Best Picture #86: 12 Years a Slave

Each week this column will highlight one winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, progressing chronologically until all winners have been discussed. There will be a brief discussion of the film itself followed by a mention of what we wish won from the nominees in the given year (though in many cases there were films that were superior in terms of quality and/or impact that were not nominated). This week’s entry is 12 Years a Slave (2013).

In a sharp turn from years generally awarding feel good films the top prize, 12 Years a Slave is an incredibly harrowing and gut wrenching film that displays the power of cinema in a completely different, but probably much more essential and eye opening way. Though the moments that may stand out the most for their ultra-violent depictions of the brutality of man are an important part of the film, its greater purpose is in illustrating the pervasiveness of attitudes of people who simply do not care about the suffering of other human beings. These systems never merely existed because people were evil and driven exclusively by the desire to harm others, but also because they saw profit as more important than humanity or simply had no motivation to seek change unless it helped them get ahead, even if they weren’t directly benefiting. Though slavery has been abolished, greed and apathy will always remain and the evils of mankind will continue and this film will maintain its potent message. 

The Real Best Picture:

Hard to argue with them on this one.

Best Picture Winners

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