The validation of 12 Years a Slave could (maybe, possibly, hopefully) set the stage for more offerings of serious black subject matter in film. Honest stories that challenge us to face difficult (even disturbing) social and legal issues head on. Confrontational narratives. Narratives that complicate our social awareness.
I was taken to task for not having "12 Years A Slave" on my top-10 list. (I had it ranked No. 16 overall, just behind other near misses: "Her," "Blue Jasmine," "20 Feet From Stardom," "The Spectacular Now" and "Inside Llewyn Davis.") My rationale was this: Last year was a particularly strong one for feature films, and I just didn't connect with "12 Years A Slave" enough to place it above those other movies. Then I watched "12 Years A Slave" a second time.
There are valid reasons for and against "12 Years A Slave" winning Best Picture, none of which have to do with the success of "12 Years A Slave." (Steve McQueen's film is, at its very worst, a very good movie; it's impossible to imagine anyone giving it a poor review.) As CinemaBlend's Katey Rich wrote on Friday, Oscar season is about the narrative. "Argo" won Best Picture not necessarily because it was a better film than "Zero Dark Thirty," "Lincoln" or "Silver Linings Playbook," but because it had the best backstory: an A-list Hollywood star hits the skids, rebuilds his career, gets snubbed in the process, and still triumphs over all. Not even Frank Capra could write a script like that.