|Left to right: Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender|
If there has been one film that seems to have come out of nowhere and suggested Oscar Buzz in the past week, it has to be director Steve McQueen's latest 12 Years a Slave. With an all-star cast that includes Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, and last year's Academy Award Best Actress nominee Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild), it already looks to be one of the most impressive groups in a film this year. With a mix of current events and the idea that a movie like Django Unchained can receive nominations, is it possible that this tale of slavery is capable of getting a Best Picture nomination? If the recently released trailer is any clue, I would place my money on it.
It is too early to speculate how well 12 Years a Slave will do, but it has been some time coming for Steve McQueen. I wouldn't call him a visionary, but definitely a director with an eclectic taste that paints reality almost too brutally. With his previous films Hunger and my personal favorite Shame, he has quickly established himself as a director to watch. While many would complain that his film are too slow, they are also immersive. It is a technique that I worried wouldn't translate to mainstream acceptance. However, this first trailer is pretty phenomenal.
In keeping with McQueen's style, it isn't really that flashy. At times it almost seems too conventional of an adaptation of Solomon Northup's novel. Still, if there's any beacon of hope from this film, it is a great cast. I have felt that Michael Fassbender rarely is better than when he is working with McQueen, and their past collaborations are proof. It is also just a shame that he hasn't received a nomination yet, including an infamous belief that he was snubbed for Shame. Of course, where that film was taboo and overly sexual, this is poised to be more straightforward with the Academy's bias. Films that dealt with blacks in an oppressive role have had a small resurgence in recent years with Django Unchained and The Help each getting Best Picture nominations.
It is also just a slow year so far and I cannot think of too much else that it has yet to compete with, save for maybe Rush or Saving Mr. Banks. Though I do feel that McQueen is a director that is unflinching, and it may make the film harder for audiences to accept, notably those who previously had issues with his slowness. Even the star-studded cast can't keep pacing issues away from playing apart in potential disapproval. Also, what if the story dives a little too much into racism and its lack of credible, awards-certified director keeps it from making the final cut?
I highly doubt that this will be the case. As it stands the Lee Daniels' film formerly known as The Butler looks to be a little more shoddy and while I initially gave some optimism, isn't looking to take away this film's thunder. The appearance of Oscar nominated performers mixed with upcoming talents should be enough to lock this in and depending on just how successful it is, could land some acting nominations. As stated before, I would love to see Fassbender in the Best Supporting Actor race. I wouldn't be offended if Benedict Cumberbatch did, as he is another name to keep an eye on, even if I personally speculate that The Fifth Estate will be his big sell.
There's a lot to take out of this trailer, though notably excitement for the Fall season. This is one of the first trailers that I personally can attach Oscar Buzz optimism to because it feels like an interesting Best Picture potential. Maybe it is just the cast working their magic, but as someone who has enjoyed McQueen in the past, there is little here to make me doubt myself. In fact, it restores some faith that I have after a summer season that has been rather lackluster, save for maybe The Bling Ring and maybe Fruitvale Station. Maybe the year will get better and that July has just been a chore of a month. Either way, 12 Years A Slave should be on your radar now. It just looks so good.
*I know that I said that I would write a piece on The Spectacular Now and haven't yet. Do know that it should be up by Thursday.
What do you think of 12 Years a Slave? Can it land Michael Fassbender a Best Supporting Actor nomination? Is Steve McQueen ready to break out it, or is his work too slow?