ray Quick

            Belly has pretty close to the best cinematography in a late-90s movie, courtesy Malik Sayeed, who shot some of Spike’s best looking stuff. Waist Deep is a fun B-movie, but Belly is some lunatic visual shit anchored by two TRULY terrible performances that are sort of hypnotic and add to the heightened, surreal vibe of the thing.

            • Josh Tate

              Hype Williams POWER.

        • http://www.awardsdaily.com Awardsdaily

          Also amazes me, continually, how this comment board lets you, lexG, do its thinking for them. And that’s only because you don’t care what other people think of you. But you know, you’re better than this. You know it, and I know it.

          • Michael Gebert

            You know and I know that you’re just mau-mauing the flak catchers by acting as if not thinking 12YAS is the best movie of the year (or Do the Right Thing– I assume that;’s what you meant, maybe Girl 6 or Inside Man) is a moral outrage comparable to slavery. I hope anybody is better than that because it’s nuts.

          • AnnaZed

            Just to clarify, I like Lex’s comments not because I agree with him (which I rarely do) but because he expresses himself so well (when he is on) and fights his corner so cogently. It’s very refreshing somehow. He also says things that other people think but just will not say. I like that too. I need to hear it sometimes.

            Every arrow pointing up thingy doesn’t mean endorsement of anything but him and his remarkable voice. I like to encourage him for that reason alone. If he would only get his shit together (stop drinking Lex!) he could have a passport and a blog making six figures and ride on planes and drive everyone crazy. That would be so fun.

          • Thom Phoolery

            I don’t know it.

        • VicLaz2

          It tells the story of a FREE MAN because Solomon is the audience surrogate. This is not supposed to happen to him. He’s not like the blacks who are slaves (see the scene in the store). The condition of slavery was as alien to him as it is to us. We experience his humanity stripped away bit by bit. He’s forced to strip and wash in public like an animal. The scene where he is first called the “nigger” is the most powerful use of the word in film history. It is just as much of a tool for stripping away his humanity as the stick he was beat with.

          The totality of his condition doesn’t hit home until the funeral scene. Slaves live and die without seeing freedom. When he joins in with the hymn his transformation is complete. This is the first time in any film where the audience can really feel the power, emotion and psychology behind the slave hymns.

          Contrast that with L’yongo’s character, who represents the psychological toll of living as a slave. Someone who’s willing to risk anything for a sliver of dignity (the soap).

          Had we been plopped in the middle of the life of slave, who never knew freedom, we would’ve been robbed of the impending and creeping horror of having your freedom stolen.

          • Correcting Jeff

            THIS. Gee, it’s not that hard.

            The brilliance of the story is that the audience surrogate isn’t a white person telling us how dehumanizing slavery is, but a black man showing us what it means to lose everything.

      • brenkilco

        You’re suggesting that it deserves to win even though in twenty years we’ll probably view it as a sociological relic like Gentleman’s Agreement. Is that your best argument?

        • http://www.awardsdaily.com Awardsdaily

          My defense to LexG was not about this film but about my own reaction to it. He said it was as though I never heard of slavery. My astonishment of it, as couched in the Oscar race, is about their collectively blind history, what they did to Spike Lee, and on and on it goes. My astonishment is in it getting this close at all, not in the subject matter itself. My reaction was to HIS description of my reaction. Not sure why I have to explain this but just read upwards. And I’m wasting my time here why???

          • DuluozRedux

            Tawana told the truth!

        • VicLaz2

          It deserves to win because it is an intense, emotional, beautifully acted, stunningly shot, wonderfully scored masterpiece.

      • Sean Richardson

        While I dispute the idea that the only race that counts is black people (anti-semitism would account for at least ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’ and ‘Chariots of Fire’, without getting into movies where it isn’t the main point but is present), I have to say I am amused to note that there are three Best Picture winners “about” racism towards blacks and two Best Picture winners that explicitly include blackface (and neither one is ‘Gone With The Wind’). The evenness of those numbers, while terrible, is amusing.

  • brenkilco

    Assuming that the tastes of a working academy member are more elevated or hip than those of retirees is wishful in the extreme, not to mention ageist. There may well be thirty year old makeup artists who couldn’t handle Twelve Years. Why not just be honest and demand an age cutoff if that’s what you want.

    By the way, kibbutzes? Think what you meant was kibbitzes. But even that’s wrong. What you really meant was just schmoozes. A senior moment?

    • http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com/ Jeffrey Wells

      Typo fixed. Get over yourself.

      • brenkilco

        Sorry, nobody likes a kibbitzer.

        • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCrSVkrZZoM Mr. Sunset Terra Cotta

          THOM PHOOLERY SAYS….

          Leave my dog out of this.

  • HarryWarden

    12 Years is a dull movie. It’s only white guilt that will get it any awards, which is not a good reason but whatever.

    • MarkVH

      Yeah, you’re not right.

      • HarryWarden

        Which part?

        • MarkVH

          All of it.

          • HarryWarden

            If you have white guilt do everyone else a favor and kill yourself because you’re pathetic.

            • MarkVH

              Hey Jeff, can we ban this troll?

              • HarryWarden

                For basically having the same viewpoint as Ray Quick? Or for not kowtowing to your white guilt POV?

                • MarkVH

                  Ray is a perceptive guy making an argument and supporting it. You’re trolling. There’s a difference.

                  • criterionstalker

                    Saying ‘NO black people do x’ is racism and trolling. You saying it’s all ‘white guilt’ is like a republican saying the same thing. Nothing perceptive except to other bigots

                    • MarkVH

                      Naw, Lex is no racist. And I don’t think he’s arguing that NO black people have seen the movie or championed it (he’s exaggerating this part), just that the audience primarily responsible for championing it is white. And even he admits that that’s anecdotal.

                    • criterionstalker

                      So he’s talking out of his ass and you’re in total agreement. That is some point.

                    • MarkVH

                      Erm, it’s Lex. Kind of what he does. Are you new around here?

                      And I’m not in total agreement, but reading between his exaggeration I can see a case to be made for white guilt as a driving force of the movie’s overreaching critical acclaim, even if I don’t particularly agree with it.

                    • criterionstalker

                      So you don’t agree but you kinda do.

                    • MarkVH

                      No, I’ve just been here longer than you (I assume) have and learned to “read” Lex’s rants. Hang around a little longer and you might too. Or not.

                    • criterionstalker

                      I don’t need time to “read” bigot hyperbole. I get it. That you find it perceptive means you’ve been hanging around too long. Or maybe it’s white guilt.

                    • MarkVH

                      Right on.

                    • criterionstalker

                      Let me add that Harry Warden is an idiot.

                    • Michael Gebert

                      Guess what I don’t have time to read?

                    • criterionstalker

                      A response not directed at you but you feel compelled to comment on anyway?

                    • Michael Gebert

                      Yes. Lex aka Ray talks about movies, often wittily, often from his own planet far from conventional wisdom, always interestingly. What have you done for me lately?

                    • criterionstalker

                      Apparently forced you to respond far from your very conventional wisdom

          • Ray Quick

            But, and this is only anecdotal, NO black people were really that into or interested in 12 YEARS. Saw it with a 100% lily white audience, and every time I’ve been to a multiplex in the seeming ETERNITY since it came out and FS has been trying to work up steam for it, I’ve seen like 10 MILLION BLACK PEOPLE in line happily to see things like RIDE ALONG and BEST MAN HOLIDAY, all having a blast…. while a bunch of DOUR WHITE WANNABE SCREENWRITERS went in to fill eight seats at a matinee for 12 YEARS. Just five days ago, I was at a mall theater with two MIDDLE AGED BLACK LADIES straight off the Oprah reading list and thought SURELY these two hens are here for 12 YEARS…. Nope, they bought two tix for Philomena. NO BLACK PEOPLE actually care about 12 YEARS. It’s some real NO SHIT shit for actual black guys. It’s only white bloggers who think this movie is some HEADLINE NEWS.

            • MarkVH

              That’s fair, but I think the “anecdotal” part sort of hinders the argument. I won’t argue that white guilt doesn’t play a part in the acclaim, because of course it does, but that doesn’t explain a smart black critic like Wesley Morris going crazy for it. I think the argument probably makes more sense in terms of a class divide vs. a racial one, though again, I don’t know have any real demographic data to back that up.

            • criterionstalker

              Anecdotal means just that. So saying NO black people is kinda stupid and factually incorrect. It’s like Duck Dynasty guy saying NO black people he saw were treated bad! Just because you don’t see anybody having sex doesn’t mean they aren’t.

              • Michael Gebert

                In other words, you object to actual observation (however valid or not) as soon as it fails to agree with your assumptions.

                • criterionstalker

                  So if I walk into a theater and no black people are there i can make a qualified absolute about all black people? Thanks duck dynasty.

                  • Michael Gebert

                    Yes, you can, without being banned by anybody, because we’re grownups and we can make up our own minds about whether we think you’re on to something or full of it.

                    • criterionstalker

                      Banning? it was markvh who demanded harry warden be banned for disagreeing. but nice try lao che!

                    • MarkVH

                      Did you miss the part where he told me to kill myself? Sort of what I was responding to.

                    • criterionstalker

                      So when somebody else who’s not ray exaggerates offensively it’s bad.

                    • MarkVH

                      When that’s all they do, then sure.

                    • criterionstalker

                      at least you’re honest about your prejudices.

                    • MarkVH

                      If you say so, man.

                    • Michael Gebert

                      Okay, this is clearly the least interesting possible direction for this discussion to have gone.

            • VicLaz2

              You’re an idiot, I am an actual card carrying black person with actual black friends and family and you’re wrong.

            • Correcting Jeff

              Yeah, sorry, it’s anecdotal. My counter-anecdote is the 80% black audience I saw it with in Northern Virginia, and they were into it in a way that told me they sure as shit cared about it (no talking, for one… you could hear a pin drop, and even tears).

              Walking out of the movie after it was over I felt like I should be reminding everyone my grandparents came over on a boat fifty years after the last slave was freed, i.e. please don’t take it out on me, folks.

              • criterionstalker

                “I was in a Starbucks in the Valley and there were no black people there proving my anecdotal theory that only white people drink coffee.”

    • Ray Quick

      Eh, to be fair, the white actors in it were really good.

    • wordfury

      I’m so sick of hearing this bogus “white guilt” charge from racists. Yes, racists! It’s their devious, malicious way of undermining any movie that seeks to tell the experience of non-whites, particularly Black people, and by extension prevent any future stories on the subject from being told. HarryWarden and other racists use the “white guilt” charge to hide their real motive which is they aren’t psychological or emotionally capable of handling a movie that doesn’t praise and glorify white people.
      Their arrested, racist narcissism, egomania and moral cowardice is the real reason they don’t like the movie. Not because it’s “dull” or because it plays on “white guilt”. It’s a story about a major part of American history told honestly. What he wants is for these stories not to ever be told so that he can be comfortable in his denial and self-delusion.
      Non-white people have had to live with countless movies demonizing and marginalizing them from Birth of a Nation through every Western up through every Dirty Harry movie where Clint points a gun at a Black man and says something “cool” on up through every Rocky movie where we’re encouraged to cheer seeing some Black man beaten into submission and culminating in the candy colored machine gun massacre of a bunch of Black men in Spring Breakers. Never a complaint from the HarryWardens about any of that, though.

      • JR

        wtf?

    • VicLaz2

      White guilt makes one appreciate beautiful cinematography, music, editing, and acting?

  • Bob

    I really can’t see the ‘old fart’ contingent going for Gravity. This is the type of film that they have rejected for decades and I don’t think it has enough of that “soft, tepid, emotional” impulse to appeal to that crowd.

    I bet Spielberg is wishing right now that he held Lincoln back for a year.

    • Christopher A. Otto

      Great point. Lincoln would lap this field (not necessarily for all the right reasons).

    • Sean Richardson

      Yeah, the old fart audience won’t vote for Gravity or Slave. But the real telling thing is, as the article says, even younger people aren’t watching ‘Slave’.

  • Ray Quick

    We’re basically down to a 4-movie race, no? Not that I think WOWS has any chance, but it’s in the conversations. WOWS, AH, 12, Gravity. The rest are all pretty much also-rans and actory things….

    Just for want to see it again and because it’s up my alley anyway, I took in AMERICAN HUSTLE again last week. Again, it’s my kinda deal, but…. kinda weird it’s one of the Big Four? Killer soundtrack and ripe Bale mugging and tons of great scenes, Cooper, CK, Renner, J-Law hotness, and credit due, Adams’ phony accent shape-shifting is the heart of the movie, blah blah, etc….

    But that said, by the last third of that movie — after the big “gangster” cameo, it’s kind of a series of actory scenes without a ton of propulsion, picking and choosing details, DOR hitting us over the head with this WE ALL PUT ON DISGUISES AND WE’RE ALL FAKES SOMETIMES theme — fine, fair enough, I love it…. but doesn’t quite add up to a HOLY SHIT EXPERIENCE or a plot-driven, old-man movie deal (like Argo, which it resembles)…. on second view, the STING-style “con” is a loss since you know it’s coming, and the movie has this weird deal where Cooper is this sympathetic henpecked horny sadsack you kinda like the whole time…. only to humiliate him like he’s been some big teeming asshole, which he really hasn’t been, except to CK.

    Eh, idk what the fuck I’m on about, I still love it, but it just seems like a collection of “cool” stuff and fun bits but the MISSION STATEMENT of “eh, Adams and Bale are con artists but they REINVENT THEMSELVES, WHOO HOO!” isn’t exactly some thunderous narrative depth.

    • http://www.stlcardinalbaseball.com/ Ray DeRousse

      I agree about the last third of the film except for that one gem of a scene with Bale breaking down because he betrayed his friend. Pretty honest stuff right there.

      • bill weber

        That one gem of a scene played like an SNL sketch that wasn’t trying to be funny.

    • DuluozRedux

      Fuck, American Hustle was terrible on all levels.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCrSVkrZZoM Mr. Sunset Terra Cotta

    This is what it sounds like when an insulated culture talks to itself.

    So much for “standing up and leading at all costs.” Not even a single mention of WOWS, yet it’s just hunky-dory if a film that isn’t considered the best of the year takes the top prize. As long as it isn’t that other highly regarded film, which has become the most stubborn straw man in the race.

    And now we get the argument that the Oscars are so sacred and holy that it’s more responsible to vote for a film one hasn’t seen than to vote for the straw man.

    People who “really care about and believe in the artistic potential of movies” probably shouldn’t be looking to the industry status quo for validation of their ideals. TIP: if your tastes are in perfect alignment with the Academy, you’re doing it wrong.

    • criterionstalker

      I think the Academy rep was in trouble when ‘Around the World In 80 Days won Best Picture. ‘

      • brenkilco

        When did the Academy start to lose its rep? Hey, Broadway Melody of 1929 was absolute crap.

        • Michael Gebert

          Naah, it’s quite peppy for 1929 and Bessie Love is excellent. Cimarron’s the first lame-o snooze to win.

        • Sean Richardson

          There has never been and will never be a worse winner than “The Great Ziegfeld”. It would take it in a walk, backwards, without factoring in a blackface scene which is inserted for no reason of plot or character (and which TCM leaves in despite cutting the intermission), but is admittedly more entertaining than most of the other musical numbers.

          • Jan Erik Kollstrøm

            Cavalcade. The answer is Cavalcade.

  • Steven Gaydos

    People people people, scroll down one friggin’ story. Reader the Raymond Chandler quote about the Oscars again. Then get a firm mindclearing grip. You’re only pretty as you feel. One pill makes you larger and one pill…

  • http://www.stlcardinalbaseball.com/ Ray DeRousse

    It’s pointless to talk about what “should” win the Oscar; that’s a subjective argument. It seems to be better to talk about what will probably win vs. what winner we can live with.

  • Christopher A. Otto

    1. What’s worse: Gravity winning Best Picture, or 12 Years winning Best Picture thanks to the votes of a bunch of people who didn’t watch it but want to fend off criticism; 2. If Gravity wins BP, there are a half-dozen science-fiction films I’d like to retroactively award Oscars to.

  • Cinesnatch

    “It seemed for a while that they were getting braver by giving Best Picture Oscars to The Hurt Locker and No Country For Old Men, but the last three years have been crushing with Best Picture honors going to The King’s Speech, The Artist and Argo.”

    Hurt Locker and No Country were not up against emotionally moving, crowdpleasing box-office hits. Social Network had the cool factor, but absent was a huge mixture of “touching Importance.” Artist enjoyed a piss-poor pool of competition. And Lincoln was the latest cure of insomnia … didn’t you argue that Jeff? Or would have agreed with that?

    The truth of the matter is that it’s a close race. Whatever wins will probably do so by a hair.

  • scastagnoli

    There isn’t integrity to the process if certain members are not seeing all the nominees for the best picture category. How can these people cast ballots in good conscience? This is a disappointing state of affairs.

  • Pete Miesel

    So when the Oscars end up lining up almost exactly with the guilds won’t we feel silly parsing stories like this for evidence of conspiracy?

  • VicLaz2

    12 Years a Slave is a true blue stone cold American masterpiece. The criticisms I’m reading on this thread are beyond ludicrous, almost like you’re searching for a reason to take the film down a notch.

    I have the race card in my front pocket here, and it might need to be pulled like an NFL referee. If we’re going to tribute the critical success of 12 Years a Slave to white guilt, I’m just going to have to throw up my hands and say no film about black people will ever win an Oscar.

    Too violent? There is ONE shockingly violent scene in the movie, and I for one am glad someone had to balls to finally show what a fucking whip does to the flesh.

    Two hours of drudgery and physical abuse? Pussies, you’re all pussies. Of course that’s what I get for wading into this lily white comments section.

    • JR

      Kizzy’s whipping scene was ridiculous because she would have never survived her flesh and muscle being shred to the bone as depicted. If she had died, at least of infections in the days that followed, then yes, that scene would have hit the mark.

      • VicLaz2

        Um, try reading some actual slave narratives, if you don’t believe it was that bad. Read the one this was based on for starters. There is photographic evidence available as well. Do a bit of research. Steve McQueen surely did.

        And who was Kizzy? The character in Roots?

      • VicLaz2

        Try reading a few slave narratives, researching photographic evidence and newspaper accounts. It happened and people survived.

        And Kizzy was a character in Roots, not 12 Years a Slave.

  • SlashMC

    My opinion of 12 YEARS A SLAVE agrees completely with HE:
    “I’m not a big fan of true-life tales of characters surviving painful, ghastly ordeals. You know going in they’re going to make it through or why else would a movie have been made? But why do I have to experience the ordeal? What’s in it for me?” – JW 2/26/14

  • PJM

    “12 Years A Slave” is a poor film not because of anything to do with the subject matter, but because it’s just a weak story. The protagonist is a flawless caricature who nobly endures untold agonies but is never tainted by the evil around him, and in the end returns to his family utterly unchanged by the experience. He’s never fundamentally altered or damaged by the experience of being enslaved. He never BECOMES what he is trying to fight against, for example. Had he willingly whipped Patsy at the end, in order to get back to his family, THAT would have been a tough choice. But of course that would be too controversial, so he does it under protest, full of disgust and pain. That may make for emotional close-ups, but it’s pretty weak drama. He never has to make a difficult choice in the entire film. Trying to get back to your loving family from the hell hole of slavery is not a difficult choice. Carrying out the choice is difficult, but the choice itself is very easy.

    • Michael Gebert

      That’s why I like the scene where he cons Fassbender by playing up to all his stereotypes. That showed guile and cunning in the character, not just nobility.

      • VicLaz2

        What the fuck would you do in his situation? Go Django on him?

        • Michael Gebert

          It’s not a matter of what Solomon Northup, actual human would do. It’s a matter of what the screenwriter chooses to depict. I liked that scene because it was more complex in the interplay between the two. But you’re going to hear everything as criticism now, so I’m wasting my breath trying to praise one part of the movie, which implies that something else was less good, which is clearly unacceptable.

          • VicLaz2

            No, I won’t here everything as criticism.

            I’ve heard the criticism around here time and time again, “Nothrup is passive”, “Northrup doesn’t do anything but suffer”, etc. I honestly don’t understand what the solution to that “problem” would be other than make shit up. Northrup’s journey/arc is existential and not strictly about “escaping”. The movie is pretty clear in presenting that.

            • Big G

              Well I guess at least the critics around here have seen the damn movie, unlike the morons in the Academy this woman has talked to.

            • Michael Gebert

              Yes, it is a well-crafted, often very affecting movie.

              It’s just not the only one of those this year.

    • VicLaz2

      That post is beyond idiotic. You do realize this was a true story and not some nice, neT screenwriter’s fantasy. The movie is very faithful to the narrative.

      And you do realize that millions of slaves were able to maintain their humanity and dignity. in the middle of evil. Why the fuck would it make sense for him to start whipping fellow slaves? Do you know anything about history? Have you ever read an actual slave narrative? Do you realize how idiotic that is?

      Solomon does have an arc in the movie. He begins the story ‘above’ enslaved black people. He is an audience surrogate. When he joins in on the hymn and breaks the violin he finally realizes he is no different from the slaves around him. The permanence of the condition of slavery is hammered home.

      Weak story my ass.

      • PJM

        “Faithful to the narrative”? What does that mean?! A story takes a POINT OF VIEW on a sequence of events, aka, a “narrative” by choosing which events to show and how to show them. You don’t present “facts” to an audience – you tell them a story! Do you mean that if I made a movie about the Holocaust in which I portrayed Jews as pathetic victims of ruthlessly superior German forces (until the cheating Russians overwhelmed them with suicidal mass attacks), you’d say -‘Yep – that’s faithful to the narrative!’ Of course not. Taking a point of view is essential to telling a story. And the point of view taken by McQueen and Ridley is a simplistic, nuance-free one.

        • VicLaz2

          I’ll repeat. 12 Years is. A. True. Story. Get it? It is a retelling of events that really happened as told by the guy it happened to. Having all those little fun screenwriting 101 tricks might make it more interesting (to you), but it would a complete fabrication. You can take artistic license, but that is ridiculous.

          Northrup was not helpless. He tried many times to escape, but the larger theme was one of finding kinship with people you once thought beneath you. Sorry if you missed that, it wasn’t painted on a neon sign, it was… Nuance.

          • PJM

            Well, I think we’re talking past each other. There are no “true” stories. There are only stories.

            • VicLaz2

              I. Understand what you’re saying, but your suggestion leaves the land of artistic license and veers into flat out misrepresentation. We can take artistic license with LINCOLN for instance, but you can’t change his motivations and you have to get Ford theater right.

              • PJM

                Change his motivations? No one knows his motivations! That’s why we have historians and storytellers – to speculate and theorize and invent and expand for the purpose of edifying on his motivations. The world is not just a list of facts!

  • Michael Gebert

    That was my main impression, wondering how watching a set moving like a barge represented the height of theatrical pleasure to my great-grandparents’ generation.

  • Terry McCarty

    Fascinating that 12 YEARS A SLAVE is less brutal than Mel Gibson’s THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST–but proving the axiom (perhaps racial to some) that people would rather see Jesus being flayed alive at length than watch someone being beaten or whipped in less screen time.