It's looking like a memorable year for "black film", with a number of strong films and performances in the offing. Mark Harris sounds a warning about the rush to anoint 12 Years A Slave an Oscar favorite, pointing out that hype may cause us to miss the big picture. (Grantland)
However, as the season progresses, there will also be people who think 12 Years a Slave is the kind of movie that should win Best Picture. Watch out for them; they are up to no good; they will be the same people who think that 12 Years gives them permission not to think too much about Fruitvale Station or The Butler. Both of those movies are attempting to travel different, well-established roads to nominations — Fruitvale Station is trying to follow Beasts of the Southern Wild as this year's artisanal Sundance sensation, and The Butler, as fascinatingly jagged and oddball as it is, also works on enough traditional levels to walk an honorable old Oscar campaign path labeled The Movie Your Parents Like More Than You Do. The problem with settling too soon on a "year of the black movie" Oscar narrative is that it erodes distinctions within a set of films whose power lies in how unique each one is; it's a diminishment disguised as a celebration. Proceed with caution.