Dan P. Lee on the director and Oscar contender:

I’d seen 12 Years the night before, at the huge cineplex in downtown L.A. My friend sobbed quietly through a good portion of it. At least one black couple left midway. As we walked out of the ­theater, no one seemed to be speaking; breaking the ice, one stranger next to me said, “Well, that was intense,” which made us all laugh anxiously. As we stared at the Figueroa clips, I told McQueen how much I admired the film, and how it made me think about nihilism. He was having none of this. We made our way quickly to the courtyard outside the museum, where a lively conversation ensued.

He stammered and stuttered, organizing his thoughts. “The world is perverse,” he conceded; it is “chaotic.” Still: “Within that, one is always trying to find that calm, that focus. That’s why we have societies. It drives some sort of structure within that sort of environment.” Slavery was not proof of senselessness. It was about “money and power obviously, and within that you get human suffering.” But goodness overwhelms. “The only reason I’m here talking to you,” he said, “is because my family held on to that love, even if it sounds corny.”