a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

My Surprising Best Actor Pic, Or is it?

Just take a look at that picture. Can you imagine anyone voting for anything else if they have seen or suffered through that horrendous moment of moments in “12 Years a Slave”? where Chiwetel Ejiofor’s character of Solomon Northrup is hung by the neck until he’s NEARLY dead? And it’s an INTERMINABLE time. It’s goes on and on and on and director Steve McQueen’s camera just holds that horrifying shot. And it comes near the beginning of the film, too.

Northup revolts against Paul Dano’s thoroughly evil twerp of an over-seer and whups the living daylights out of him,and the audience bursts into cheers! Always. But are horrified to see Dano’s character come back with reinforcements, and they string Solomon up and just leave him there for what seems like hours. AND NO ONE CUTS HIM DOWN!!! AND HE’S STILL ALIVE!!! As the other slaves in the background of the above scene just go about their work, and COMPLETELY IGNORE his hanging there before them!

Northup’s feet barely touch the ground and keep trying to find footing or balance as he hangs by his neck until….well, I don’t want to spoil THAT much of the movie But the utter horror of Ejiofor’s Northrup hanging there, and hanging there and hanging there….well, it’s like watching a REAL hanging in real-time.

It’s excruciating and unbelievable but TRUE! Everything in “12 Years a Slave” is directly from that book that Solomon Northrup wrote that is only now beginning to be taught in schools in America….

But for this scene, as Ejiofor as Northrup struggles to free himself, to balance himself, to just keep breathing is well, breathtaking, and is a scene the Academy, if they’ve seen it, will surely reward with a Best Actor Oscar for Ejiofor.

Although the operative word in that sentence is IF THEY’VE SEEN IT. Peggy Seigel, the great Oscar party thrower, said at the Vanity Fair Oscar Chat that Sasha Stone writes so feelingly about at http://www.awardsdaily.com , that many, MANY Academy voters were just NOT WATCHING “12 Years a Slave” AT ALL.

And Sasha keeps trumpeting and advocating for it until the last-minute, and so, this year am I.

She has expressed doubts about it winning Best Picture and thinks that it might be “Gravity.” I hope not. But she’s also said that she thinks, worse case scenario that it might just get ONE big award. And after BAFTA, which Brit Ejiofor won, that THAT would be the Award. “The Big One” that “Slave” gets, if it shockingly doesn’t get anything else.

But I for one think it will get Best Picture. You ask everyone in New York(and I do) on my cinematic travels and everyone HERE says in unison “12 Years a Slave”. Maybe in L.A. you’re hearing something different. But with the BAFTA Best Picture and Best Actor win, I think the Academy may just do the right thing and check both boxes.

Lupita Nyong’o, who may very well be the OTHER “Big One” that “Slave” wins didn’t win at the BAFTAs. She lost to last year’s It Girl, Jennifer Lawrence for “American Hustle.”

So it could be BP, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. But I would also hope Lupita wins. Both the Gurus o’ Gold at http://www.moviecitynews.com and also Tom O’Neil’s Gold Derby at http://www.goldderby.com have Lupita out in front. But Chiwetel isn’t even LISTED in either place.

If “American Hustle” is going to win anything, and the Academy may want to give it SOMEthing, they can award the indefatigable director David O. Russell in “Original Screenplay” which he also wrote and I think that’s where the “American Hustle” voting energy will go. And voila! They’ve honored it and FINALLY David O gets an Oscar.

What else could “Slave” win? It could turn up in some of the below the line categories, like Production Design or even Costume Design. If it wins Best Editing early in the evening, look out, a sweep for “Slave” is coming. But if that early award goes to “Gravity” as well it might, we can look for “Gravity” to take the many, many technical awards it’s predicted for.

But if it’s “Captain Phillips” in editing, there really could be a shake-up and spread amongst the categories, with even an upset like Somali first time actor Barkhad Abdi winning for Best Supporting as he did at BAFTA. Is the Academy so broadened in its’ thinking post-“Brokeback” that giving BOTH its’ Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor awards to TWO gay AIDS victims, Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto?

Still smarting from “Brokeback”s loss to homophobia in AMPAS, I’m hedging my bets that both McConaughey and Leto won’t win. ONE of them may. And this could be where Chiwetel Ejiofor is the surprise of the night who triumphs. But no surprise to me, or to you, dear readers, dear cineastes.

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