Benedict Cumberbatch and Chiwetel Ejiofor's Last Film Won Oscars (From Voters Who Never Saw It)
Benedict Cumberbatch and Chiwetel Ejiofor are both appearing in this weekend's Doctor Strange movie. Before that, of course, they appeared in the previous Doctor Strange movie, but before that, they appeared together in 12 Years a Slave. Ejiofor had the lead part of Solomon Northup, while Cumberbatch played a slave owner (but not as bad a slave owner as the one Michael Fassbender plays).
Despite including a scene where Brad Pitt shows up just to announce to the audience that he, Brad Pitt, disapproves of slavery, it's a good film. And if you personally only watch superhero movies, that's fine, but know that Chiwetel Ejiofor credits 12 Years a Slave for a notable increase in Black-led films in the following decade—including, says Ejiofor, Black Panther.
12 Years a Slave won Best Picture at the Oscars, making it the first winner from a Black director. It deserved the win, agreed many people. However, it might not have won because it deserved to. Maybe Oscar voters simply picked it because they thought the show should honor a film with that subject matter, regardless of whether the film was actually any good.
"Anything can happen, so many different possibilities," joked host Ellen DeGeneres at the start of the show, well before the award was announced. "Possibility number one: 12 Years a Slave wins best picture. Possibility number two: You’re all racists." Later, it turned out the film did win, a win announced by fast friend of the Oscars Will Smith. Two Oscar voters, when polled, privately admitted they hadn't watched the film but felt obligated to vote for it due to its "social relevance."
It's quite common for voters to pick movies they haven't seen, and that doesn't just go for movies they consider important. With the Best Animated Film category, voters will often not have seen any nominees, so they'll vote for whichever film they've most heard of—typically whatever Disney put out this year. Encanto won at last month's Oscars, and maybe it deserved the win, but again, maybe it didn't win because it deserved to. Host Amy Schumer joked it was the only of the nominees she'd seen, because her kid kept replaying it, and it's a fair bet that the voters filled out their ballots even more blind than her.
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Top image: Searchlight Pictures