If you haven’t heard already, 12 Years a Slave is apparently brilliant. Those who have seen it at the Toronto Film Festival are raving so much about it that it won its People’s Choice award. What does this mean? Well, it means more than you probably would expect.
In recent years, Toronto has been bumping out Oscar candidates and winners, and to no surprise studios have been taking notice. Slumdog Millionaire and The King’s Speech both won Toronto’s highest honor, and then went on to win Best Picture at the Oscars. And last year, Silver Linings Playbook won the People’s Choice award (though it didn’t win, it was still nominated for 8 Oscars) and Argo (which did win Best Picture) was runner-up in Toronto. So I’d say that the Toronto Film Festival has some real weight when it comes down to predicting the Oscar favorites.
But what is 12 Years of a Slave? Well, it’s a film by British director Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame) about a free man kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841. It has an incredible cast starring Chiwetel Ejiofor along with Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch and Lupita Nyong’o. The two lesser known names are receiving incredible amount of praise with the word “Oscar” floating around. As for McQueen, he’s never been around for awards season before. Could this hurt his chances?
While 12 Years a Slave might be a lock for a nomination, it’s by far a lock to win Best Picture at the moment. Continuing with McQueen’s lack of familiarity around Oscar season, there are plenty of directors who have been around the block looking for their due. And we all know how The Academy loves to award those who are over-due. David O. Russell’s name is at the top of the list with his highly anticipated American Hustle being released later this year. Following up The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, Russell is showing great consistency that will be hard for The Academy to ignore.
Another over-due director is Alexander Payne. He’s won twice for penning screenplays, but doesn’t have any golden statues for directing yet. With Nebraska, Payne has a very good shot at another nomination. Alfanso Cuaron is another who should catch The Academy’s attention. With his visually dominant Gravity, it’ll be interesting to see how The Academy accepts the film. Visual Effects nominations are surely in order, but directing? Maybe.
Then there are your handful of veteran directors with movies that everyone cannot wait to see. The Coen Brothers with Inside Llewyn Davis, Martin Scorsese with The Wolf of Wall Street, George Clooney with The Monuments Men, Paul Greengrass with Captain Phillips, etc.
All I’m saying is that 12 Years a Slave is by far a lock to win Best Picture at the moment. And being the supposedly front-runner is probably the worst thing for the film. But if 12 Years a Slave does end up winning Best Picture, you just have to look at Toronto as the crystal ball of the Oscar future.