Touted as one of the most competitive Oscars in recent history, wagering on winners is almost futile. Every film and actor nominated in the 'top' categories is deserving of the award. But there can only be one. And with that premise, I do believe that 'Dallas Buyers Club', Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto should be the penultimate winners. To offer some balance (and evidence) to my view I will also look at '12 Years A Slave'.
Hands down Leto's and McConaughey's performances were by far the most technically taxing, not to mention inspirational. And yes, I know that '12 Years A Slave' was damn good too, if not disturbing, and quite deserving of some serious accolades, if it were not for Jared Leto, whose performance as an AIDS stricken cross dresser in Dallas Buyers, sealing the deal for this film.
The film dealt with archetypes that are still not honestly portrayed in Hollywood today: the homosexual and the alpha male who learns to love and respect the homosexual as he finds that he shares the same humanity as his once hated and shunned counterpart.
In essence, it is a love story. And for presenting love in such a counter-discursive approach, I believe that this film and its actors need to be given the highest recognition at the Oscars this year.
Hence, my issue with '12 Years A Slave'. The film, an adaptation of Solomon Northup's book carrying the same title, portrays the very archetypes and narratives that Hollywood valorises: slaves, slavery and surviving brutality. And that is what limits the impact of this film, at least when analysing the actors' performances and whether a sense of transcendence for its viewers could be achieved in the way that film should as a medium.
If black actors are limited to one time period in which they can only be portrayed slaves, for the true archetypes and narrative bound up in '12 Years A Slave', that is, hero/heroine and overcoming incomprehensible adversity, to be portrayed, then what is the point of black actors and film in Hollywood? Why can't the black actors' talent and presence on the screen do the very thing that morales of stories should do on film- transcend? The morale of the story is meant to transcend the screen and be taken away by the viewer. Likewise the race of the actor should be able to transcend one time period in that race's history so that the underlying narrative of overcoming incomprehensible adversity, in this case, can be portrayed with legitimacy outside of the paradigm of slavery.
I understand why it is always couched in slavery. It is a highly emotional and still felt experience today that always guarantees a strong response. But I am tired of Hollywood, and the black community falling back on
slavery to do what is the responsibility of every actor- inspire and transcend.
Petra Marie…Inspired Be