The 86th Academy Awards are only two short weeks away. As Hollywood’s biggest night inches closer, two films continue to separate themselves from the acclaimed pack. The Academy Awards has become a two film race between Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave and Alfonzo Cuaron’s Gravity. While every Oscar night offers plenty of surprises, early indications suggest that the two films are the frontrunners for the Best Picture Academy Award.
This past weekend, the Academy Award race between the two films heated up as the BAFTAs handed out trophies for the best in film of 2013. While 12 Years A Slave took home the award for best picture of the year, Gravity was awarded the prize for Outstanding British Film. Alfonzo Cuaron was also awarded the best director prize over Steve McQueen for his work on the survival space story. By the end of the night, Gravity took home an additional four “below-the-line” awards. 12 Years A Slave’s Chiwetel Ejiofer was awarded the best actor prize for his role as Solomon Northup, the free black man sold into slavery whose memoirs served as the basis for the film.
The British Academy Film Awards have been presented by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts since 1948. The BAFTAs have only recently become a barometer during the Oscar season as up until 2002, the awards were held in April or May, weeks after Hollywood awarded their favorites of the year. The switch was made after the organization declared that they were tired of feeling as though they were living in Oscar’s shadow. When the Academy Awards moved their date a month sooner in 2004, the BAFTAs became one of the last majors prior to the Oscars. The BAFTAs have had a history prior to the date switch to not see eye to eye with the Oscars, though the two have picked the same best picture winner for the past five straight years. In the directorial category however, the two have only agreed six times in the last thirteen years.
Gravity is tied for the lead in nominations at the Academy Awards with David O. Russell’s crowd-pleasing con film, American Hustle. Each film scored ten nominations while 12 Years A Slave followed with a total of nine. The BAFTA’s decision yesterday mimics that of the Golden Globes. On Jan. 12, Alfonzo Cuaron took the home the sole prize for the space film at the Globes when the filmmaker picked up the best director award. 12 Years A Slave’s only award of the night was however for the best picture in the drama category.
As more critic circles announce their picks for the best films of the year, the Academy Awards race becomes a heated battle between two films. Both films examine the lengths a human being’s strength will go to in order to survive yet Gravity and 12 Years A Slave each represent vastly different spectrums of the film-making world. One being a $100 million dollar studio 3D Imax experience, and the other being an independently funded art house drama. Which one will end up taking home the biggest prize at the Academy Awards remains to be seen on Sunday, March 2.
By Benjamin Murray