British director Steve McQueen's unflinching portrayal of
pre-Civil War American slavery won two other Oscars, including
best supporting actress for newcomer Lupita Nyong'o and best
adapted screenplay based on the memoir of Solomon Northup, a
free man tricked and sold into slavery in Louisiana.
"Everyone deserves not just to survive but to live. This is the
most important legacy of Solomon Northup," said McQueen in his
"12 Years a Slave," prevailed over space thriller "Gravity" from
Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron, which nevertheless racked up
the most Oscars of the night with seven, including the best
director honor for Cuaron, a first for a Latin American
The film starring Sandra Bullock as an astronaut lost in space
swept the technical awards like visual effects and
cinematography, a reward for its groundbreaking work on
conveying space and weightlessness.
Referring to the "transformative" experience he and others
undertook in the four-plus years spent making "Gravity," Cuaron,
whose hair is graying, said, "For a lot of these people, that
transformation was wisdom. For me, it was just the color of my
In one of the strongest years for film in recent memory, the
6,000-plus voters of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and
Sciences scattered golden Oscar statuettes among the many
acclaimed movies in contention.
It was a good night for the scrappy, low-budget film "Dallas
Buyers Club," a biopic of an early AIDS activist two decades in
the making that won three Oscars, including the two male acting
Matthew McConaughey, in a validation of a remarkable career
turnaround, won best actor for his portrayal of the homophobe
turned AIDS victim turned treatment crusader Ron Woodroof, a
role for which he lost 50 pounds (23 kg).
His co-star, Jared Leto, won best supporting actor for his role
as Woodroof's unlikely business sidekick, the transgender woman
Rayon, for which he also slimmed down drastically.
Australia's Cate Blanchett won the best actress Oscar for her
acclaimed role as the socialite unhinged by her husband's
financial crimes in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine."
"As random and subjective as this award is, it means a great
deal in a year of, yet again, extraordinary performances by
women," said Blanchett, who beat out previous Oscar winners
Bullock, Amy Adams, Judi Dench and Meryl Streep.
'AMERICAN HUSTLE,' 'WOLF' FALTER
The big loser of the night was director David O. Russell's 1970s
crime caper "American Hustle," which walked away empty-handed
despite earning 10 nominations, the same number as "Gravity."
Martin Scorsese's tale of financial greed, "The Wolf of Wall
Street," also failed to take home Oscars.
But it was also a night of predictable wins for heavy favorites.
[to top of second column]
The tale of Nordic princesses, "Frozen," won best animated film, a
first for Disney Animation Studios since the category was introduced
in 2002, and its girl-power anthem "Let It Go" won best original
For best foreign language film, Italy took its 11th Oscar in that
category with "The Great Beauty," a visually stunning film about
life in Rome and a writer in crisis.
Comic and talk show star Ellen DeGeneres returned as Oscar host on
Sunday, bringing a deadpan affability, and pizza, to the Academy
Awards show while still poking fun at Hollywood royalty.
In her easy breezy style, DeGeneres mixed with the crowd liked she
did back in 2007, taking a star-studded selfie with the likes of
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie that broke the record for retweets on
Twitter. And she largely avoided the ribald humor that landed her
predecessor Seth MacFarlane in hot water last year.
Early reviews were broadly positive, but Variety's Brian Lowry noted
that the opening monologue by DeGeneres "screamed of a desire to
dial the show back to safer terrain."
Kenyan actress Nyong'o was one of the big stars of the night, not
only for her winning pale blue Prada gown on the red carpet, but
also for her touching speech.
In accepting the first award of the night for "12 Years a Slave,"
Nyong'o, 31, paid homage to her character, who picked more cotton
than anyone else but suffered at the hands of her besotted yet evil
"It doesn't escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is
thanks to so much pain in someone else's, and so I want to salute
the spirit of Patsey, for her guidance," a tearful Nyong'o told the
Sunday capped an unusually long awards season, extended by the
Winter Olympics, and for "12 Years a Slave" it spells the end of six
months of both high acclaim and uncertainty over awards stemming
from the perception that it was a hard film to watch.
The film from studio Fox Searchlight compelled Oscar voters to go
see the film with the ad 'It's Time," fearing that they might skip
it and throw their weight behind "Gravity." It has earned nearly
$140 million at the worldwide box office, a fraction of the $700
million for "Gravity."
Right to the end, McQueen and his fellow producers, including Pitt,
stuck to his line that slavery was a theme that is not only
historical but also current.
"We just hope this film remains a gentle reminder that we are all
equal," said Pitt backstage.
(Additional reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy,
Eric Kelsey, Tim Reid and Lisa Richwine; Editing by Sandra Maler)
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